cover image The Beautiful and the Wild

The Beautiful and the Wild

Peggy Townsend. Berkley, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-59-363808-8

Room meets The Simple Wild in this disturbing thriller from Townsend (The Thin Edge) about a mother and son being held captive in the Alaskan wilderness. For months, Liv Russo has believed her husband, Mark, died after jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. But when a series of cryptic texts and emails lure her and her developmentally disabled seven-year-old son, Xander, from California to a compound in southeastern Alaska, Liv finds Mark alive, cohabitating with another woman and a 10-year-old boy who calls him “Dad.” Stunned, Liv threatens to leave with Xander and return to California. Mark responds by locking her in a shipping container for weeks until she convinces him that she’s accepted their new polyamorous, off-the-grid lifestyle. Once she’s freed, Liv begins to plot her and Xander’s escape, but Mark becomes increasingly violent and unhinged. Townsend elevates the proceedings above standard-issue genre fare by zeroing in on Liv and Xander’s relationship, which she renders with aching sensitivity. The mother-son bond at the heart of this tense melding of domestic suspense and survival thriller makes it tough to shake. Agent: Heather Jackson, Heather Jackson Literary. (Nov.)