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Wicked River by Jenny Milchman


Genre: Suspense; Thriller
Publication Date: 1 May 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Six million acres of Adirondack forest separate Natalie and Doug Larson from civilization. For the newlyweds, an isolated, back country honeymoon seems ideal: a chance to start their lives together with an adventure, on their own. But just as Natalie and Doug begin to explore the dark interiors of their own hearts, as well as the depths of their love for each other, it becomes clear that they are not alone in the woods.

Because six million acres makes it easy for the wicked to hide. And even easier for someone to go missing for good.

As they struggle with the worst the wilderness has to offer, a man watches them, wielding the forest like a weapon. And once they are near his domain, he will do everything in his power to make sure they never walk out again.”

My Thoughts: Confession. I skimmed Wicked River. As in I not only skipped words, I skipped entire chapters. I could have just set it aside and considered it a DNF. It is just that I did want to find out how the story ended even though I did not care enough about any of the characters to want to get the details.

To be fair, I did read the first few chapters. I got through their wedding and their first day on the river before I started to skim in earnest. The thing is that Natalie and Doug never interested me. For one, it is obvious from the very beginning that Doug is withholding secrets from his new bride and that those secrets will come back to haunt him before the end of the trip. Then there is the meekness and almost total capitulation on Natalie’s part. She forgives Doug his secrets. She agrees to a trip through the wilderness for her honeymoon at his behest even though she has never before done such a thing nor does she really want to do so. She lets him take the lead on every decision to be made and even has panic attacks when he is out of sight. I like my heroines with a bit more spine from the very beginning, and I am not a fan of marriages beginning with obvious secrets between bride and groom.

The story itself is roughly four stories combined into one. There is Doug’s secrets biting him in the ass. There is Natalie’s necessary growth to survive her honeymoon from hell. There is Natalie’s niece who susses out the secret at age 13 and then sets plans in motion to save her aunt. Then there is the crazy man living in the forest by himself and so far gone psychologically that he proves to be just as big a menace as Doug’s secrets. The story flits back and forth between Natalie’s, the niece’s, and the crazy man’s POV, and I never understood why we need the extra points of view. To me, the story is too long as it is with descriptions of the wilderness that are beautiful but bordering on minutiae. Adding Mia’s story makes for plenty of eye-rolling, and the crazy man’s scenes shift not only the attention but the sympathy (a bit). To me, it has the feeling of Ms. Milchman telling us what is happening rather than letting the story play out by itself.

In the end, I could not get over my dislike of Natalie, the lack of believability of a thirteen-year-old uncovering the secrets of a man she barely knows, or the crazy man’s entire story line. The hapless newlywed couple did not need an added danger to their trip given the nature of it and what awaits them in the end. It is all too much, too obvious, and too unbelievable for me to have enjoyed Wicked River.

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