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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Killing Woods Another Taut, Haunting Thriller from the Author of Stolen

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Life for the Shepherd Family hasn't been the same since Jon returned from the war.  Suffering from paranoia and crippling flashbacks, the PTSD-riddled soldier has become someone his wife and daughter barely recognize.  He spends all his time hiding in a bunker deep in the Darkwood Forest Nature Preserve, reliving the horrors of combat in his head, day after day after day.  It's bad enough that 16-year-old Emily can't rely on her dad, but her mom's been coping with his illness by drinking too much, leaving Emily feeling at odds with everything and everyone.  Then, comes the night when Jon brings something in from the woods.

No, not something, but someone.  

It's Ashlee Parker—one of Emily's classmates—and she's dead.  Jon Shepherd is charged with the murder, making his daughter an instant pariah.  Emily refuses to believe her father's guilty.  He's always been a gentle soul; even now, with all his problems, he can't be capable of that kind of violence.  Can he?  Emily can't stand the thought of her dad rotting away in jail, especially for a crime he didn't commit, so she vows to find out what really happened that night in the woods.  With the help of a very unlikely ally, Emily begins to unveil the ugly truth behind Ashlee's death.  Only one question remains:  What part did her dad play in the girl's demise?  Is he the killer everyone says he is?  Or the innocent hero Emily needs him to be?

With The Killing Woods, Welsh author Lucy Christopher delivers another taut YA thriller that's just as haunting (although not as original) as her debut novel, Stolen.  Not all of the characters in her new book are sympathetic, but they're interesting and well-drawn.  The plot of The Killing Woods feels a little too familiar; still, it's compelling.  All in all then, I found the story to be an absorbing thrill ride, albeit a dark, depressing one.     

(Readalikes:  The PTSD parts reminded me of The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, sexual content and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Killing Woods from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!
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Homecoming by Kate Morton

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The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King



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