Wild Angel

Pat Murphy, Author
Pat Murphy, Author Tor Books $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-86626-6
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-8125-9042-5
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Murphy's previous novel, There and Back Again, paid homage to Frank L. Baum's Oz books. Her latest volume continues the tradition, this time looking back to Edgar Rice Burroughs's legendary Tarzan series (plus a good dash of Mark Twain). Rachel and William McKenzie are hopeful settlers in the gold fields of 1850 California, but their dreams are cut short when they're murdered in their camp not far from the boomtown of Selby. Avoiding death by hiding in a cave, their three-year-old daughter, Sarah, finds that her survival afterward depends upon the wolf pack that adopts her. Sarah avoids humanity for many years, until a chance encounter and subsequent friendship with a young Indian woman shows her that not all people are to be feared. When she saves a family in winter-shrouded Donner Pass, Sarah earns the name ""The Wild Angel,"" but keeps to the land until she meets journalist and adventurer Max Phillips, who has been haunted by her since the day he discovered her parents' bodies but couldn't find their little girl. Sarah's friendship with Max grows over the seasons in secret, for Max suspects that the man who killed her parents is still nearby. When the secret slips out, Sarah must face her enemy and extract justice as the wolf pack has taught her. In an afterword, Murphy cites Burroughs's ""shameless use of coincidence"" to ""arrange the characters to his liking,"" which is clearly the case here. This novel, lightweight compared to Murphy's earlier work, functions best as an engaging summer read. (Aug.)
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