There’s something about the untamed wilderness as a setting for a thriller or a horror story that just works. Whatever human evil might be lurking about is augmented and made worse by the weather, the terrain, the unforgiving nature. While The Great Alone wasn’t a thriller per se, the fact of the family’s living in Alaska adds to the tension and the danger the characters are facing, and a new novel, The Wild Inside, by Jamey Bradbury, also uses the setting of Alaska’s wild country to ratchet up the suspense of the story.
Tracy Petrikoff, the protagonist, has grown up in the remote forests of Alaska, and is a born trapper and hunter. Between tracking animals and training her dogs for the Iditarod, her life is complete, and, aside from her mother’s recent death from a hit and run accident, reasonably happy. But then one day she’s attacked by a stranger in the woods and left there, unconscious. Her memory of events is jumbled and partial, which bothers her. The next day she spots a stranger who seems oddly familiar, and who’s sporting a serious wound from a hunting knife, very much like the one she carries around at all times. She can’t be sure if he’s the one who attacked her, if she cut him in self defense, if she even managed to fight back when she was attacked.
She’s busy in the aftermath of the attack, helping her father cope with her mother’s death, preparing for the Iditarod, and then Jesse Goodwin, a wanderer, appears, seeking a job, and maybe more than a job. Tracy can tell that he’s got secrets he’s not telling, maybe something to do with the attack, but since she never told her father that she was attacked in the first place, she can’t tell him now why she’s got doubts about Jesse. He insinuates himself into the family, and Tracy starts encountering other creepy things: the boot prints outside their home, the threatening face of a stranger in a crowd, and the isolation she’s always treasured begins to seem like a danger rather than a benefit. She needs to find out the truth, about her mother’s death, about her attack, about what’s going on now, out in the wild.