Deep in the Forest, Erina Reddan

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

As is the way of the world, there have been quite a few crime fiction books recently that delve into the world of cults, the people that get caught in them, and those trying to get them out. DEEP IN THE FOREST is a slightly different twist on that. It's the story of a small town outcast, who via some coincidental work connections, and the fact that she lives very near the community known as the Sanctuary, finds herself pulled too far into their world.

Charli Trenthan is an outsider in her hometown of Stone Lake, thanks mostly to the local police sergeant who really holds a grudge, setting out to make her life a misery as a result. Charli lives, with her memories, and her dog, alone in a large old house, on an isolated property outside town, where she is deeply mourning the death of her mother, killed by a hit and run driver. A renowned book binder, she's creating a significant anniversary book for the "Sanctuary" community, that sits on the edge of the same dense forest and lake that Charli's home backs onto. There are large parts of the house that she can't enter since her mother's death, but she's happy roaming the forest, until the time she discovers something shocking at the lake, and a cryptic message from a member of the Sanctuary community shatters the professional distance she's maintained up until then.

Ably, if not slightly haphazardly supported by her best friend Amra and her high-powered lawyer Aunt Gigi, Charlie is driven to discover the truth behind the community, perhaps not in small part, as a distraction to the ongoing mourning of her mother, and her desire to get away from a town that's been so unwelcoming, so antagonistic.

The antagonism of the locals is evident right from early in the book, as is Charli's internal struggle, which bordered on personal neglect. (On a personal note whilst not overtly cruel to dog Bojo, the seeming extension of that neglect did make me twitch... a lot). Given this is such a closed in, self-centred story, readers are really going to have to connect with this central character in a big way. Whilst there is a fair amount of threat and tension with DEEP IN THE FOREST, it's not going to take guesswork to figure out the main threads - the hit and run that killed Charli's mother, what's really going on within the Sanctuary, and who the ultimate bad guy is.

Alongside the somewhat obvious nature of the plot there's the considerably less easy to resolve Charli. An amateur detective by way of proximity and personal impetus, she's not the best judge of character, and seems infinitely capable of dithering whilst a metaphorical Rome burns down around her. There is a real possibility here that the author was trying to develop a character who is really struggling to process emotion and reality - sometimes that was clear, at other times she was just a bit too annoying. The characters of Aunt Gigi and Amra did provide some backbone, common sense and direction though, and their every entry into the narrative lifts what can sometimes be a frustrating reading experience.

Perhaps that's where DEEP IN THE FOREST differs substantially from the current run of "cult based" crime fiction. There's something slightly off about everything and everybody. Charli's the main narrator, and she's obviously suffering depression so her flawed choices and viewpoint are profoundly affected by that. Amra's kind but perhaps not all she seems, and Aunt Gigi's bold confidence threatened to take all respect and attention from everyone else. Whether or not that combination of slightly off, slightly dodgy, slightly weird, slightly NQR is going to work is going to come down firmly in YMMV territory.

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Year of Publication

What lies behind the gates of the Sanctuary?

'Urgent. Come tomorrow. Can't wait any longer.'

Charli Trenthan plans to leave her hometown of Stone Lake. But when she receives a cryptic message from a member of the Sanctuary, a conservative closed community nestled in the forest, she is determined to find answers.

A gruesome discovery soon lands Charli in hot water with the police, but how is the Sanctuary connected? As she digs deeper, dark secrets are uncovered and the fight to prove her innocence turns into a fight for her life.

A gripping thriller with a shocking conclusion that will leave you spellbound, Deep in the Forest raises questions about who we trust and why.

Review Deep in the Forest, Erina Reddan
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Blog Updates - Week Ending 22nd March
Karen Chisholm
Monday, January 15, 2024

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