The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Blurb On The Back:

”I was born two years into my mother’s captivity.  She was three weeks shy of seventeen.  If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different.  I would have been a lot more understanding of my mother.  I wouldn’t have adored my father.”

When the notorious child abductor known as the Marsh King escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone … except, perhaps his own daughter. 

You can order THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER by Karen Dionne from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Helena Pelletier lives near the north Michigan marshlands with her husband Stephen (a photographer), her daughters 3-year-old Mari and 5-year-old Iris and her dog, Rambo where she enjoys living a quiet life, selling jams and preserves to local shops and on-line to tourists.

Then she hears a news report that Jacob Holbrook (known as The Marsh King who had been imprisoned for kidnap and murder) has escaped during a routine transfer 30 miles away, killing 2 guards in the process.  The police believe that Holbrook is heading into the marshes where he lived with his kidnap victim for over 15 years.  But Helena thinks they’re wrong and that he’s coming for her because she’s his daughter and the reason why he was finally caught and imprisoned …

Karen Dionne’s standalone thriller mixes ROOM with RAY MEARS’ BUSHCRAFT but the contemporary scenes between Helena and her father aren’t as gripping as her childhood which gives a tense and fascinating psychological portrayal of abuse and sociopathy and I felt that the ending was a bit of a let down given all the build up.

The best scenes in the book involve Helena’s childhood and I found the family dynamics fascinating – both the power that Holbrook has over the house and how he prevents Helena from having an emotional connection with her mother (who remains nameless throughout the book).  Helena’s own relationship with Holbrook is well drawn both the love she has for him and what he teaches her and the fear that he instils in her and I particularly enjoyed the sinister undertones in the scenes where he takes her hunting.  I also liked the way Helena has such a limited understanding of the modern world (her only books were National Geographic magazines from the 1950s) but the imaginary friends storyline didn’t work for me given how late it comes in the story and a hark back to it in the modern storyline seemed artificial.

The storyline where Helena tracks her father to lack bite in comparison – partly because she’s so easily (and obviously) manipulated, partly because there isn’t enough page time with her family to make the stakes high enough and partly because it just lacks tension as Holbrook’s end game didn’t ring true given his earlier actions.

Ultimately this is an interesting read that kept me turning the pages until the end and I’d definitely check out Dionne’s other work.

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER was released in the United Kingdom on 29th June 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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