reviewed by Fiona Cook
The latest from Peter Heller, The Guide is the story of a man running from grief – only to find his way into something much worse.
Kingfisher Lodge, also known as “Billionaire’s Mile” to locals, sits in the heart of Colorado and encompasses some of the most pristine river around.
Offering guided fishing, it’s where Jack finds himself employed as a guide, following a tragedy he’d rather let himself forget. The idyllic surroundings can’t keep him from noticing that something just isn’t right, though – and the heavy gates and fences are starting to look less like measures to keep the public from private land, and more like they are keeping something in.
What a stunning book. Jack may be the protagonist, but the main character is Colorado itself. Peter Heller’s stunning descriptions brought it to life around me – when I paused in my reading, I found myself taking a moment to come back, it was so vivid. It’s not overly flowery language, but precise and evocative; it made it so easy to sink into the story.
Speaking of the story, that’s just as interesting and precise as the surroundings; and where they’re beautiful, what’s going on in them is anything but. The world Peter Heller describes is one not too removed from our own; ever-mutating coronaviruses have circulated for over three years, leaving tourism (and stability) mostly to the rich. There are hints of more, but it’s relatively subtle; some species mentioned as being almost extinct, nods to a world where inequality has surpassed our own.
While this is a relatively short novel, there’s a lot going on in these pages. Jack is a surprising character, with the courage and confidence of a much older man. He’s knowledgeable about much more than just fishing and ranch life – he’s well read, insightful and follows his convictions up with action. He’s a protagonist that’s easy to root for, and who won’t let an invested reader down.
The Guide is an excellent book, one to sink into and enjoy in one sitting, if you can. Readers will be transported, and find themselves just as wrapped in the mystery as Jack himself.
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