A stranger comes to town. That theme in any story is the sign of a plot that is full of twists and conflicts. We follow a series of characters through a collection of uncomfortable situations – many leading in conflicts – and we are compelled to finish the story desperate to see how the situations are resolved. And that is exactly what D. K. Stone has done by leading her readers to the Edge of Wild.
Dawn came too quickly, and Rich struggled to awaken when the alarm went off. He shaved and showered, putting on his second-best suit and heaviest top-coat, the headed out into the early morning haze. Around him, sun-tipped ridges soared, looming golden over the far southern edge of town where the manager’s cabin was located. He shielded his eyes, taking in his home for the foreseeable future.
His was the last cabin before the campground, beyond that was untouched forest. The two-storey house had cross-timbered peaks and faded stucco, its roof covered with uneven cedar shakes. Against the majestic sky, it looked like a doll’s house, while eight blocks away – dead centre in the target of the small town – the straight angles and bold lines of the newly-constructed Whitewater Lodge perched like an ungainly bird against the backdrop of lofty peaks. It looked, Rich decided, like an unfinished drawing from a discarded Frank Lloyd Wright sketch book, but even from this distance, dark blotches on the surface marred the illusion of perfection. Pieces of siding were peeling under the onslaught of wind. Seeing it, Rich grimaced. He buttoned his coat and trudged down the front steps. What he saw beyond the porch had him stumbling to a stop.
There were footprints in the snow.
This is a great thriller of a novel. We see Rich Evans plucked from the streets of New York and deposited into the mountain town of Waterton. Entrusted to bring a luxury hotel to the small town, one thing after another seems to block Evans attempts to do his job. Yet as the locals become more and more hostile to him, he finds himself attracted to Louise Newman, the town’s mechanic who is fixing his unreliable BMW. Yet as their attraction grows, a series of murders is plaguing the area, and Evans begins to fear for his own life.
There was a flash of russet and two startled deer bounded past. Rich’s head jerked in surprise, but he didn’t slow. He could no longer see the figure ahead of him, but the ground canted downward, his speed increasing as he moved toward the falls. Suddenly the greenery fell away, replaced by open ground, the roar of Cameron Falls deafening. A flicker of movement – gold this time – caught his attention on the cliff face next to the waterfall, and Rich stumbled to a halt.
There were cougars, three of them, and they were watching him.
He recalled reading Jeffrey Chan’s last email to Coldcreek Enterprises, sent a week before the wayward manager had disappeared. “Waterton is too primative, and I don’t feel I’m adequately prepared to manage a hotel in the area. There is dangerous wildlife in the townsite. My dog was killed by a cougar while chained in my yard.” Rich was panting, the sweat across his back icy. He was the only thing in the small clearing, except for the three cougars. One was the mother, the other two her half-grown cubs.
That’s why the deer were running, he realized in belated horror.
The mother raised her head in interest and took two steps down the steep incline, muscles rippling under loose hide. Cunning eyes held his gaze. Rich took a single step backward, and then another, random snippets of information flashing in his mind. Cougars could take down much larger animals than themselves. They were known to be clever and enjoyed the hunt. Swift and deadly, the surest way was to turn and run.
Rich stopped in his tracks. He didn’t have a chance. He was already winded.
With a calmness born from exhaustion and terror, the shaking of his body stilled, his heart slowing. The cougars were burnished gold in the moonlight, their shapes bright against the damp grey cliff. The two cubs moved across the ragged edge of the rocky outcrop, their mother a stone’s throw below. Rich gasped as the female in front jumped to a lower ledge, balancing on the small precipice. She watched him warily, her head moving back and forth as if trying to ascertain what he was, and whether he was worth the bother. Rich waited out her attention, his mind skittering, looking desperately for an escape.
He couldn’t see one.
Stone’s descriptions are vivid and simple. The mind almost flashes immediately with an image of a scene she lays out or an emotion she is describing. And with that a reader will crave to continue with the story until the book is finished. A quality of a great thriller.
Waterton’s marina was located on the small jetty of land extending past Main Street out into Waterton Lake. Faded plank docks stretched out into the dark waters of Emerald Bay, boats moaning softly as they rocked against their moorings. The marina was the last outstretched finger of the clasped hands of Waterton’s business centre; this finger pointed back to the base of the mountains where the town’s sole entrance lay. Unlike the marinas in larger communities, Waterton’s waterfront had no life after the sun went down. The main walkway was bare, spectral shadows cast from the trees overhead dancing in the golden circles of street lamps. The shoreline, with its slope-roofed buildings, was eerily abandoned; a circular parking lot, bustling during daylight hours was empty save for a single motorcycle.
Mac stood in the oily darkness of the empty parking lot, glaring out at the slick black surface of Emerald Bay and the shimmering lights of the Prince of Wales Hotel reflected in it. The town was too small, in Mac’s opinion. There were few places to meet without drawing suspicion. From his position near the marina, the sounds of the downtown streets intruded – people’s laughter from the bar and strains of music – while beyond the trees, the steady chop of waves broke the silence. Early summer coolness clung to the air leaving him chilled beyond what he’d expected for the last week of June. He waved away a small cloud of mosquitoes and took a drag on his cigarette. The ember flared to life, revealing acne-pitted features and a prison tattoo which crawled up from the collar of a leather jacket around his neck.
D. K. Stone has produced an enticing thriller with Edge of Wild. Her descriptions are vivid and clear making a reader to want to push forward with the story. A great read.