Book Review: The Serpent’s Bite

From the author of The War of the Roses comes another twisted story of family dynamics gone tragically wrong. Well-to-do jewelers George Temple and his wife have showered love and considerable financial support to daughter Courtney and younger brother Scott yet half a million dollars later, neither is any closer to attaining success. Well past the bloom of youth, Courtney remains single-mindedly obsessed with becoming a leading actress while Scott is equally certain he could launch a successful restaurant chain despite the long list of failed business ventures to his credit. After a terrible scene on the day of his wife’s burial, George finally reached his limit and closed the purse strings much to the considerable ire of his children. After four years of estrangement, George has invited Courtney and Scott on a pack trip into the Yellowstone wilderness. Twenty years earlier the family took the same trip and George is looking to reconnect with his kids by going back to that wonderful time.

George’s delight at getting the same guide to take them out is quickly tempered when he realizes Harry has become a drunken brute who unmercifully berates Tomas, his illegal Mexican helper. While George strives to reconnect with his kids, they have their own reasons for coming along and all of them have to do with getting their hands on large sums of money. Harry’s condition deteriorates as they get deeper into the backcountry allowing Tomas to execute the perfect crime and initiate a sinister plan that exploits a deep secret. That’s nothing compared to what Courtney has in mind, she’ll do whatever it takes to finance her obsession no matter the cost or who it hurts.

What starts out as a nice story about a father trying to rebuild his family rapidly turns into a deeply disturbing tale of greed, lust, lies and murder. Alder delivers a satisfying plot populated by seriously flawed characters. The kid’s behavior appears even viler when juxtaposed beside their parents’ goodness leaving room to ponder if there is any validity to the nature vs. nurture argument. Strong characters, a well developed setting and a few plot twists allows Alder to maintain a nice level of tension throughout before delivering a dynamite climax to this tale of losers.

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