Charli is barricade behind emotional barriers of her own making, deeply mired in grief at the death of her beloved mother one year ago, barely managing to make it through the day and today was no different. Seen as a pariah in her small country town of Stone Lake, she has little to do with the people in the area, her one true friend is Amra, who gets her.
Driving down the long driveway to her home, she feels at peace as the trees dip over the roadway; she makes a dash into the house, lights the fire to send off the chill of the room and just when she is settling to do some work, the cars come; revving their engines, the boys tumbling out determined to wreck, terrify and then leave.
So begins Deep in the Forest from Erina Reddan who has based her second novel on life in a country town where prejudice rules, a local cult known as The Sanctuary and corruption. The protagonist Charli is a flawed character suffering from self-doubt, she is on the autism spectrum, an introvert struggling to accept the death of her mother who was the major point of stability in her life.
She has a project to complete, creating a beautiful manuscript from the history and few pictures provided by the Sanctuary of their work in Stone Lake over more than 100 years. Once it is finished she is out of Stone Lake with no plans to hurry back again. She is lovingly running her fingers over the binding of a page when she finds a very tiny note which begins a trail of revenge, murder and hatred disguised within a framework of benevolence. Deep in the forest there is a secret hidden; how far will they go to protect the culprit?
Erina Reddan has captured the angst of Charli as she doubts the very essence of who she is; over thinker, artist, talented creator, Jake, the man who although he is from the Sanctuary, she is fast developing a sort of relationship with and the corruption of the local police Sargent Balaskas, with care and an excellent understanding of the dark side of people.
Deep in the Forest is written with a strong female cast of characters and although the storyline could almost be considered as an easy plot to work out, how the many layers are revealed keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace.