In her first adult novel, Breaking Wild, Diane Les Bouquets marries a fast-paced thriller with a quiet, psychological profile of two women, Amy Raye Latour and Pru Hathaway, who are lost and searching for meaning and themselves in the mountains near Rio Mesa, Colorado.
Amy Raye, on an elk hunting trip with her friends, wakes up early to hunt on her own and gets lost in the mountains. Pru, who works for the Bureau of Land Management as an archaeological law enforcement ranger, heads up the search for Amy Raye. Heading into the mountains with her trusted search-and-rescue dog, Kona, Pru combines a mountain search and rescue with an investigation into Amy Raye’s life to try to find clues to bring her home alive.
Les Becquets alternates between Amy Raye’s and Pru’s narratives, a storytelling tactic that reveals how both women ended up in the mountains and leads the reader through a suspenseful mountain search and rescue. By the end of the book, Les Becquets makes the reader question whether Pru and her team will find Amy Raye, either alive or dead, while exploring the depths to which will, determination and knowledge drive people to stay alive under dire circumstances.
This book has a lot to offer readers, which makes it hard to categorize. On one hand, it is an adventure mystery set in the stunning mountainous landscape of Colorado, reminiscent of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mystery series. Les Becquets incorporates her extensive knowledge of mountaineering and hunting into both Amy Raye’s and Pru’s stories, making both women strong, capable and complicated people.
On the other hand, underlying this strength, Les Becquets slowly reveals that both women have messy pasts filled with secrets, lies, betrayals, redemption and a shared search for self that make them more comfortable being alone in the wilderness or in the company of animals than with people. This latter point makes Les Bouquets’ novel more than an adventure or mystery, but really an intriguing psychological novel about two women striving for a fulfilling life lived on their own terms.
There are slower moments about life in Rio Mesa that distract from the mounting tension driving the book, but overall it kept me interested, curious and on my toes. By the end, readers realize that the search and rescue took place in the woods, the mountains, and within Amy Raye and Pru.
Breaking Wild by Diane Les Bouquets (Berkley | 9780425283783 | February 9, 2015)