Already burdened by her transgressions—"anger, covetousness, thievery"—midwife Elspeth arrives at her remote farm after a months-long absence and discovers her family brutally killed—all but 12-year-old Caleb, who shoots her, thinking she is one of the murderers, returned. After Elspeth recovers sufficiently from her wounds, under Caleb’s makeshift care, they set out to bring down the three men responsible.
This taut revenge tale, as gritty as any western, is also an unusual coming-of-age story and a compelling saga of twisted secrets in which the very unmaternal Elspeth and the son she barely knows (and why is that?) slowly form a close bond. Scott writes with sustained intensity and strong descriptive powers, whether evoking the pair’s dangerous trudge through high snowdrifts, the rough lake town where many answers lie, or his characters’ complex lives and motivations.
The Kept is published this Tuesday, January 7th, by Harper ($25.99, hb, 368pp). This review first appeared in Booklist's 11/15/13 issue. Since I'm sitting here in my house on the Midwestern prairie in the middle of Snowpocalypse 2014, awaiting -20 degrees by later tonight, the chilly setting for this historical thriller seemed all too apropos.