I have to preface this review by saying that I tend to dislike books that are written in present tense. Some will argue that it’s the modern way to write or it’s a style, and I have to say that I agree it’s a style. However, just as some painters have their own style that is difficult to imitate by other artists, writing in present tense is difficult to do well in a full-length novel. Not to say that Wickard isn’t a good writer; he is a very good writer. I just feel that this book fell short of the mark. It would have read better in past tense, in my opinion.
I can see why he might try to write in present tense, to keep you in the moment, unsure of what’s happening next. However, I have a hard time reading present tense. Somehow a few authors manage it. Suzanne Collins is a famous example of someone who can do it, and I had no trouble reading The Hunger Games and liking it even with the present tense. Still, I think present tense is better left to the short stories and poems, where it can’t overwhelm or underwhelm you. There were a few times I had to go back and reread in order to really catch what was going on, especially when it went back and forth between past and present tense as the characters had flashbacks.
But I digress.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story. A recently divorced woman decides to leave the City (New York City, that is) and move out into the country to a cabin that her father had built long ago. It’s been abandoned for several years, and during that time, a serial killer – whose psychosis makes him kill women as his “brides” – has taken up the cabin and the surrounding woods as his killing ground. You get to be inside the heads of the protagonist, antagonist, the antagonist’s wife, a couple of the murdered girls, and a couple other characters as well during the telling of the story. It was interesting, to say the least. As someone who enjoys Criminal Minds and other psychological crime shows, as well as having studied psychology, the antagonist was a great character. In fact, I really wanted to know more about him than I did about even the main character.
The protagonist had her faults, and I couldn’t completely sympathize with her – our personalities are very different, I think – but I was still rooting for her towards the end of the book. That’s a point for the author, in my book. (No pun intended.)
All in all, I would recommend this book if you like suspense, mysteries and crime novels of this kind. As long as you don’t mind the present tense – and I know many people who don’t care for them – this book is definitely a good read.