My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Is it a romance? Is it a thriller? Is it an environmental tale? No, it’s all three! The Wind in the Woods by Rose Senehi is a gripping family saga set in North Carolina’s Green River Valley, where a serial killer is stalking hikers.
Charismatic widower Tiger Morrison has spent a lifetime saving children from nature-deficit disorder, only to find himself in the fight of his life to protect his undisturbed world from land-grabbing developers in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. He’s also fighting to win Katie Warlick, but she can’t forgive him for not wanting her the way she wanted him 20 years ago. While Tiger is involved in the struggle to save his camp, his daughter, Sammy, is trying to find her place in the clannish realm of summer youth camps. As she searches for her identity, she never suspects that a serial killer is stalking her.
Although flagged as a romantic thriller by its publisher, this is probably a little misleading; rather The Wind in the Woods can be described as a thriller that also contains a love story. The juxtaposition of the violent, stalking sociopath Gary Skinner with that of the beauty of the Green River Valley and the goodness of Tiger make this novel an interesting, if sometimes challenging read. Some may be uneasy with the descriptions of cruelty to both humans and animals, especially if they are expecting a straightforward romance. But rather than detract from the love story, the evil personified by Gary Skinner acts to underline the necessity of love in our lives, be it family love, romantic love and even our love for the beauty of nature.
The serial killer plotline is convincing and well-drawn. Senehi used the real life tale of 61-year-old serial killer Gary Michael Hilton as the basis for her portrayal of Gary Skinner. In deference to his victims’ families, Senehi has changed the name and location of “his” attacks, which are described so vividly in her novel. There are some truly chilling moments when she describes his preparations to go “hunting”.
And Senehi is also just as convincing when writing about the joy of interacting with nature through camping. Woven through her story is the 100-year-old history of summer youth camps in the Hendersonville/Brevard section of Western North Carolina (which has the highest concentration of summer camps in the United States) and her descriptions of the tight-knit youth camps where friendships are forged will bring back many readers’ fondest childhood camp memories. Senehi also uses the story of Tiger’s camp to underline the environmental issues that are affecting similar camps in North Carolina today.
The Wind in the Woods is Rose Senehi’s fifth novel, and the second in a series that take place in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. Her fourth novel, In the Shadows of Chimney Rock, was nominated for the 2009 SIBA Book Award by members of the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Alliance as the Best in Southern Literature for the year.
Contemporary fiction writer, Senehi, is noted for weaving environmental themes into her plots. A resident of Chimney Rock, North Carolina and Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, she moved from Upstate New York in 1996. Her other novels include: Pelican Watch, Windfall, and Shadows in the Grass. For more information about Rose Senehi visit her website at www.rosesenehi.com