Korytaís novel is a chilling foray into unknown territory: the fifteen-year-old witness of a murder in the Midwest is dropped into a Montana wilderness camp to hide from the sadistic killers who need him to die. It would seem a perfect solution, an anonymous boy joining other troubled youth. Ethan Serbin chooses not to know Jace Wilsonís identity, taking his new group of boys directly to the mountains instead of remaining at the base camp where his wife, Allison, will have further deniability with no GPS location for the boys. Given the tenacity of the two murderers, brothers Jack and Patrick Blackwell, and their access to insider information, extra precautions are essential to protect Jace from those determined to annihilate him.
Affecting the tough demeanor of a troubled teen, Jace maintains a low profile with the others, surprised to take so readily to his wilderness training, Ethan emphasizing the importance of routine and survival techniques. While the group moves slowly toward their destination, navigating unfamiliar terrain, Hannah Faber is unaware of their presence as she unlocks her lookout tower in preparation for the summer fire season. Taking a break from her previous assignment on the battle lines against encroaching flames, Hannah is haunted by nightmares of her failure to save a trapped boy and the man she loved.
Whatever the well-meaning intentions for protecting Jace by hiding him in Ethanís wilderness camp, the Blackwell brothers have somehow breached the elaborate security measures on their way up the mountain. Jace well remembers the cold, calculating eyes, the white-blonde hair and the way the brothers moved in perfect synchronicity, engaging in two-party conversations as though no one else existed. Their progress is violent, relentless. Anyone who resists paying a deadly price. Even Allison is helpless when confronted by their asymmetrical approach. She has no way to warn Ethan to signal him of the approaching danger.
As a fire begun by Jack creeps through the dry brush, devouring everything in its path, the disparate elements of the novel converge, death and destruction following everywhere the brothers go. Ethan, alerted by authorities, calls back to base camp, now facing a scene of devastation that makes him frantic for Allisonís safety. Jace is in mortal danger, dropping back from the group returning to camp to make his own way, unwilling for the others to suffer on his behalf. He doesnít know that Ethan canít leave him to his own devices: he has made a promise to keep the boy from harm and will do everything in his power to keep that promise.
With the mountain fodder to voracious flames, a boy on the run in unfamiliar wilderness, and two stone-cold killers in determined pursuit, Koryta has fashioned a chilling scenario where nature in its pristine beauty remains indifferent to the fates of those who move ever closer to a confrontation. While Hannah is given a second chance, Ethan finds himself at the mercy of conscienceless killers, on a direct path to intercept the unwary Jace. The Blackwell brothers are a study in evil, Jace no match for them, his newfound courage easily spent in the face of daunting odds.
The main characters converge in a fateful showdown in the midst of a raging blaze, flames nipping at their heels, the specter of death too near to be denied, life too precious to concede. Koryta pulls out all the stops yet saves a few surprises. The pace never slacks, as relentless as a wild-fueled fire on a rampage.