Kathi Oram Peterson
It’s a wonderful thing to find a book you can become so immersed in that laying it aside is a burden. Kathi Oram Peterson has written such a book. ”River Whispers” is one of my favorite reads this year.
The storyline is engaging, the list of suspects is endless, and Peterson's setting in small town Trailhead, Idaho’s Snake River country provides a complicated web of tangled lives and plot lines, but it’s Peterson’s writing style that captivated me. She writes like a painter—creating perfect moments and clear images that drew me in and made me love her characters.
Trailhead is far too small a town to bottle up Regi Bernard’s mistrust of two men. Samuel Tanner abruptly ended their romance when he abandoned both Regi and Trailhead without a word of explanation. Worse yet, when he returned years later, he seemed bent on making her and her husband miserable at every opportunity, clear up until Earl’s death. Curtis Romney, a local park ranger, abandoned her daughter after dragging her reputation through the mud. It’s no secret how Regi feels about either man.
On a particularly unpleasant trip into town, Regi has run-ins with each of these irritants, and her temper lets loose. In a moment of frustration, Regi issues a scalding warning to Curtis, and when she stumbles upon his corpse a day later, she becomes the prime suspect.
Peterson does a splendid job casting doubt on everyone’s innocence, which casts a pall of suspicion over those Regi loves most, leaving her mistrustful of their assistance until she believes only she can prove her innocence.
The tangle of lives is tight and convenient at times, but Peterson’s deft writing style fleshes out the situations nicely. Her characters are rich and complex, and she releases tidbits about them like a cracker trail through the woods readers will be delighted to follow.
Clearly, Peterson knows her setting well. Raised in southeastern Idaho, Kathi Oram Peterson developed a love for the Snake River region early on, while her research on fly fishing, Indian culture, and ranching enriches the story and draws the reader in.
Still, what makes Kathi Oram Peterson one of my favorite authors is her unique descriptive passages. She works hard for her readers, bypassing trite descriptions in favor of rich, colorful, original thoughts that satisfy.
The book is written in third person, but the reader is constantly in the characters’ minds, as they ruminate over, and rehash, the same questions over and over. These passages slow the read a bit in places, but Peterson’s efforts to insert the reader into the characters’ thoughts adds urgency early on.
The mystery is well-formed and keeps you turning pages as does the romantic tension between Regi and Samuel. While these two are clearly drawn to one another, they also suspect one another, and with good cause. Peterson doesn’t tip her hand about their innocence or guilt to the very end. Nicely done.
I’m nominating River Whispers for a Whitney Award. The e-book version is available at Amazon. Readers can pick up copies at Deseret Books or at your local LDS bookstores, where you can also purchase Kathi Oram Peterson's other fine books.
Readers can contact Kathi through her website, www.kathiorampeterson.com, and her blog, www.kathiswritingnook.com.