Real Crime Blog

Bloodstained Book Club: 'The Marsh King's Daughter'

A weekly look at the best new crime, suspense and detective writing. Remember to read with the lights on.

The Marsh King’s Daughter
By Karen Dionne
A teenage girl is abducted from her family and taken off the grid into the swampy wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The kidnapper, Jacob Holbrook, and his abductee have a baby named Helena, who grows up learning the ways of the wilderness—hunting, tracking, and foraging—from her father.

Unbeknownst to Helena, her mother is just waiting for a chance to escape back to civilization. When a lost hunter provides that opportunity, Helena’s mom takes the 12-year-old girl and runs. Jacob, who during his trial earns the nickname “the Marsh King” (based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Marsh King’s Daughter”), ends up in prison.

Years later, when Helena is a grown woman, with a family of her own, Jacob breaks out of prison, killing some guards in the process. He knows where Helena, her husband and two daughters live, and she fears for their lives. She also realizes that, because of how he trained her, she is the only one with the skills to track him.

This book has a different sort of suspenseful narrative tide than The Room, a psychological thriller that covers similar harrowing territory. The beautifully written stories of Helena’s remembered youth, lessons from her father—some of them very cruel—and a pair of imaginary friends based on some children she once glimpsed from far away, ebb and flow with stories from the present and dream-like excerpts from the fairy tale. Read this book if you’ve ever had the fantasy of being an accomplished outdoorswoman—a sort of Katniss MacGyver—who could take care of herself in any situation.

Buy it here.

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(Image: Andi Mezger/Getty Images)

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