Published by Faber and Faber
Publication date – 2 April 2020
Source – review copy
When Henry Farrell took a job policing Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, he was recently widowed and still trying to find his feet.His first big cases put Officer Farrell face to face with Wild Thyme’s encroaching demons. Now, he’s got the lay of the land and he’s newly married to a local girl.
Then a body – headless and half eaten by a bear – is discovered in the woods. With the help of a local biologist, Henry tracks the bear, hoping to catch him before any more lives are lost, but when his nephew disappears into the same woods they realise they may be facing a far bigger and more sinister threat…
Henry Farrell is called to the forest. There he finds a headless body. It appears that a man has been mauled and eaten by a bear but on closer inspection Henry finds that first appearances can be deceptive. Then Henry’s nephew disappears and the hunt for whatever, or whoever caused the death of the man becomes a race against time.
This is a short novel, less than 200 pages and the narrative often matches the sparse pages. There is something stripped back about the story, much like Henry feels stripped back from the investigation.
Henry is a complex character, despite only limited pages to describe him. He is newly married but feels guilt at moving on from his dead first wife. He seems to not really know his new wife, who he calls “Miss Julie”, a term which tends to intimate the distance between the two. He has issues with his father, who is perhaps not as aware of those issues as he should be. When the body is found he is equal parts determined to track down the culprit and equally as concerned for the bear who has been identified as the one to have mauled the man.
The sparseness of the prose perhaps reflects the surroundings of the story. The image is one of small towns separated by large swathes of forest and wilderness. It hints at people who both keep themselves to themselves but also make sure they know what is happening in their neighbours lives. It is a town rife with secrets ready to explode out into the open.
The Bramble and the Rose is part of a series but the first book by Tom Bouman I have read. The book can easily be read as a standalone, though I wondered if the stripped back style was something that featured previously.
An interesting read, and one that would transport the reader to the US wilderness.