James Worthington Crane has lost everything that mattered. His parents and brother have been murdered and grief has left James exhausted, emotionally shattered, and at a loss as to how he’s supposed to go on. With the media bombarding him, James decides to leave New York and visit a piece of property in Oregon left to him by his mother. He isn’t sure why he’s going, but at least he can hope for a place to rest. But once he arrives in the small town of Brooks, James quickly realizes his mother has left him a dark legacy.
From an identical twin, a murder mystery, and a family secret, James struggles to find the truth. At least until he meets local Hunter Quaid. Hunter is finally able to soothe some of James’ terrible pain and helps him set about uncovering the secrets his mother left in the woods of Oregon. But James’ visit to Brooks was only supposed to be temporary. When it comes time to return to New York, James may not have the heart to leave.
In Strange Woods is one of those books that starts off strong, with an engaging set of protagonists and an interesting, if somewhat worn, premise, but then just sort of seems to give up about three-fourths of the way through.
James is dealing with real, visceral tragedy when we meet him and the author does a good job of describing how lost he seems. He’s bereft and running out of the emotional energy to hold himself together. Hunter is sweet and supportive and, while he doesn’t always read as the most fully developed character, his relationship with James is emotionally engaging. There’s definitely a bit insta-lust that moves too quickly into love, but I didn’t really mind it in this situation.
There is something of a multiple mystery on tap here. It’s not fully evolved, but it was interesting to watch play out as James uncovers who murdered his family and the complicated secret his mother hid for so many years. It isn’t a necessarily believable or original scenario, but it didn’t have to be. This was one of those stories you just kind of go along with and enjoy the ride.
Unfortunately, once these mini mysteries are resolved, which happens about three-fourths of the way through, the book just meanders to its end. I felt like the overall plot turned sloppy at this point and read as a lot of filler that just wasn’t necessary. The pacing, which had been fairly strong, ground to a halt and In Strange Woods limped its way to an uninspired finish. I’m not sure what happened or if the author felt that this final information was important for some reason. But it didn’t work and it’s a shame because, up until this point, the book was enjoyable.
Overall, In Strange Woods was a nice read with decent characters and enough plot to drive the book forward until the end. Things take a downward turn during the last fourth of the book, but I think if the overall story interests you, then it’s worth taking a chance on In Strange Woods. It will appeal to more readers than not.