January 1, 2024

Book Review


reviewed by Pam Guynn

Northwoods by Amy Pease combines a crime thriller with a police procedural and a story of the personal struggles of the main character Eli North. This gripping and suspenseful novel pulls at the heart strings as it takes readers to the events occurring in Shaky Lake, Wisconsin. Eli is working as a deputy, but the only reason he has the job is that his mother is the sheriff.

He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a deployment to Afghanistan. Now his drinking is out of control and his marriage and career are on the line. When Eli finds the body of a teenage boy and then a teenage girl is reported missing, Eli and rest of the small sheriff’s department along with FBI Agent Alyssa Mason must unravel the multiple mysteries.

Eli uses alcohol to cope with memories resulting in broken promises and lateness. However, he also has the need to discover the truth, is kind, and loves his son and wife. His relationships with them, his mother, and others in the town made Eli more relatable. Most of the characters have significant depth that is shown through their actions and dialogue.

This novel has a complex and multi-layered plot that is intriguing and pulls readers into the story quickly. Most of the action is at the end of novel, but it didn’t feel slow. This may be because I was emotionally engaged in the various character struggles that are revealed, which felt authentic and held my interest.

Gripping scenes and an emotional story intermix with contemporary issues. Themes include relationships, family, friendship, substance abuse, mental health, power, greed, ethics, and much more. The realistic issues made this story somewhat disturbing, but a feeling of hopefulness and the encouragement and support of some of the characters helped to offset this.

Overall, this tense, suspenseful, and tragic novel gripped me from the beginning. It’s more character-driven than action-driven, but kept me ensnared in the events making it hard to put the book down. The ending wraps up the main mysteries, but there are threads that could be used for a sequel. I would love to see more books featuring Eli.

The author brings strong characters, a great plot, fascinating relationships, and excellent pacing to the novel. Written for those who love crime novels and police procedurals, Northwoods is a thought-provoking debut book. I can’t wait to read what the author writes next.

Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books and Amy Pease provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. The publication date is currently set for January 9, 2024.

Northwoods available at:

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