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A Lush Lie In A Dark Meadow- an Adult Thriller Novel Review

A green inkblot with the shadows of tall trees centered, and outlined by the silhouettes of tree tops on the bottom of the blot with the words A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES a novel in the center of the blot over the trees and SHEA ERNSHAW underneath the blot

In this “riveting, atmospheric thriller that messes with your mind in the best way” (Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author), three residents of a secluded, seemingly peaceful commune investigate the disappearances of two outsiders.
Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Often hired by families as a last resort, he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—and is soon led to a place many believed to be only a legend.
Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.
Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

An Adult Thriller Novel Review:

Reading this book feels like walking aimlessly through the woods, on a cloudy day, stumbling upon a lush meadow with padded grass, and laying down to rest, knowing there could be any number of predators lurking in the shadows of the trees.

Shea Ernshaw's adult debut leaves its readers feeling raw, exposed, and emotional. The plot will make you question fact and fiction, second-guessing your thoughts just like its characters.

We start with the enigmatic Travis, a man hired to find the missing Maggie St. James, who sets up the mystery plot that drives this story. Travis discusses all the questions we would have when dropped in the middle of an investigation as if we were on page 150 instead of page 10. The kicker, the inciting incident (for my fellow writers) is not Maggie's disappearance. It's Travis's. How does a man with a knack for finding lost things, go missing?

I love the way Ernshaw managed to layer two plots within themselves. She weaves hints and secrets into this book like stitches in a blanket. And she takes us along for the ride with her. We follow every hook of the needle as she adds color, texture, and depth to the big picture of this novel.

The characters are so alive and vulnerable, even when they lie to each other--or themselves. Theo, Calla, and Bee have individual paths, driven by secrets, that twist around each other and collide at crucial moments of the plot. This is a book of deceit wrapped in a hand-dyed, linen shall with a dandelion pinned to the collar.

When the truth is finally revealed it's with a subtle gasp, the way a pair of eyes open suddenly after taking an unexpected nap. The twist came in a slow realization. A nudge toward revelation. Her pacing is so good, executed so well, that you hardly have time to process all the implications that go with that twist.

I can't think of another book like this. It lives in its own pocket of rich writing, atmospheric descriptions, and intricate relationships that all feed into its mysterious and beautiful pages.

This is the kind of book you read on a rainy day, with a hot cup of tea, with a blanket on, and a window cracked. This is the kind of book you read for weeks or months just so you can live in its world for as long as possible.

This book is a triumph for Shea Ernshaw, and I can't wait for her next moody masterpiece.

I recommend A History of Wild Places to anyone who likes to savor. Anyone who appreciates the shifting of the seasons and the unfurling of a good mystery will enjoy reading it.

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