Friday, July 15, 2011

The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Published by Imajin Books

There are many legends about the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territory, many of them featuring headless corpses and skeletons, and disappearances, a river of ghosts. Cheryl Kaye Tardif has placed her paranormal techno-thriller in this beautiful and awesome part of northern Canada. I love how she describes everything so well that each scene is vividly implanted in the reader's mind, so much so that one can almost hear the falls, the rapids, and boiling currents of the river, the rustling of the leaves in the wind. This descriptive mode is captured throughout the book, even through the horrors to be found when Del, with a team and guide, searches for her father. He was believed dead for several years, after disappearing in the Nahanni area, but now Del has reason to believe he is alive.

It all begins when an elderly man shows up in her classroom with a message and a journal. She recognizes the message as something her father always said, and finally discovers that she has known this man, he is a friend of her father's and he also disappeared from that ill-fated group of men. He appears much older than he should, and very ill, but he says her father is alive and gives her a journal with instructions to "follow" her heart. He is taken away to a hospital where he is rapidly aging and dying. Del turns to the journal and discovers it has been written in some kind of code. There also seems to be a map of some sort. She knows she will do anything to find her father, and her ex-boyfriend is ready to assemble a search team and make the arrangements.

What a mixed bunch of characters make up the team! Del (Delila) Hawthorne is a Professor of Anthropology and her young assistant Peter insists on going along. Jake, who she meets first at the hospital and again at Bio-Tec where her father had worked, and TJ, her ex-boyfriend. Peter brings Miki, who is a math savant and may be able to break the code, and Jake brings his assistant, the fiery and fiercely jealous Italian, Francesca. A lone vacationing computer programmer, Gary, is stranded when his wilderness party doesn't show up, and Hawk, the Dene guide adds him to their party.

It doesn't take long for problems to arise, both natural and man-made. Who is trying to sabotage their trip? When Del's medication for MS disappears, who would have taken it? Was it the feisty Francesca? A romantic connection seems to be building between Del and Jake. Could Gary be someone other than who he supposedly is? Will finding the secret river give them answers, or more questions? The river is very hazardous as they near the falls, but Miki and Del believe they have to pass this spot to arrive at what they think will be the location to find the secret river. Hawk does not believe there is a secret river, but he does recognize what the landmarks are on the map. As they portage up the falls, they think the worst must be over, but will soon rethink that.

A tense, strange trip to destiny lies ahead. Not just their destiny, but the destiny of the human race. Can they stop the inevitable? Layers of horror lead to more danger for the team. I won't tell. This book is character- and action-driven, terrifying, and yet tender at times even in its intensity. Cheryl has a knack for writing the gamut of human emotion, and in this case even inhuman. A good thriller, graphic in some places, but deftly written. A real nail-biter.

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