Big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw!
|Pub Date: 12-7-21|
Adult - Mystery
Travis Wren has always been able to glimpse images of a person whenever he touches an object that belongs to them. He uses his uncanny gift to find missing people, and this latest case takes him to remote woods searching for a missing author. Maggie St. James was a well-known author who created a dark fairytale series for children, but one day, she walked into the woods and never returned. Following the trail of afterimages, Travis is led to a commune in the woods called Pastoral, a reclusive community formed in the 1970s by like-minded people who wanted to live a simple life. Travis believes his mission is over, but just like Maggie, he quickly disappears as well.No one is allowed in or out of Pastoral, but years later, Theo, a life-long Pastoral member, decides to take a chance and ventures out beyond the border. While roaming the woods, he comes across Travis's abandoned truck. As he digs deeper into the disappearance of Travis and Maggie, Theo starts to get flashes of a life that may have once belonged to him. Unraveling the mystery brings forth long-buried secrets that Theo, his wife Calla, and her sister Bee have kept from one another. Secrets that may prove that Pastoral may not be as idyllic as it seems.
I've only read one other book by Ernshaw that I thought was just ok, so I wasn't too sure about this one going in. The writing was beautifully atmospheric and dark, but I thought the overall plot needed a bit more work. It was a little too slow for my tastes (particularly the first half), and I was able to guess where the mystery was going to go before it happened. There were a fair bit of twists thrown in, but they were almost glossed over, so they didn't impact the story as much as they maybe should've. I think the premise of this cult-like commune in the middle of the woods had all the potential to be creepy and out there, and I wish Ernshaw would've played that up a bit more. Overall, I liked the ambiance but wanted just a little bit more oomph.