In the Forest of Harm

by Sallie Bissell

I need to begin the review of this new and wonderful novel of
suspense by reiterating an absolute truth: I hate camping. My idea
of roughing it is a room at the Embassy Suites that does not have
Fox News Channel among the television selections. A "nature walk"
is the strip of grass between a parking lot and any building. Using
a 12-gauge Mossburg to kill a spider is not an overreaction. Get
the idea?

Now let's turn to IN THE FOREST OF HARM, which is about, among
other things, a camping trip. This bad boy is Sallie Bissell's
first published novel. I trust that it won't be her last. Most of
the novel takes place in the deep woods of North Carolina, where
angels and soft livers fear to tread. Little Jump Off, North
Carolina, on the edge of the Nantahala National Forest, is the
childhood home of Mary Crow. Her memories of the place are, at
best, bittersweet. While she holds a fondness for the beauty of the
area, it is also the place where her mother was raped and murdered
by an unknown assailant. Crow feels at least partially responsible
for her mother's brutal death. She has taken that guilt and
channeled it into a career as a tough Georgia prosecutor.

IN THE FOREST OF HARM opens with Crow having prosecuted and
convicted Cal Whitman for the murder of a young woman. Crow and two
friends, Alexandra McCrimmon and Joan Marchetti, take a weekend
vacation back to Little Jump Off following the trial. While the
trip is a chance for McCrimmon and Marchetti to take a break from
their careers, for Crow it is not only a well-deserved break but an
opportunity to exorcise the demons of her memory. What the women do
not anticipate, however, is that Cal Whitman's brother, Mitch, is
following their every move.

Mitch was humiliated on the witness stand by Crow during Cal's
trial but he has something more than revenge for the embarrassment
in mind. Mitch is afraid that Crow is going to uncover some
additional facts that he would prefer stay buried --- and he plans
to bury Crow and her friends with them. Mitch Whitman is not the
only danger in the forest; there is a deranged homicidal drifter
hiding amidst the unspoiled wilderness. By turns cunning and
hallucinating, Henry Brank has stalked the woods for years, taking
victims at his whim. When he finds Crow and her friends at their
campground, he has no doubt as to who his next victims will

IN THE FOREST OF HARM, while ending satisfactorily, leaves just
enough unsettled issues at its conclusion to leave the reader
yearning for more of Crow and Bissell. My understanding is that
both yearnings will be satisfied.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

In the Forest of Harm
by Sallie Bissell

  • Publication Date: January 2, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553801287
  • ISBN-13: 9780553801286