Monday, January 7, 2019

Book Review: 'Rock Creek' by M. Bryce Ternet

Rock Creek by M. Bryce  Ternet
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” 

With this quotation from William Blake we enter one of Ternet’s older but still thrilling mysteries. Indiana-born Idaho author M. Bryce Ternet has experienced many climes, having lived in Montana, Paris, the French Basque Country, Burgundy, Chicago, Washington state, Washington DC, and on California's Monterey Peninsula: food for many stories. His degrees are in Political Science and French and a Master's degree in International Environmental Policy. Bryce’s genres reflect his global exposure – he writes historical fiction, thrillers, paranormal stories, psychological themes, and reflections on contemporary society, travelogues as well as articles on food and wine!

In ROCK CREEK Bryce combines his fascination with horror stories with psychological ventures and the result is yet another captivating mystery set in Montana. He opens the door of this fine novel with an inviting stance – ‘Alan Jeffers never understood why Jackson Keats decided to take his own life. No one imagined that Jax, as Alan and pretty much everyone who knew Jax called him, would turn out to be the suicidal type. Not at all. In fact, Jax always appeared quite the opposite. Jax was full of life and was one of those people with a glowing light consistently surrounding them. The only occasions Alan ever saw him not overflowing with happiness was when Jax was bored. Even on those rare occasions, Jax always appeared more content with life than most people. He had been raised by a nice family, was athletic, personable, funny, intelligent, charming, good with the ladies—it just didn’t make sense to Alan that Jax would kill himself. But Alan supposed that’s how it was with depression. People who suffer from it could repress it for a lifetime, even from their closest loves ones. But normally, it always surfaced in some form eventually. His wife, Dara, had some form of depression that she didn’t discuss with him, but she took medication and he never sensed anything wrong with her. This is what Alan was thinking about as he watched the moonlight dance on the cold waters of the creek, streaming by him below. He stood on a layer of hardened snow covering the ground, and a cool breeze was blowing through the canyon from the west. He looked up at the sky. There was a half moon, which was pretty, but he would have preferred a crystal clear winter night. He remembered a sky such as that at this exact location twenty years ago. The brilliant display of stars with the prominent outline of the edges of the Milky Way he had seen overhead remained a vivid memory. Out here on Rock Creek in Western Montana sure had better star-gazing possibilities than in Seattle’s Wallingford District where he and his wife lived.’

Bryce opts for this return to the past with an encounter not unlike many writers have when discovering the seeds of a new story – ‘A return visit to a remote cabin by a river in the mountains of western Montana turns out to be more than a trip down memory lane for Alan Jeffers. More than a decade before, he stayed in the cabin with a group of college buddies and after one friend commits suicide, Alan feels a calling to return. Unbeknownst to Alan, seeking to say goodbye to his old friend opens him to the attention of a different departed soul. At first, the spirit is benevolent as it provides advice to get Alan’s first novel published. However, he later learns that something is expected in return. This something is related to his wife’s past when she escaped the horrors of the war in Bosnia…something he knows nothing about. As Alan comes to learn: some doors should not be opened.’

As with his other books it becomes obvious we are in the presence of an important American writer who manages to lock us into his fine story and while being placed in the suspense mode, allows us to appreciate quality prose. Highly Recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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