The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017
Available: Hardcover, paperback, audiobook, audio CD, Kindle edition
This breakout novel has been hailed by some critics as THE must-have thriller of 2017, as well as the year’s perfect “Daughter” book.
Karen Dionne, author of high concept science thrillers Freezing Point and Boiling Point, decided to change tracks in favor of something much more organic and disturbing in The Marsh King’s Daughter. The book succeeds on all levels because of what it sets out to do– simply tell a story without all the bells and whistles. Dionne’s writing has a songstress’ voice and rhythm, yet doesn’t overwhelm with the love of language. It embraces the feel of the setting and story, pulling the reader deep into the marsh’s realm, only relenting when the final page is turned.
The story is deceptively simple. Helena loves her easygoing life. Great husband, great kids, great job all without much stress or fuss. In the unique world of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, life is decidedly different. The land feels cut off from the country readers know as America, but also feels like home. Then she hears the news of an escaped prisoner, and realizes that the life she has built for herself and her family is about to shatter. The escapee is her father, a man she knows she must track and send back to prison, to have any chance to hold onto the life she knows.
Helena’s father abducted her mother when she was a teenager. He raped her and kept her hostage in the marshes for many years. Until Helena was a teenager herself, she knew nothing of life outside of their cabin in the middle of the marsh. Her father taught her the ways of a hunter, tracker, and survivalist, and even though she escaped him years ago, she hasn’t forgotten them. Helena knows that the police will never find him– but she can, and will. She plans to find him before the life she has made is overtaken by her nightmare past.
The novel blazes past, as good thrillers do, but there is something special about The Marsh King’s Daughter: the story has a magic that must be experienced. Easily the hottest thriller of the year, this book is recommended for anyone who loves great storytelling and a voice that will suck them in. Fans of David Morrell’s early work, John Connelly, and Elizabeth Massie will want to be sure to check this out.
Reviewed by Dave Simms