A move from the city to a new home in the snowy mountains becomes a fight for survival for an Oregon family in this thriller.
Seventeen years of hard work at the tech company Portland Micro has earned Ken Carroll a sabbatical. For his four months of paid vacation, he and his family move to their newly constructed home on Cedar Mountain. It’s especially taxing for Ken’s wife, Amanda, who will miss her city restaurants and yoga classes. But twin teens Kristi and Reed have an easier time adjusting. Olympic hopeful Kristi excels at nearly every sport, but she has plenty of space in the mountains to focus on cross-country skiing, marksmanship, and fencing. And though nerdish Reed would have preferred staying in public school with proximity to female peers, he has ready access to a cherished online game, “Mythykal.” Unfortunately, a blizzard hits, seemingly stranding Amanda in the storm, while danger lurks for the others at home. Wolves in the area often have their eyes firmly on the human “intruders,” and Reed should probably avoid following the Hispanic girl he continually sees in the nearby woods. An attack of some kind is imminent, forcing the Carrolls into a violent confrontation. Much of Zell’s (Running Cold, 2017, etc.) novel thrives on retaining an aura of mystery. Amanda’s fate, for one, isn’t immediately revealed, and there’s a definite menace in the forest, exemplified by unmistakable leeriness from the family’s chocolate Lab, Dog. The author often works this to great effect; in a chilling scene, Reed spots something in an icy creek that apparently rolls over (presumably for a better look at him). Alternating perspectives expand the narrative, eventually including Cedar locals like the sheriff. The twins, however, are the standouts: Kristi displays her prowess in the feverish denouement while Reed, about halfway through, commits an act that will shatter much reader sympathy. But that’s the story’s essence: shocking turns in abundance and generally disturbing.
An unnerving but memorable tale that leaves myriad lingering questions for a prospective sequel.