Ray Anderson’s debut novel The Trail is a suspenseful tale about the hunt for a serial killer who hides out from the law on the Appalachian Trail. Assuming the guise of a hiker, Paul Leroux, preys on unsuspecting female hikers while fleeing north to sanctuary in Canada. But his odd behavior arouses suspicion with other hikers, including a Desert Storm Veteran named Awol, a trail name that Anderson borrows (with permission) from David Miller, author of Awol on the Appalachian Trail and the indispensable AT Guide. Thus ensues a cat-and-mouse thriller between villan and hero, with law enforcement close behind.
For hikers familiar with Appalachian Trail, Anderson’s description of thru-hiker practices and techniques is refreshingly readable and is simply a back-drop for this riveting thriller rather than being its focus. While vivid and lush, his description of the backcountry scenery along the Appalachian Trail does nothing to diminish the growing suspense of the story or the inner experience of his protagonists.
Despite being a first novel, Anderson’s writing is tight and well crafted, and I found myself savoring the language and clear narrative in The Trail as much as the story. If you enjoy reading travelogues about AT thru-hikes or crime thrillers, you’ll find Anderson’s The Trail to be a wonderful read, one that you’ll want to loan to your friends, hikers and non-hikers alike.
I can’t wait to read Ray’s next book.