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Wicked River


Wicked River

My elevator pitch for WICKED RIVER would be “Deliverance in the Adirondacks.” It straddles the lines of a number of different genres --- thriller, romantic suspense, adventure --- dishing out ample elements of each to their respective fan bases. Its premise, which is a honeymoon spent on a primitive camping trip, might seem to require a suspension of disbelief, except that I know people who have done such a thing. Let me assure you that you won’t entertain any such thoughts of doing the same after reading Jenny Milchman’s latest novel.

Before we get started, let me offer a disclaimer. My definition of “primitive camping” is spending the night in a room at an Embassy Suites hotel that does not have my favorite flavor of coffee pods. There is a reason for this. Nature is neither cute nor pretty. It is dangerous. So one must wonder why the newly wedded Natalie and Doug Larson are spending their honeymoon touring a tiny portion of the Adirondacks by cruise --- and by cruise I mean by canoe, which they are riding in when they are not carrying it from one body of water to another. It was Doug’s idea, and Natalie --- good sport that she is --- acquiesced. She thought that it sprouted from his love of camping and the outdoors, but we soon learn he had another motive.

"Regardless of which 'camp' you fall into, you will find this variation of the fish-out-of-water theme entertaining and worthwhile."

The couple eventually becomes lost, dehydrated, starved and poisoned. Then things get worse. They meet a savior, a forest deus ex machina who appears to have the entire run of Mother Earth News memorized and the book WHERE THERE IS NO DOCTOR committed to memory. Kurt, as the man calls himself, saves their lives. However, he has nothing but bad ulterior motives. Meanwhile, back home in civilization, Natalie’s 13-year-old niece, Mia, misses her aunt desperately and determines she may be in trouble. You may think you know where this is going, but you don’t. I haven’t really given anything away here that would keep you from reading the novel from beginning to end --- and in one sitting --- to see if the newlyweds are ultimately rescued or rest in pieces.

I do not know where Milchman obtained the descriptions and insider knowledge that is poured onto practically every page of WICKED RIVER. She does not make the mistake of telling this or that. Rather, she incorporates a series of nuggets into the story. Some of them, like “Don’t drink the water” and “Don’t talk to strangers,” will be familiar to every school child. Others, such as following the river if you’re lost, seem to have gotten misplaced with the up-and-coming generation.

Those readers who are fans of carrying their food and water with them for a week or so in the wilderness will enjoy WICKED RIVER, smiling here and chuckling there, and nodding knowingly even as Milchman terrifies them with the jeopardy in which she places (some of) her characters. Those whose idea of camping matches mine will love it even more, given that it reaffirms what they instinctively know. Regardless of which “camp” you fall into, you will find this variation of the fish-out-of-water theme entertaining and worthwhile.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 4, 2018

Wicked River
by Jenny Milchman