Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman (Book Review)

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
Publisher: Ballantine Books / Random House
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover & Paperback - 352 pages
             Kindle - 1532 KB
             Nook - 3MB
ISBN: 978-0345549075
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Psychological Thriller

BUY THE BOOK: Ruin Falls

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via JKS Communications in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description:

In a suspenseful follow-up to her critically acclaimed Cover of Snow, Jenny Milchman ratchets up the tension with this edge-of-your-seat story of a mother determined to find her missing children.

Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.

On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in.

Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

The children had never been this far from home before. Liz had spent most of yesterday driving around, hunting for no-­mess Crayola coloring books, praying they weren’t too juvenile to keep a six-­ and eight-­year-­old occupied in the car, then running up and down the supermarket aisles in search of bars and snack pouches in case they couldn’t find food on the road. Or in case they did find something, and Paul wouldn’t allow the kids to eat it.

Now the hours had ticked by, four of them, and it seemed they were no closer to their destination than they had been when they left home. Descending from the mountains of Wedeskyull had presented a stark contrast and it felt like they were really traveling. But the view outside the windows ever since had been made up of little besides cornfields. Liz wouldn’t have believed how bleak acres and acres of green could appear when the crop was so unvarying. The road they were driving on hadn’t dipped or risen for thirty minutes. It was a flat length of asphalt, inky mirages always shimmering just ahead.


“Yes, sweetie?”

“I wish we could see some real trees.”

As tired as she was—­and they weren’t even at the hardest part of this day yet—­Liz smiled reflexively. Ally, her gardening partner, her green thumb girl. To say that their youngest had a desire to be out in nature was like saying she had a desire to breathe. Sometimes Liz looked into her little girl’s eyes and saw a tiny version of herself in the serious brown lenses.


Reid’s turn now. Liz glanced in the rearview, but it wasn’t angled to offer a glimpse of her son. “What is it, hon?”

“I’m bored.”

“Me, too,” Ally chimed in. “Everything looks the same out my window.”

The flatness was getting to Liz, too. She looked over at Paul in the driver’s seat.

“Another round of I Spy?” he suggested. “Or Ghost?”

Liz had already decided that car games must’ve been invented by some not-­so-­benevolent dictator masquerading as an elementary school teacher. For that matter, cars might’ve been invented by the same person, minus the schoolteacher part. She had no idea how people sat still for so long. Her body itched to be moving, knees sinking into the soil, hands digging in the ground. She had sympathy for both kids, who up till now had actually been pretty good.

“How about we sing?” she suggested, channeling the voice of that dictatorial teacher. Liz Daniels, schoolmarm.

Boos and groans from the backseat.

Paul responded belatedly. “I might have to let you out here if you do that.”

Liz laughed.

“Mom? I’m hungry.”

“Me, too!” Ally crowed.

Liz looked at Paul, but her husband had subsided into silence, eyes fixed on the long, blank road. “Bored and hungry, huh?” she said, twisting to peer into the backseat. A sight through the back window made her frown for a moment, but then the unhappy faces distracted her. She reached for a light tone. “Boy, you guys are really a mess.”



The protests were fast approaching a whine.

“Paul?” Liz said, squinting at the back window again.

Her husband didn’t answer. Liz’s gaze darted to the rearview.

“Paul,” she said more urgently.

He looked at her.

“I think that truck has been behind us for a long time,” she said.

Her husband reached up and tilted the mirror to get a better look. “It’s just a pickup truck,” he said, his tone a shrug.

“I know,” Liz said. “But look how closely it’s trailing us.”

She made sure to pitch her voice low so as not to alert the children. Reid, especially, had a tendency to get scared. His fear of death belied both his age and understanding. When Liz’s great-­aunt had died last year, they took Ally to the funeral, but left Reid behind. No low-­impact introduction to the subject, such as a children’s storybook or short-­lived pet hermit crab, enabled Reid to cope. They even skirted cemeteries in case Reid caught a glimpse of a gravestone. Liz actually mapped out alternate routes to school or the grocery store or seed depot, aware of where Wedeskyull’s dead were laid. And although she occasionally dragged the whole family to church, hoping a religious connection might provide some sort of framework for Reid’s fears, she usually regretted it. The sermons about heaven terrified him, and Liz had to work to steer clear of the tilting rows of headstones in the churchyard.

She wondered whether this boycott approach to death was really wise. The ban would have to end sometime, and then what?

The pickup had drawn even closer, but Paul’s glance didn’t shift from the road in front of them. Liz had the idea to try and identify the model, but it was impossible to make out the front grille, so close was it to their car. They passed a farm, and a pungent, animal stink came in through the vents, the smell of portable potties and compost that needed turning.


The whine had become a shriek. Reid, going right past Go without stopping to collect his two hundred dollars.

Then Ally joined in. “How much longer? I’m hungry! I’m super hungry!”

The pickup loomed above them now, filling the entire rear window.

The volume in the backseat died at the exact moment as the noise from the pickup exploded into a rattle and a roar. Liz glanced down to see that her pocketbook had vanished, unfelt, from its position in her lap. It was in the backseat, and the children had begun tearing into packets of fruit snacks, looking shocked and sugar-­stung by their unexpected bounty. At home, Paul tended to limit even the natural brands of treats, but these had been for an emergency.

An emergency.

The pickup truck’s engine growled, so close it would soon be touching them. Liz braced herself for the jolt, sending an alarmed look toward Paul. He seemed to have finally noticed the vehicle rearing up behind them, although he still appeared unperturbed. Their hybrid didn’t even handle winters at home all that well, and it certainly wasn’t built to go head-­to-­head with a truck. Liz closed her eyes against an image of the back of their car getting pleated, accordion-­folded with Ally and Reid inside.

She suppressed a scream, willing her husband to floor it.

The truck swerved into the other lane. For just a moment it hovered beside them, holding even with their car. Liz caught a glimpse of the driver’s furious face, his knotted eyebrows. Then the pickup rocketed by them at such high speed that their car swayed in its wake.

Paul tapped the brake, swiveling the steering wheel to straighten out. He gave a shake of his head. “What a jerk.”

Liz’s chest was heaving beneath her T-­shirt.

“A jerk?” she repeated. “Honey, that guy—­I think it was deliberate. He was trying to terrorize us. Or something.”

The something was vague and unarticulated in her mind. It had to do with being away from home, as far away as they’d ventured since both kids were born. It might even have had to do with their destination, her husband’s childhood home, a place Liz had never visited before. But the expression on the driver’s face hadn’t just been her imagination, or an artifact of Liz’s sense of disjointedness. He had looked into her eyes with real rage.

Maybe they’d just been driving too slowly, Paul reluctant to get where they were going.

Her husband’s gaze slipped past hers. More and more interactions between them were going this way: Paul imposing his vision, Liz protesting in a way that felt feeble. She wondered when they had fallen into these roles. It used to be that their differences balanced them, but lately it seemed they just kept them on opposite sides.

Opposite sides of what? Liz wondered.

She decided to try again. “Paul, he practically hit us.”

Paul flicked the cruise control back on and spoke calmly. “Well, he’s gone now.”

The pickup had indeed shot ahead, not even its tail visible any longer in front of them. In the backseat, the kids were quietly eating gummies.

She recalled the rising fear that had filled her, like water coming in. Not like her at all; Liz considered herself the practical half of their pairing. Down there in the trenches of the day-­to-­day, making sure things stayed their course. The house, school, the kids’ activities. While Paul painted lofty pictures of what could be, leading people along like a Pied Piper.

He had settled back against the seat.

Ever since she’d known him, her husband’s customary capability, which he wore like thick tree bark, had been a source of comfort, allowing Liz to reach for things she never otherwise would have. Her business. The children even. But for one flickering moment, with the car gliding smoothly along, Paul’s unruffled demeanor made her angry.

She spied the blue sign that signaled services ahead. Liz forced herself to reach over, touch her husband’s arm.

“How about we stop?” she said, aware of the complexities such a pause would create, but not caring at the moment. “I think we could all use a break.”

My Book Review:

Suspense and mystery abound when a young mother discovers that her children have been kidnapped ... what would you do?

In Ruin Falls, author Jenny Milchman weaves a fast-paced and chilling psychological thriller that will make your heart race, you won't be able to put it down!

While on a family vacation in the Adirondack Mountains of western New York State, Liz Daniels wakes up in their hotel room and discovers that her children, eight year old Reid and six year old Ally are missing. Panic stricken and frantic, Liz realizes that the person who she thinks has taken her children has betrayed her trust ... and like any mother, she will stop at nothing to find and get them back.

Ruin Falls is an intriguing story that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride as they follow Liz Daniels' desperate search for her missing children. With every suspenseful heart pounding and palm sweating turn of the page, the unexpected and shocking twists and turns will keep the reader captivated as this psychological thriller unfolds. It is a realistic story that will have the reader pondering "what would I do if this happened to me."

Ruin Falls is a riveting psychological thriller that is filled with enough intense drama and tension that will keep the reader sitting on the edge of their seat from beginning to surprising conclusion! This is a must read for fans of mystery, suspense, and psychological thriller genres!

Kudos to author Jenny Milchman on an amazing sophomore novel! I look forward to reading more of her novels in the future.


About The Author

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from the Hudson River Valley of New York State. Her debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, was published by Ballantine/Random House in January 2013 and her follow up novel, RUIN FALLS, was published in April 2014.

Her short story The Closet was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2012, and another short story, The Very Old Man, will be published in EQMM this year. The short work Black Sun on Tupper Lake appears in the anthology ADIRONDACK MYSTERIES II.

Jenny is the Chair of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. She is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which was celebrated in all 50 states and four foreign countries by over 700 bookstores in 2013.

Jenny hosts the Made It Moments forum on her blog, which has featured more than 250 international bestsellers, Edgar winners, and independent authors. Jenny co-hosts the literary series Writing Matters, which attracts guests coast-to-coast and has received national media attention. She also teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop and Arts By The People.



  1. Kathleen, this is a book review that got my own heart racing! I am honored that you felt this way, and your tone made me feel what the book could be read like if you don't know what's coming. Thank you very much for these kind words, and the cool blog site as well. Like a trip to the seashore!

    1. Hi Jenny! Thank you for the opportunity to read, review, and feature Ruin Falls on my blog. This was a riveting story, it doesn't get any better than that! :)