By Julie Kish

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant
Minotaur Books, 2021

As the cold weather drives us indoors, we may find ourselves with more reading time. Why not make yourself a hot drink, snuggle under a blanket, and read a winter-themed mystery/thriller while you watch the snow fall? Winter creates an intense setting for a novel, adding suspenseful drama and a sense of eerie isolation.

The main characters in Kimi Cunningham Grant’s novel, These Silent Woods,  are as isolated as they can be. Cooper and his eight-year-old daughter Finch have lived in a remote cabin in the northern Appalachian woods since Finch was a baby. They have no electricity, no running water, no family, and no connection to the outside world.

As the story unfolds, we learn the painful truth of why Cooper has chosen to live this way. Traumatic events from his past have left him with no other choice. The only person who knows they exist is Cooper’s old military buddy, Jake, who brings supplies once a year.

As the story begins, Cooper and Finch are waiting for Jake on the pre-arranged day, but he never shows up. The father will have to break the barriers of their safe haven and take serious risks to keep himself and his daughter alive.

Cooper is a fiercely dedicated father who will do anything to protect his daughter. He’s a good dad who uses his books and the surrounding woods to give her a good education and excellent survival skills.

Finch is a clever, precocious child who has been well-schooled by her father, but she’s beginning to crave more interaction with the outside world. Both characters are heartbreakingly wonderful and will quickly have readers wholly committed to their survival.

These Silent Woods is a masterfully written novel. It’s rich with atmospheric tension and has vivid scenic descriptions skillfully painted by the author. It’s not simply the plot and the characters that make this book so good; it’s the way it’s written and the emotions it stirs up in the reader.

The gradual revelation of Cooper’s secrets makes this a difficult book to put down because we want to know more about the desperation that led Cooper to choose such a brutal way of life. We become unapologetically invested in finding out the truth.

Whether you read a mystery, a biography or a techno science fiction masterpiece, the vital thing to remember is to curl up, stay warm and keep reading.