Hailey McBride is sent to live with her aunt and her aunt’s husband Vaughn – a cop nicknamed Ice Man, who has a few (a lot) of dubious practices – after her father dies after going off he side of a mountain. She’s terribly unhappy about her father, about Vaughn, an obvious narcissist and controller of everything that goes on in the house. Hailey, for her part, wants nothing to do with Vaughn, but has to put up with his creepy uncle bit until she makes her escape with the help of Johnny, her friend and confidante, and fellow dirt biker.
All of this is set against the background of a very real, very current, and very disturbing backdrop: the disappearance of hundreds of missing Indigenous girls and women in Canada over a span of decades. Read up on the Highway of Tears for more information.
Prior to Hailey’s escape, she had befriended Amber, a waitress at the local diner. When Vaughn sees all the pictures of the two of them together, he predictably goes ape and forbids Hailey from going to the camp site at the lake, where most of the local kids hang out.
During Hailey’s escape, she sneaks over to look at a litter of puppies a farmer’s dog has had, wishing once more she could have had one at the house (Vaughn said no, of course). One of the puppies trails after her and will not leave, no matter how much she tries. So Hailey and Wolf wind up off the grid in an old and forgotten cabin. Johnny had stocked it in advance, and she and Wolf live off this, and what she can gather from the secluded area surrounding them.
She occasionally comes off the mountain, and horrifyingly discovers Amber, dead for a couple of days, at the lake. She calls it in anonymously, then waits, only to find Vaughn driving in and walking directly to where the body lies. She flees back into wild, and her section of the book ends when she and Wolf have to fend off a cougar, and Wolf is seriously injured.
The next part picks up with Beth, Amber’s sister. There’s a bit about their parents, who are decidedly religiously odd almost to the point of caricature, but soon we’re following Beth to Cold Creek, to see what she can find out about Amber’s death. The diner is down a waitress now, and she takes the offer of a job to work there. She runs into Vaughn fairly quickly, and gets the creep vibe from him, just as everyone else does.
To go further would be to spoil some excellent moments from the end of the book. I’ve also left out quite a bit from the beginning for the same reason. Vaughn is in fact quite creepy, and he has zero redeeming qualities about him, which makes him a bit of a one note villain. There are plenty of villains to choose from, though, and a number of heroes emerge as well.
A solid four out of five stars.
Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.