Atlanta's hottest assistant district attorney, Mary Crow (she's half Cherokee), has just made it six-for-six in murder convictions with her defeat of Calhoun "Handsome Cal" Whitman, and is heading home to Little Jump Off, North Carolina, for a hiking vacation with pals Alexandra McCrimmon and Joan Marchetti. It's been 12 years since the unresolved rape and murder of Mary's mother, and she's looking forward to making her first trip back home in the company of friends. But though it begins well, it soon turns very, very bad:
Joan felt the shadow first. A small interstice of darkness fell across the bright sunlight that bathed her face. A cloud, she thought. But the chill did not move. Reluctantly she opened her eyes to see what was obstructing the light that had just a moment ago warmed her so deliciously. A colossus stood above her. Its face blocked the sun, and she could see nothing but a black shape haloed with a corona of blinding light.
What fills the remaining pages is nothing short of harrowing: stalking, chasing, raping, kidnapping, and murder at the hands of not one, but two very different but equally dangerous madmen. One is a deranged mountain man who's been haunting the hills for years, and another's motivation is darker and more personal.
What Sallie Bissell has done so well with in In the Forest of Harm might have easily turned into a Deliverance-meets-"Charlie's Angels" farce in the hands of a lesser writer. Indeed, while there are echoes of Dickey's Deliverance and strains of Sharyn McCrumb's She Walks These Hills --near poetic phrasing, ringing depictions of a majestic Southern wilderness, crisp characterizations, bow-taut suspense--Bissell's words are surely her own. All suspense novels should be this good; that this one is a debut novel is a little scary. --Michael Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
An assistant DA returns to the North Carolina mountain country of her youth in Bissell's hair-raising camping-trip-gone-wrong debut thriller. Half-Cherokee Mary Crow, Atlanta's hottest young prosecutor, has just won her sixth murder case when she decides to take her two best friends, Joan and Alex, along with her on a hiking vacation near Little Jump Off, N.C. She has hidden motives for revisiting her one-horse hometown: her mother was raped and murdered 12 years ago in the country store she managed, and Mary needs to come to terms with her death. But death still haunts the cursed countryside, and the three women find themselves in perilous situations, fighting for their lives with both a crazed mountain man and the obsessed brother of the Atlanta murderer, bent on revenge. When Alex is spirited away and Joan is raped, Mary must muster the strength to match wits with two deranged killers, calling upon her old tracking skills and deep knowledge of the forest. Meanwhile, her high school sweetheart, Jonathan Walkingstick, realizes something has gone wrong, and heads after the women up the mountain. Gory scenes abound in this punched-up female version of Deliverance, but Bissell is particularly good in describing how Alex, Joan and Mary's friendship sustains them and is strengthened over the course of their harrowing adventures. Even though the three women pop up cartoonishly each time they are felled, and their pursuers are supernaturally crafty, the tale compels with its depiction of desperate camaraderie and descriptions of gorgeous mountain scenery. A sequel seems likely, and the title is a natural for film or TV adaptation. Agents, Robbie Anna Hare and Ron Goldfarb. Rights sold in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. (Jan. 2)
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