Beyond the Wild River

Written by Sarah Maine
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

In 1893, nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre joins her father and his wealthy friends on a visit to the Chicago World’s Fair. She and her father, Charles, are no longer close due to an incident at their Scottish Borders estate five years before. An old poacher and an estate manager were murdered, with blame falling on Evelyn’s inappropriate friend, stable boy James Douglas. But Evelyn suspects her father lied to protect himself and his house guests. James escaped and Evelyn longs for the truth. After the Fair, their group heads for Nipigon, in the wilds of Ontario, Canada, for a fishing expedition. When they arrive, Charles is shocked to find James is one of the guides. He warns James to stay away from Evelyn, but James has his own agenda. He’s furious that Charles—a man he once revered— allowed the authorities to accuse him of the murders, and worse still, fears the real killer is among Charles’s fishing party. James vows revenge.

Maine’s description of the Canadian wilderness and its dangers, both from nature and men, kept me engrossed. Characters are fully fleshed out as James and Evelyn fight their growing attraction. Charles keeps telling his daughter to “wait,” he has a plan to sort out the mess from five years ago, but will he be able to pull all these strings together for a satisfying conclusion? The plot twists are surprising, the author a master at building tension. The story starts out leisurely, with Evelyn a passive young lady full of angst—but once in the backwoods, she and the novel rush like river rapids toward a startling finish. Excellent.