Not long after losing his wife, Tom Kessler retires from the FBI and takes a job as police chief in Wishbone, Wisconsin. He quickly incurs the wrath of cop Quinn Oetting, who was passed over for chief, and Quinn’s pal Jimmy Mickey, the town bully who doesn’t seem to like anyone. But in the forest, seething with hatred, lies Drak, a tree spirit with a desire to kill humans for their destruction of trees. Drak’s unique ability to control humans is intensified when professor Clifford Rains runs experiments with his cold fusion reactor. Promising to quench Mickey’s thirst for power, Drak enlists him to help Rains complete his reactor and assemble an army so that Drak and the dark spirits can wipe out humanity. Trier’s novel is a consistent blend of thriller and fantasy, building up to an inevitable confrontation between good and evil without dwelling on the supernatural element. Kindred tree spirits warn Kessler of Drak’s plan, but it’s the wicked spirits that leave an impression, especially the rendition of a red-eyed Drak with a knotted, humanlike face. Trier excels at establishing the townspeople, including Mickey as the indisputable villain (he revels in others’ pain) and nuances such as a couple engaged in a marital affair. The book more than earns its climax, a rousing showdown filled with gunfire, exploding bombs and cars in “a deadly game of demolition derby.” Even a family, the Elders, introduced late in the story, will garner reader sympathy and support when Drak’s minions besiege their hardwood home. Trier adds a touch of romance for Kessler with the inclusion of Mora Meyers, Rains’ assistant, but it’s unfortunately underdeveloped; part-time officer, newish mom and already married Dottie Wilkinson, on the other hand, proves to be an indelible, charming character. The novel does have a few stumbles along the way: Grammatical mishaps rear their ugly heads throughout, and awkward sentences—“Olson also told Kessler about Dottie Wilkinson, he described her as a 40 year old female and Wishbone’s part-time Police Officer”—lessen some of the story’s descriptive prose, particularly in the rapidly paced final act.
Despite minor shortcomings, a cornucopia of action and character interplay for readers to savor.