A History of Wild Places

By: Shea Ernshaw

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Often hired by families as a last resort, he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books.

With only one word to guide him, Travis sets out in search of a place long forgotten, a reclusive community called Pastoral. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore, and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing the rot into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

I picked up this story after Keaton devoured it in one day, and I stayed up with him into the wee hours of the morning for him to finish it. The book gripped him, and I hoped it would have a similar effect on me. A History of Wild Places is one of those books where I’m loath to state what genre it falls into for fear that it will spoil the story. The best I can tell you is that it has thriller elements.

I had minor nitpicks with the story like how Ernshaw will use the same words to describe certain things repeatedly. For example, when she was referring to someone being emotionally affected by a situation, she wouldn’t say that it hit the character in the heart or chest. The way most of us would say it. No, she instead had three instances of describing that sensation as hitting the characters in the “solar plexus.” Which yes, is both anatomically correct and completely pretentious. She would also occasionally explain details multiple times as if she wasn’t sure the reader understood what character was being mentioned or what was going on. I hate being talked down to by authors and much rather they either leave it up to me to remember characters or just put a character list in the beginning of the book.

Just to be clear, those were minor and infrequent nitpicks. The story is well-written and quite engaging often flying by because of the chapter structure. Each is from the perspective of one of the three main characters, Theo, Calla, and Bee with the notable exception of the first chapter which is from Travis Wren’s perspective.

I should also mention that I called the twist at the end before the reveal. The author didn’t do anything wrong or make the secret too easy to discover but rather I think it comes from reading mystery/thriller novels. The problem with these books is that the more you read, the easier it is to figure out a twist. I’m curious for non-thriller readers and thriller readers alike who is likely to figure out the twist early and who isn’t. For me, I figured out almost every detail to a tee. Make of that what you will.

Could still recommend this as a one-time read.

Overall rating: 4

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