The daughter of an escaped convict tracks her father through the wilderness while reflecting upon her childhood as his prisoner.
When Helena Pelletier learns that notorious kidnapper, rapist, and murderer Jacob Holbrook (aka The Marsh King) is no longer in police custody, she panics; Jacob is Helena’s dad, and 13 years ago she put him behind bars. Born and raised in a swamp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Helena didn’t know that she and her mother were captives until they were rescued. Her new family knows nothing about her past, so when the cops show up at her house looking for leads, her husband, Stephen, is stunned. He packs the kids into the car and decamps to his parents’ place in Green Bay, but Helena stays put, certain the authorities can’t catch Jacob without her help. Helena’s race to find The Marsh King is pulse-pounding stuff, but the bulk of the story comprises a string of loosely connected flashbacks to Helena’s youth. Her conflicted feelings about Jacob ring true, but they also undercut tension, throttle pace, and de-fang the book’s boogeyman. Dionne’s (The Killing:Uncommon Denominator, 2014, etc.) efforts to tie her plot to the Hans Christian Andersen fable of the same name feel contrived and further disrupt the narrative drive.
Dionne tries to strike a balance between psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale, but the end result feels more like an unsettling walk down Memory Lane.