Dark Rivers to Cross
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Lena Blackwell is a woman running from her traumatic past. Deciding she had no choice but to leave Boston to keep her two little boys safe, she bundled them into a friend’s car and headed for Canada.
Along the way she stopped for a few nights rest in an old cabin in the woods of a run-down fishing camp on the Penobscot river in Northern Maine. The owner, Irving Cooper (‘Coops’), told her to stay as long as she wanted and kindly brought her food and supplies for the boys. Loving the beauty and serenity of the site, she decided to stay and together with Coops transformed the old camp, building a new inn and refurbishing the old cabins, eventually building the camp up into a successful wilderness lodge.
As her boys Jonah and Luke grew, they helped Lena with the guests, learning how to manage the business and to love the river and the woods. However, the boys have very different natures and after high school graduation, and although nature lover Luke wanted nothing more than to stay there on the river, acting as a tour guide taking the guests hiking hikes or canoeing on the river, Jonah longed for a life away from the lodge and went to college to study film making.
After twenty peaceful years where no one has come looking for Lena or the boys she is hopeful that they are finally safe and would not be found. However, wanting to find out more about his origins, Jonah decides to search for answers and turn his search into a documentary for his final year college project. Lena had always told the boys they were adopted from a foster home, but refused to give them any details about their birth families. With Jonah determined to find out about his origins, Luke reluctantly agreed to help him by snooping around in Lena’s office for clues, little suspecting that what Jonah discovers will endanger them all.
This riveting tale of what a mother will do to protect her children, told from Luke and Lena’s points of view is told in dual time lines, gradually filling in the backstory as the current events unfold. It’s an emotional tale of trauma and mental illness, explaining why Lena is running and why she feels she must keep their whereabouts secrets at all costs, even from her best friend. The writing is very atmospheric, with such a lovely sense of place that you can almost smell the fresh air tinged with the scent of the pines and hear the gurgle of the river flowing past.
Recommended for those who enjoy a thriller which gradually ramps up the tension and sense of menace as Lena fears her hard gained serenity and sense are safety are under threat, to culminatein a very suspenseful and explosive ending.
With thanks to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for a copy to read.