The Last Woman in the Forest was a terrifying tale of murder, deception, lies, and betrayal, all set in remote locations where the crew who are working to protect endangered wildlife have to check in with their team leader on a frequent basis to let someone know that they are still alive and haven’t fallen due to the harsh elements, or the animals that call the areas home.
However, while the story had plenty of dark and terrifying moments as well as a few moments of heartbreak, this was all wonderfully balanced out by many wonderful elements of friendship, support, love, and dogs that have quite the amazing skill set!
One quick note: I would like to caution my reading and blogging friends that cannot read about animals (dogs specifically) in pain. There were a few scenes in this book that you may not be able to read.
Let’s jump into my review!
My Thoughts on The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
From the very start of the novel, it’s made clear that Tate is not someone that can be trusted. However, as the story progresses, we jump back and forth between the timelines of the past and the present.
In the past, we follow our main character, Marian Engström, who has landed a job working with rescue dogs to help protect endangered wildlife. On her very first assignment, she travels to northern Alberta. Though she was warned about starting relationships with fellow team members, she can’t help but fall in love with her mentor, Tate…
In the present, we are with Marian as her world is crumbling around her. She is second guessing everything that she thought that she knew.
Could her boyfriend really be the person who murdered four women?
While Marian dives into researching past projects and tries to make sense of the timelines, she can’t help but feel that something is wrong. Each odd thing that occurs at the base is something that she brushes off as a result of lack of sleep and too much caffeine. But what if her eyes and mind aren’t just playing tricks on her?
At first, Tate seems so wonderful and charming. But as their relationship progresses over the short timeline, we get quick little glimpses of who he truly may be underneath.
I thought that the way that this book was written was so clever! While it was very clear that Tate wasn’t to be trusted, as we slowly got to know him as the reader, it was almost like I was rooting for him to actually be a decent guy. Of course, this was all because the story was filtered through the rose-tinted glasses of Marian, who was head over heels for the guy.
Speaking of, I adored Marian. I loved how real she seemed. From the very beginning, she also seemed so strong. Over the course of the story, each thing that was thrown at her very easily could have broken her. But she handled it all perfectly. She cried when she needed to cry, and she was brave when she needed to be brave.
Each of the supporting characters were interesting as well! I loved learning more about each of them and seeing their banter and dynamics with one another both on assignments and back at the base relaxing.
Learning about the dogs and their skills was absolutely incredible! Based on a real-world organization, the dogs in this story are taken from the pound and trained to sniff out animal scat. But not only that, the dogs can detect it in crazy conditions such as under two feet of snow! How amazing?! The scat is collected and then sent off to be tested by scientists to see how the local animals are reacting to certain stressors, which allows them to report on the general well-being of the animals. I just thought that this was so interesting! I’m so thankful that Diane wrote a book based on this because I was so thrilled to learn more about it!
With this novel, I loved that there was a strong message to trust your gut. If something feels off, and something in your mind is telling you to get away, you need to trust that instinct.
When you pick this one up, make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end… It is incredibly powerful and has a lot of really important things to heed.
The Acknowledgements section is a must read as well! Just seeing how many people the author went to for help with her research for this book is incredible!
My Favorite Passages from The Last Woman in the Forest
That was before the story Marian had believed in, the one she’d been certain had been written for her, had begun to change, like a kaleidoscope. Turn the cylinder one way, and the pieces shift, and a new image appears, as if each of her memories were a shard that could be rearranged to fit whichever story she chose to believe, and she wondered if truth existed at all. The only thing she could be certain of was that each day forward would carry the past.
When Marian met Tate, she didn’t know that the story of her life was about to change.
“Let’s go, Winter,” she said. The place made her whisper. She stood and stepped slowly, softly, as if afraid to disturb the area any more than she already had.
With a younger body, or even a healthier one, he could walk these woods any time he liked. He could run along neighborhood roads or walk across parking lots. He could enjoy the kid of solitude that put women at risk. Then there were the statistics: Ninety-five percent of stranger-to-stranger homicides were committed by men against women. Maybe he’d get his wife a Rottweiler before he died, or a Doberman pinscher.
Her voice was getting closer. And then he saw her, about fifty yards away on the trail, walking toward him, the sun shining behind her through the branches, and if he believed in God and all that celestial afterlife, he’d swear she was an angel. She was his angel.
“The things that go wrong in life allow us to create new life, Jeb told her. “It takes a lot of strength to do that.”
My Final Thoughts on The Last Woman in the Forest
This was such a page turner! Once I picked it up, I could not wait to see what was going to happen next. Though I was kicking myself for picking it up over the course of a busy weekend. I just wanted to cancel all of our plans and sit at home reading!
The Last Woman in the Forest is a book that you can very easily fall right into.
The writing style is so wonderful and the plot was organized in a way that really builds up the nervousness and the suspense. The descriptions of the settings are vivid, like you are standing there with the characters. The development of each of the characters (dogs included) were done in a way that makes the reader feel that they really know everyone except, of course, for Tate.
If you enjoy thrillers that are very realistic, then I highly recommend this one!
This book is officially right up there with my feelings toward The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King; I just adore them both and I know I will think about each of the stories whenever I’m out in nature.
Snag a copy through Bookshop to help support local indie bookshops:
OR while supplies last, order a signed copy from Gibson’s Bookstore by clicking here! They also have Diane’s first novel, Breaking Wild.
If you missed my blog post about meeting Diane Les Becquets at Gibson’s Bookstore while on her tour for this book, click here to check it out!
Thanks for reading!
Have you read this one yet? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t what is your favorite novel set in the wilderness? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!