In a suspenseful follow-up to her critically acclaimed Cover of Snow, Jenny Milchman ratchets up the tension with this edge-of-your-seat story of a mother determined to find her missing children.
Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.
On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in.
Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.
Praise for Jenny Milchman and Ruin Falls
“[Jenny] Milchman has a gift that allows her to delve deep into the mind and psyche of her characters, and fans of dark plots like the works of Gillian Flynn will find another author to savor.”—RT Book Reviews
“Essential for psychological thriller fanatics . . . Extreme, heart-pounding action follows this determined mother as she risks everything to save her children.”—Library Journal
“[Jenny Milchman] carves out a new niche with this unusual mix of ecothriller and family suspense drama.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Milchman weaves a complex and intriguing tale, adeptly pacing the narrative as danger escalates. . . . Most impressive, though, is Liz’s transformation from a meek wife . . . to a strong, capable woman determined to rescue her children at any cost to herself.”—Publishers Weekly
“Absorbing from start to finish: Jenny Milchman writes a deeply felt and suspenseful story of a woman whose life is upended by a death and a dark secret.”—Nancy Pickard, bestselling author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning
“Milchman can evoke the shadows and fears of a rural community like no one else.”—DuJour
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Jenny Milchman lives in upstate New York with her family. She is the author of Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls.
Read an Excerpt
The children had never been this far from home before. Liz had spent most of yesterday driving around, hunting for no-mess Crayola coloring books, praying they weren’t too juvenile to keep a six- and eight-year-old occupied in the car, then running up and down the supermarket aisles in search of bars and snack pouches in case they couldn’t find food on the road. Or in case they did find something, and Paul wouldn’t allow the kids to eat it.
Now the hours had ticked by, four of them, and it seemed they were no closer to their destination than they had been when they left home. Descending from the mountains of Wedeskyull had presented a stark contrast and it felt like they were really traveling. But the view outside the windows ever since had been made up of little besides cornfields. Liz wouldn’t have believed how bleak acres and acres of green could appear when the crop was so unvarying. The road they were driving on hadn’t dipped or risen for thirty minutes. It was a flat length of asphalt, inky mirages always shimmering just ahead.
“I wish we could see some real trees.”
As tired as she was—and they weren’t even at the hardest part of this day yet—Liz smiled reflexively. Ally, her gardening partner, her green thumb girl. To say that their youngest had a desire to be out in nature was like saying she had a desire to breathe. Sometimes Liz looked into her little girl’s eyes and saw a tiny version of herself in the serious brown lenses.
Reid’s turn now. Liz glanced in the rearview, but it wasn’t angled to offer a glimpse of her son. “What is it, hon?”
“Me, too,” Ally chimed in. “Everything looks the same out my window.”
The flatness was getting to Liz, too. She looked over at Paul in the driver’s seat.
“Another round of I Spy?” he suggested. “Or Ghost?”
Liz had already decided that car games must’ve been invented by some not-so-benevolent dictator masquerading as an elementary school teacher. For that matter, cars might’ve been invented by the same person, minus the schoolteacher part. She had no idea how people sat still for so long. Her body itched to be moving, knees sinking into the soil, hands digging in the ground. She had sympathy for both kids, who up till now had actually been pretty good.
“How about we sing?” she suggested, channeling the voice of that dictatorial teacher. Liz Daniels, schoolmarm.
Boos and groans from the backseat.
Paul responded belatedly. “I might have to let you out here if you do that.”
“Mom? I’m hungry.”
“Me, too!” Ally crowed.
Liz looked at Paul, but her husband had subsided into silence, eyes fixed on the long, blank road. “Bored and hungry, huh?” she said, twisting to peer into the backseat. A sight through the back window made her frown for a moment, but then the unhappy faces distracted her. She reached for a light tone. “Boy, you guys are really a mess.”
The protests were fast approaching a whine.
“Paul?” Liz said, squinting at the back window again.
Her husband didn’t answer. Liz’s gaze darted to the rearview.
“Paul,” she said more urgently.
He looked at her.
“I think that truck has been behind us for a long time,” she said.
Her husband reached up and tilted the mirror to get a better look. “It’s just a pickup truck,” he said, his tone a shrug.
“I know,” Liz said. “But look how closely it’s trailing us.”
She made sure to pitch her voice low so as not to alert the children. Reid, especially, had a tendency to get scared. His fear of death belied both his age and understanding. When Liz’s great-aunt had died last year, they took Ally to the funeral, but left Reid behind. No low-impact introduction to the subject, such as a children’s storybook or short-lived pet hermit crab, enabled Reid to cope. They even skirted cemeteries in case Reid caught a glimpse of a gravestone. Liz actually mapped out alternate routes to school or the grocery store or seed depot, aware of where Wedeskyull’s dead were laid. And although she occasionally dragged the whole family to church, hoping a religious connection might provide some sort of framework for Reid’s fears, she usually regretted it. The sermons about heaven terrified him, and Liz had to work to steer clear of the tilting rows of headstones in the churchyard.
She wondered whether this boycott approach to death was really wise. The ban would have to end sometime, and then what?
The pickup had drawn even closer, but Paul’s glance didn’t shift from the road in front of them. Liz had the idea to try and identify the model, but it was impossible to make out the front grille, so close was it to their car. They passed a farm, and a pungent, animal stink came in through the vents, the smell of portable potties and compost that needed turning.
The whine had become a shriek. Reid, going right past Go without stopping to collect his two hundred dollars.
Then Ally joined in. “How much longer? I’m hungry! I’m super hungry!”
The pickup loomed above them now, filling the entire rear window.
The volume in the backseat died at the exact moment as the noise from the pickup exploded into a rattle and a roar. Liz glanced down to see that her pocketbook had vanished, unfelt, from its position in her lap. It was in the backseat, and the children had begun tearing into packets of fruit snacks, looking shocked and sugar-stung by their unexpected bounty. At home, Paul tended to limit even the natural brands of treats, but these had been for an emergency.
The pickup truck’s engine growled, so close it would soon be touching them. Liz braced herself for the jolt, sending an alarmed look toward Paul. He seemed to have finally noticed the vehicle rearing up behind them, although he still appeared unperturbed. Their hybrid didn’t even handle winters at home all that well, and it certainly wasn’t built to go head-to-head with a truck. Liz closed her eyes against an image of the back of their car getting pleated, accordion-folded with Ally and Reid inside.
She suppressed a scream, willing her husband to floor it.
The truck swerved into the other lane. For just a moment it hovered beside them, holding even with their car. Liz caught a glimpse of the driver’s furious face, his knotted eyebrows. Then the pickup rocketed by them at such high speed that their car swayed in its wake.
Paul tapped the brake, swiveling the steering wheel to straighten out. He gave a shake of his head. “What a jerk.”
Liz’s chest was heaving beneath her T-shirt.
“A jerk?” she repeated. “Honey, that guy—I think it was deliberate. He was trying to terrorize us. Or something.”
The something was vague and unarticulated in her mind. It had to do with being away from home, as far away as they’d ventured since both kids were born. It might even have had to do with their destination, her husband’s childhood home, a place Liz had never visited before. But the expression on the driver’s face hadn’t just been her imagination, or an artifact of Liz’s sense of disjointedness. He had looked into her eyes with real rage.
Maybe they’d just been driving too slowly, Paul reluctant to get where they were going.
Her husband’s gaze slipped past hers. More and more interactions between them were going this way: Paul imposing his vision, Liz protesting in a way that felt feeble. She wondered when they had fallen into these roles. It used to be that their differences balanced them, but lately it seemed they just kept them on opposite sides.
Opposite sides of what? Liz wondered.
She decided to try again. “Paul, he practically hit us.”
Paul flicked the cruise control back on and spoke calmly. “Well, he’s gone now.”
The pickup had indeed shot ahead, not even its tail visible any longer in front of them. In the backseat, the kids were quietly eating gummies.
She recalled the rising fear that had filled her, like water coming in. Not like her at all; Liz considered herself the practical half of their pairing. Down there in the trenches of the day-to-day, making sure things stayed their course. The house, school, the kids’ activities. While Paul painted lofty pictures of what could be, leading people along like a Pied Piper.
He had settled back against the seat.
Ever since she’d known him, her husband’s customary capability, which he wore like thick tree bark, had been a source of comfort, allowing Liz to reach for things she never otherwise would have. Her business. The children even. But for one flickering moment, with the car gliding smoothly along, Paul’s unruffled demeanor made her angry.
She spied the blue sign that signaled services ahead. Liz forced herself to reach over, touch her husband’s arm.
“How about we stop?” she said, aware of the complexities such a pause would create, but not caring at the moment. “I think we could all use a break.”
She was surprised when Paul swung off at the exit; then she noticed the tilt of the needle on the gas gauge. Paul pulled up at the pump.
“Honey?” she said. “The kids are really hungry. I think we should get them something to eat.” Super hungry, she had heard Ally say.
“I made some sandwiches,” Paul said, indicating a small cooler at Liz’s feet. “But if we dip into them now, dinner might get a little tight. I doubt there’ll be a decent restaurant.”
Paul got out to pump the gas, and Liz let down the window. She leaned over to talk, surprised by the sodden heat in the air. At some point during their entry into western New York, the whole climate had changed. “I’ll take them in, okay?”
Paul looked at her as if she’d suggested bringing the children to Mars. “There’s nothing here but fast food.”
The kids seemed to be gearing up for a rare opportunity. In the backseat, Ally looked at Reid, and both kids unbuckled their belts.
Liz nodded quickly. “Just this once.”
“You already gave them candy,” he said.
“Not candy,” Liz corrected. “Fruit snacks.”
For a topic as inherently light and pleasing as sweets, this was actually dangerous territory for them. Liz knew that both kids secretly ate food Paul would’ve forbidden. Reid, as the older child and the one who tended toward self-assertion anyway, pilfered packs of gum from the knapsacks of seatmates. But if Paul had known that, he would’ve felt the need to enlighten them all about the history of gum, its origin as a natural component of the beech tree to today’s manufacturing outrages, and by the end none of them would be able to split open a package of Trident without worrying that they were ingesting something akin to cyanide, not to mention contributing to the exploitation of the working class.
And the thing was, by the time Paul had finished, Reid and Ally and Liz herself would all be left feeling grateful they’d gotten a chance to join his crusade.
Her husband shook his head. “Fruit snacks aren’t much better than candy. You may as well just go ahead and have them chew gum.”
Liz hid her smile.
“What’s funny?” Paul asked, and Liz smiled again.
“Just thinking that you can be very convincing.”
The pump clicked off.
“Dad?” Reid said, leaning over the front seat to talk through the open window. “We’re hot.”
“Yeah,” Ally said. “Super hot. Look, Daddy. I feel like one of those pansies.”
Liz looked when Paul didn’t. There were planters here, someone’s nod to beautification, but they’d been filled without a care to conditions, and the blotches of color were shriveled and blistered. Liz’s fingers itched to uproot the bedraggled clumps, offer the dirt a mix of zinnia, snapdragon, and rudbeckia instead, blooms that could withstand the assault of the sun.
“Can we get something to drink?”
Paul replaced the pump in its slot, studying the array of signs on the building behind them. “You might be able to find some fruit at the Starbucks,” he said to Liz. “Fill the water bottle. I’ll park the car.”
Liz hustled the kids away from the car, thinking, Muffins. Muffins for Reid and Ally, and a grande for me, and Paul would have to be satisfied with that.
She was standing on a long, snaking line, welcoming the air-conditioned cool and watching for Paul, when she realized that while one kid still hovered right beside her, the other didn’t.
“Al?” she said. “Where’s your brother?”
She’d gotten used to the fact that the kids kept better track of each other than she ever could, unless she wanted to be one of those gluey moms who never let her children out of her sight. The teachers told her that even at school, Reid checked up on Ally and vice versa.
Liz took hold of Ally’s hand and began looking around. People pricked the soaring, two-storied space; it was difficult to make out the head of an eight-year-old. Paul entered the building and she called out to get his attention. She didn’t want to stray too far in case Reid came back to find her.
Ally gave a little yelp and Liz realized how hard she was squeezing her daughter’s hand. She wasn’t all the way to worried yet—the kids had plenty of independence on the farm—but this cavernous network of fast food offerings presented all too much temptation to a kid unused to them. Plus Liz’s nerves were still jangled by their near miss on the highway.
“Christ,” Paul said, as soon as he understood the situation. He scrubbed his face. “I’m tired. Reid!”
People in the crowd began to take notice, pulling their own kids close.
“I’ll check the bathroom,” Paul said, scooping Ally up.
It hit her like an aha. How had Liz been annoyed earlier by Paul’s sensibility and competence? Her husband leveled her out every time. The restroom was where Reid had to be. After all, it was the kids who had polished off all the water, those sugary fruit things making them thirsty.
But a few seconds later, Paul was headed back from the men’s room, Ally still hooked to his hip. He didn’t have Reid.
Just then Liz’s peripheral vision caught sight of a man’s face, plum-colored and angry. The irate sound of his voice followed a second later. The man held Reid by one bony wrist, and Liz felt her own instinctual surge of outrage along with relief.
“Hey!” she cried. “Let go of my—”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Imagine how devastated you'd be if your family vacation turned into a time where instead of you and your children enjoying fun times together, you found yourself without your children or your husband. Why would your husband run off with your kids? And who are the people who are now threatening your life? Liz Daniels has been living a happy life in the Adirondack Mountains with her Professor husband and their two young children. Husband Paul teaches in an agriculture college, about ways of living simpler and healthier. Liz and her six year old daughter love their gardening. Liz's son likes his slight of hand tricks maybe a bit too much, but he's a treasure too. After many years of not seeing either of their families much at all, they decide to visit Paul's parents. Once they reach the first night at the hotel, everything falls apart. This is their story---with tragedy, intrigue, and family histories kept secret for years. Milchman develops mystery by telling this story from multiple characters. Background information comes in by bits and pieces. What you think will happen changes constantly as the story develops. I got caught up in the horror of the situation and found myself talking to the characters. Great mystery with moments of real despair. Milchman has followed through with a second winning mystery in RUIN FALLS.
Imagine you woke up in a hotel room and your children were missing. Now imagine that the person who took your kids was someone you trusted. Now, imagine that you know why they took them and you still have idea how to get them back. What would you do? Would you go to the police? Would you seek vigilante justice? If you’re Liz Daniels, the answer might surprise you – what she does to get her kids back is nothing short of what any Mom would do. Ruin Falls, the sophomore novel by the amazing Jenny Milchman, is a roller coaster of a book that follows Liz as she searches for her children in the overbearing Adirondack mountains. The normally-complacent woman who never raises a a fuss is, for the first time, forced into a situation that will draw her fighting spirit out. As she searches for and interprets clues about why and where her children were taken, Ruin Falls is as much a story about a woman coming into her own as it is a mystery. In typical Milchman fashion, the story is written in a way that evokes strong feelings in its reader. Hearts will race when the children go missing, stomachs will churn when Liz realizes who took them, and palms will sweat when she accepts what she needs to do to get them back. What’s more, the turn of events are unexpected and shocking in the “this could really happen” way. As in, this could really happen to you. So if you’re looking for a book that is also an experience or enjoy mysteries, then check out Ruin Falls. While you’re at it, check out her stunning debut Cover of Snow. Allison @ The Book Wheel
Exciting, intriguing, and a page turner. I stayed up to the wee hours reading this.
This book was pretty interesting. I found myself practically unable to put the book down for the most part because the suspense and mystery of the story was so captivating. My problem with it was the other points of view thrown into the story too, mainly because it was so confusing and it didn't seem to be adding up at all. Only towards the end does it start to make sense, and then at that point I was okay with how confusing it was due to that "A-HA!" feeling I got when all the pieces fell together. So I have a sort of love-hate relationship with that whole aspect of it. And the climax itself didn't seem very... climactic. You read through the whole book thinking something huge is coming so you're on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what it is, then when it arrives it's just a sort of "... Oh. Okay then" moment. I love Jenny Milchman and I love her writing. Honestly I feel like if anyone else had written this story with the same plot and characters, etc. I really wouldn't enjoy it that much. Milchman has her own style of writing that makes her work so amazing and so fun to read. I've read one of her other books, "Cover Of Snow", which I absolutely loved (you should read it!) In the end, despite the confusion through some of the story, I did enjoy reading it and might end up reading it again in the future. It seems like the sort of book that you can go back to read a second time and get a whole different experience from it because you know where it's headed, so you'll notice tiny details that didn't seem significant the first time. I gave this 3 stars but I'd rather give it a 3.5 star rating, which unfortunately isn't possible. I definitely want to read the rest of Jenny Milchman's books! Which I plan on doing really soon actually, and you should do it too.
Made no sense the plot was weak.
Liz Daniels, her husband, Paul, and their children, Ally, six, and Reid, eight, are taking an rare and unexpected vacation, to visit the remote home in the Adirondack Mountains in western New York State where Paul’s parents have always lived. “Rare” and “unexpected” because Paul has been virtually estranged from his parents, visits to them being very few and far between. En route to the farm, they decide to stop at a hotel for the night. Shockingly, the following morning, the children are nowhere to be found. But as the day progresses, the full reality of what had apparently transpired is more ghastly than any of the scenarios Liz had imagined, as nearly impossible as that seemed. Things only escalate from there, as the suspense, mystery, and sense of menace grow exponentially. Liz’ terror and grief are palpably drawn by the author, as are the descriptions of the countryside and farmland she traverses in her ensuing search. Paul is a college professor in a rural agricultural school, and the theme of environmental politics, and environmental sustainability, is central to the plot. Though they knew each other for nearly two decades, there appear to be a myriad of things Liz had never known about him. Somewhat confusingly at first, after the initial chapters describing these events, the reader is introduced to different families, each with their own complexities. A pattern emerges, that of women completely controlled by the men in their lives. The author of course ultimately ties everything together as the tale unfolds. While this novel is a worthy successor to the author’s first novel, “Cover of Snow,” I found in the end that I didn’t love it quite as much. Which is not to say that it is not worthwhile reading: It certainly is that.
Liz and Paul are taking their two children to visit Paul’s parents. Although their relationship is a bit tense and Liz has some anxiety about visiting them, they still go. On the way they decide to spend the night in a hotel. When Liz wakes up the next morning her children are gone. As Liz goes through the steps to find her children, things start looking like Paul took them. The idea of the story was one of the worst things that could happen to a parent. I liked how Liz went from someone that had to have someone tell her to do everything to a strong woman will to fight for her children. I’m sorry to say that I had a hard time getting into this book. There were so many different points of view that I had a hard time really getting too invested into one character or another. From there some things didn’t have enough explanation; they didn’t really flow with the story. Over all this was an ok book. The last 1/3 of the book was where things started coming together. The problem was there were just too many layers to the story. It’s going to be one of those books that you either liked it or didn’t. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Suspense and mystery abound when a young mother discovers that her children have been kidnapped ... what would you do? In Ruin Falls, author Jenny Milchman weaves a fast-paced and chilling psychological thriller that will make your heart race, you won't be able to put it down! While on a family vacation in the Adirondack Mountains of western New York State, Liz Daniels wakes up in their hotel room and discovers that her children, eight year old Reid and six year old Ally are missing. Panic stricken and frantic, Liz realizes that the person who she thinks has taken her children has betrayed her trust ... and like any mother, she will stop at nothing to find and get them back. Ruin Falls is an intriguing story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride as they follow Liz Daniels' desperate search for her missing children. With every suspenseful heart pounding and palm sweating turn of the page, the unexpected and shocking twists and turns will keep the reader captivated as this psychological thriller unfolds. It is a realistic story that will have the reader pondering "what would I do if this happened to me." Ruin Falls is a riveting psychological thriller that is filled with enough intense drama and tension that will keep the reader sitting on the edge of their seat from beginning to surprising conclusion! This is a must read for fans of mystery, suspense, and psychological thriller genres! Kudos to author Jenny Milchman on an amazing sophomore novel! I look forward to reading more of her novels in the future.
This is a great thriller. I had no idea who took her kids or where they were. Her husband had secrets and as she learned what they were, she started to put the puzzle together. However the last piece came expectantly from her mother in law. There are definitely more families involved then Liz's. I did not like her father in law, but there is always a character to dislike. The past does not stay where it belongs. I am giving this book a 4/5. I was given a copy to review, however all opinions are my own.
I thought this one was even better than Cover of Snow. I enjoyed Jenny Milchman's first novel, Cover of Snow, so much that it was hard to imagine how she could do any better on her second outing. With Ruin Falls, I certainly got the answer, and it was "very well, thank you". In fact, I thought Ruin Falls was even better than Cover of Snow. I have to say, I really love it when I find a new author and their books get better and better, so I hope this is a trend that will continue. Ruin Falls is the story of Liz Daniels, who leaves her secluded home in the Adirondack Mountains to go on a family vacation for the first time in years. When her husband, Paul, changes their plans and decides to stop at a hotel for the night, everything seems fine. It is when Liz wakes in the morning to find her children are missing that we get a glimpse of the way Liz's life is headed. Then when she finds out that the person who took them is someone that she thought she could trust, we really understand how badly her life is going to fall apart. Undeterred, Liz hits the road on a journey that will hopefully allow her to find her children and bring them home safely. As a story, Ruin Falls is all about layers. Layers that at times make the story seem ambiguous, but in a good way. Early in the first few chapters their are two events that clue the reader in on the fact that all is not what it seems for the Daniels family. The first is the sheer panic that comes over Liz when the family stops for snacks at a fast food restaurant and six-year-old Reid wanders away. As Liz and Paul search the place for him, I got the feeling that her panic was more than the norm for a mother with a missing child. Then as they get back on the road, they are accosted by a crazy pick up truck driver who seems to be having a road rage event. I loved the sense of innuendo in these and other scenes that appeared throughout the book. It really set the tone for me and got me thinking about just where the story was going and what was really going on, a feeling that stayed with me until the end. In this same vein, I really enjoyed the interspersed chapters that introduced other characters that appeared to have no connection to the Daniels family. Rather than confuse or distract me, I found myself wondering what the connection was (I was sure there was one), which in turn kept me anxiously turning the pages. As the story progressed, and the layers were peeled away, I enjoyed watching it all come together. As a mom of two boys, I found myself really identifying with Liz. Although I hope it never will, if something like this ever happened to me, I would hope that I would be just as focused and driven to find answers as she is. Liz is by far the character that the book focuses on the most, and therefore she is the one that I felt I learned the most about. Most of the other characters were definitely secondary, and while I would like to ave learned a bit more of some of their stories, I don't think more detail on them would have improved the story at all. In fact, with all the layers of the story, keeping the character development rather simple really worked for me as it allowed me to stay focused on why the children were taken and how Liz was going to get them back. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, mostly because it was a delight to read and kept me engaged from beginning to end. I will be the first one to complain when authors muddy a story with too many devices, but for me, the layers of this story and the outlying characters only enhanced my enjoyment. I highly recommend this book to everyone who likes a story that keeps you guessing where it is ultimately going to end up. Thanks to Ballantine books for making this title available through Netgalley in exchange for my review.
Actual rating 4.5 Anyone who has ever had a child or has even spent a few moments with one fears that the child will disappear. So many terrible things can happen to them and we can’t help imagining the worst; the truth is, monsters do exist. When Liz wakes up to find her children missing, it takes only a few scant minutes to go from a peaceful morning to outright panic. In the following hours, nothing happens to alleviate her terror and her husband, Paul, has to help keep Liz together while controlling his own despair. Control, after all, is what Paul knows best. How much more frightening is it, then, to find out that her children are not really missing, not in the eyes of the law. Liz still doesn’t know where they are and all those people trained to help in such a terrible situation have now packed up and gone home. From this point on, Liz is virtually on her own and coming out from Paul’s shadow is the first thing she’ll have to do. Liz is a protagonist who, for me, became more and more like a woman I’d like to know in real life as time went on. It’s easy to discount someone who allows another person to essentially rule her life but it’s so invigorating to watch that same person learn to stand on her own two feet when she really needs to. In an interesting twist, it becomes obvious that unnatural control is at the heart of everything that’s happening and a variety of characters respond to that control in different ways and in different periods of their lives, eventually dragging others into their spider-like webs. Liz grows into a completely different kind of person, the person she was probably meant to be all along, in a brief span of time that feels like an eternity to her and to the reader who wants her to find a happy ending. Is there a happy ending here? In some ways, no, and there’s no doubt that Liz’s trust in others, including her best friend, has been permanently damaged. The reader’s journey is nearly as tense and frightening as this young mother’s and there were moments when I was chewing my nails, waiting to see what would happen next and whether certain people would survive. There’s a scene in Liz’s own home that’s about as creepy as it gets and I truly hope I never have such an experience. Is this a perfect piece of crime fiction? No, not quite. The whole theme of “back to the land” is a bit overdone (and, honestly, made me think some of those people are kind of nuts). Occasionally, Liz is just a bit too oblivious or too ready to jump to conclusions and a brief bit of romance is not very believable or, for that matter, of any importance to the story. I also felt the actual denouement is a bit out of left field but all of that is easily outweighed by a crime that strikes right at the heart and by a protagonist who becomes more than she ever thought she could be. Ruin Falls is a novel of suspense that will stay in my mind for a long time to come and is a worthy follow-up to Ms. Milchman‘s excellent award-winning Cover of Snow. Note: Ms. Milchman was very kind to include me in her acknowledgements and I’m honored to count Jenny as a friend as well as a favorite author. I can assure you, dear reader, that her thoughtful inclusion of me among those who are delighted to support her had no effect on this review. I had already formed my opinion of Ruin Falls before I even knew I’d been named and I can truthfully tell you this is a book you’ll want to read ;-)
A wide open area of land only disturbed by an occasional walker. It has useful herbs and smaller game.