Wildfire by Duncan Ralston fulfills its promise of claiming to be a psychological crime thriller. I found it to be a page-turner because unexpected events seemed to jump out and happen without contextual clues. I was surprised at character actions throughout the story. Too long to be a novella, this 156-page story was published in 2016. Although I was happy to buy it for USD 0.99 (so I could keep it) Kindle Unlimited offers a free read. Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
Bo Lowrey is a single mother raising son Caleb in a remote, wooded area. She had a husband, but the reader is not quite sure where he went or why he left the two. What money there was had run out and now Bo and Caleb lived off the land. Bo was responsible for all Caleb’s education. Caleb was becoming proficient with a bow and arrow. Bo taught Caleb survival skills as well as standard school subjects; Caleb was homeschooled, not something he was happy about. It was not that Caleb missed television, he had never had it although he knew what he was missing and didn’t like not having a TV. Caleb remembered his father but was not quite sure when he went away, why he went, or where he was now. Although Bo and Caleb had a close relationship, Bo could see a developing streak of independence as Caleb grew.
It was necessary to occasionally travel to the nearest town for supplies that would round out a diet that would consist of more than the meat Bo could kill or the plants the pair could gather. Bo paid for her purchases with animal skins she could sell, especially wolf skins from the “wolf cull” that was going on. This last trip to town had been a disaster. Animal rights protestors had tried to delay Bo’s return home after they discovered wolf skins in Bo’s truck. One very vociferous and famous singer, Rainey Layne, had attempted to physically stop Bo from making a sale and later from leaving town. Bo did not appreciate having to drive her car slowly through protesters pounding on her truck. It was very disturbing to Caleb. However, she survived the incident and she and Caleb returned home.
If only it had stopped there. If Rainey had not approached Bo and Caleb at their home in such a spectacular manner. She didn’t have to run into Bo’s tree. She didn’t have to cuss and threaten Bo. Rainey’s biggest mistake was in threatening to report Bo to social services which would lead Bo to lose Caleb. There was no way Bo was going to let this happen. Preemptive action by Bo was needed.
Then there was Darius, Rainey’s private security protector. By the time he showed up at Bo’s house looking for Rainey, Bo was getting tired of counting all the characters that seemed determined to disturb her peace. Bo is all about self-sufficiency and solving problems. It is time to get on with the decisions necessary to solve problems.
There are two parallel “family” situations to observe as far as emotional bonding. For Bo, Caleb is important. She would do anything to protect Bo. For Rainey, her dog “Hottie” is important, she would do anything to protect “Hottie.” Darius is an outlier, Rainey was going to fire him anyway; she had no feelings for what his ultimate outcome might be. Rainey, although a victim, is thoroughly unlikeable.
I gave this novel four Amazon stars despite a few typos which I won’t mention and one glaring inconsistency which I will. Rainey had crashed a car into Bo’s tree. Bo wanted to move the car to evade police. First, she “threw the Escalade into Neutral with her sleeve pulled up over her hand, thanking God the girl drove standard shift.” (p. 47). Once the car was at the “drop site,” Bo “opened the driver door, and reset the transmission to Drive.” (p. 49). I believe there is something inconsistent between the two quoted phrases.