A newlywed couple sets out on an Adirondack canoeing holiday only to discover that the most dangerous thing in the forest is their fellow man.
After a quick wedding in upstate New York—where it’s obvious that neither the bride nor the groom has many friends—Manhattanites Natalie and Doug Larson strap the canoe to the car and drive off to where they’ll leave (most of) civilization behind and bask in the July beauty of the Adirondacks. Milchman (As Night Falls, 2015, etc.) abandons both the suspense narrative and camping principles of “leave no trace” as she and her creations beat a heavy, obvious path through the story, leaving little to the imagination. As Natalie and Doug are floating along blissfully, Kurt, a man who’s survived in the woods through nefarious means (any reader will immediately guess what those are), is stalking his human prey. New marriages in thrillers don’t often end well, and the Larson union is no exception: It comes to light, in the form of a corpse, that Doug isn’t as squeaky clean as he appears, and trust is lost when the pair needs it the most. When Kurt rushes in to save them (read: ensnare them in his survivalist twisted game), none of his machinations take anyone, save the Larsons, by surprise. Kurt’s backstory, involving near-sadistic psychiatrist parents, is as convincing as Natalie and Doug’s love for each other, which is wobbly from the first paddle stroke.
Despite a picturesque setting replete with natural risks, this story is stuffed with unnecessary human drama.