Cover Image: The Guide

The Guide

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Peter Heller’s THE GUIDE brings back Jack, one of the memorable protagonists in Heller’s magnificent 2019 adventure tale The River. When you love a book as much as I loved The River, it’s dangerous to step into the author’s next title especially when it features a character like Jack. The two novels are quite different, yet both rely on Heller’s gift for making nature come alive. 

It’s three years after Jack’s harrowing journey on the river in Canada and he’s still grieving both his mother’s earlier death and what occurred when he was in Canada. No spoilers: just promise me that if you haven’t read The River that you’ll read it before reading The Guide. 

Jack has taken a job as a fishing guide at Kingfisher Lodge, an exclusive Colorado resort where privacy is valued more than catching elusive trout. It’s after the initial Covid pandemic and the appearance of new variants and there’s fear of the after effects which may explain why some guests don’t mingle. Soon after arriving, Jack learns that a few guests don’t fish, that the resort’s neighbor shoots at anyone coming close to his land, that only a few are allowed to drive on resort property, and that all gates are locked from the inside as well as the outside. 

Jack is assigned as Alison K.’s guide. He knows she’s famous, but it isn’t until he hears her voice that he realizes that she’s a super star. She’s older than he is and is smart, kind, and tough. She’s a highly skilled angler and she and Jack fall into a pleasant routine when they fish that soon evolves into a romance. After the neighbor shoots at Jack, he and Alison begin investigating to see what the other guests are doing and why there’s such secrecy at the resort. It would ruin the suspense to give any clues to what they find, but it does provide a clever way to show the power of privilege and money. 

Heller’s descriptive passages are magnificent and he makes you feel as if you are casting with Alison and Jack. I haven’t fished since I was a kid, but I loved every scene on the river. His words put you in the water. 
“He was almost under the bridge when he raised the rod high and brought the exhausted trout in the last few feet and unshucked the net from his belt and slid it under this beauty and cradled her in the mesh. She was a species of gold that no jeweler had ever encountered—­deeper, darker, rich with tones that had depth like water. He talked to her the whole time, You’re all right, you’re all right, thank you, you beauty, almost as he had talked to himself at the shack, and he wet his left hand and cupped her belly gently and slipped the barbless hook from her lip and withdrew the net.

He crouched with the ice water to his hips and held her quietly into the current until half his body was numb. Held and held her who knew how long and watched her gills work, and she mostly floated free between his guiding fingers, and he felt the pulsing touch of her flanks as her tail worked and she idled. And then she wriggled hard and darted and he lost her shape to the green shadows of the stones.”

I found the romance between Jack and Alison less satisfying than the rest of the novel. It did not, however, detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. Heller’s pacing and the way he portrays evil make for an intriguing suspense novel that’s an engaging tale of what could happen “if.” 

Summing It Up: Read The Guide to savor Heller’s phenomenal descriptions of fishing and of the magnificent natural beauty of the Colorado resort area depicted in the novel. Select it for your book club so you can discuss how money, power, and privilege can corrupt and endanger our world. Savor it for the menacing story of what could happen that will leave you breathless. 

Note: I have a minor quibble with the novel’s use of the word fisher. I understand Heller not wanting to use fisherman, but I’d have preferred angler as it seems less contrived. Since the novel featured fly fishing, I feel the term angler would have worked better than the word fisher.

Rating: 4 Stars

Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Mysteries and Suspense, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Publication Date: August 24, 2021

Author Website: 

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What Others are Saying:

Kirkus Reviews:

Publishers Weekly: 
“Heller presents another brilliantly paced, unnerving wilderness thriller paired with an absorbing depiction of a remote natural paradise. … Masterful evocations of nature are not surprising, given Heller’s award-winning nonfiction about his own outdoor experiences, while his ability to inject shocking menace into a novel that might otherwise serve as a lyrical paean to nature is remarkable.”  –Booklist, starred.
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The River was my favorite book two years ago and I was so excited to read this. You can read it as a stand alone, but know that it will spoil book one (you can go back and read to find out what happened). I love the character development and the outdoor/nature writing Heller creates. 

This takes place a couple years after the River. Jack has accepted a job as a fishing guide at a very elite lodge that caters to the wealthy. His client is Alison, a famous singer and avid fisher woman. They hit it off and enjoy fishing together. However both of them soon realize that something sinister is going on at the lodge and find themselves in a race against time to find answers and escape. 

One aspect of this book that I liked is actually how Heller incorporated the Corona virus into the story. The story takes places a few years out from where we are now and it was an interesting backdrop to the story. I didn't mind it and at one point it drove the plot.
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I really enjoyed this novel.  It was mysterious, atmospheric, tense...all the things you want in this type of story.  I felt like I was at the river, sitting on the porch, soaking in the beautiful country.  I liked the small hints that things weren't what they seemed, but overall it still kept you guessing.  And, the ending was PERFECT!!!  I will recommend this book to many!
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I had read and enjoyed “The River,” so I was excited to read Peter Heller’s follow up, “The Guide,” which picks up three years after that fateful fishing trip, as Jack tries to move on by taking a job as a guide at an exclusive boutique fishing lodge in Colorado. The resort is gorgeous and sparks fly between Jack and Allison, his first client. But it’s soon clear to both of them that something is not quite right in this seeming paradise….

Heller delivers another solid “nature thriller”—I appreciated the fly fishing scenes and beautiful nature writing even while I was speeding through the book to find out what was going on with the central mystery. If that discovery ultimately felt a little unrealistic, it didn’t unduly detract from my enjoyment of “The Guide,” and I’d be happy to check in on Jack in future books.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Alfred A. Knopf for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.
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A well-written, albeit predictable read.
This isn't the first of Heller's books that I've read (I also read an enjoyed The Dog Stars, way back when). THE GUIDE includes many of the qualities that made TDS a quick and engaging read - his prose is excellent, sparse, and his storytelling tight and focused. His characters are well-drawn, too.

I was a little disappointed that the story was so predictable. Also, that one character's presence is never really explained -- given what's happening at the retreat, why would they even be there if they weren't either aware of it, or participating? Anyway. A minor gripe, but one that was inescapable for me.

If you're looking for a quick mystery read, then I think this will suit your needs.
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🐠 I’m going to be quite honest with you - I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I haven’t read any of Heller’s books before but oh my gosh I may need to check his backlist out. 

🌲 This book brought Colorado to life in such a great writing style! He knows exactly how to write and make the story so much compelling. The story was also super addicting to read and very quick! You could seriously read this in one sitting if you have the time. 

🐟 This book kept me on the edge of my seat. This is one of those books you don’t just read for the plot and characters - which were both amazing - but also for the atmospheric scenery. 

🌲 I also loved the tension from this book. It’s set during a pandemic, this being the first story I’ve read during a pandemic. It’s not a super major part of the story but absolutely makes sense for it.

🐠 This book was super well paced - makes you want to keep on reading! It is more of a slow burn thriller but it completely makes sense why! I’m glad this wasn’t super long and I could quickly fit it in this month. I couldn’t put the book down. 

🐟 The protagonist, Jake, is super intriguing and relatable! He faces a lot of inner feelings and emotions throughout the book, which makes you like him even more. I just loved how the author tied this character with loss and nature. 

🌲 The Guide was such a great and fascinating read! I really enjoyed the characters and the overall plot line. His writing style was also super easy to follow along with. I really enjoyed the ending - although there were some very difficult scenes in regards with children. I definitely recommend this thriller!!
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First, thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and Netgalley for this e-ARC of The Guide.

The Guide is a perfect read for those that enjoy fishing and being up in the mountains. 🎣⛰🥾 

Jack is a fishing guide for the rich and famous at a fancy resort lodge in the Colorado mountains. He’ll be staying til late October and taking various clients out on the private river for fishing lessons or simply to give them a few tips. He’s excited but not at all prepared for the strangeness of the resort.

His first client, a famous singer named Alison, is a pro at fishing and the two end up spending a lot of time together. As the story unfolds, Jack begins revealing his suspicions and concerns to Alison who agrees that the lodge is a bit odd. As they dig deeper, they’ll find themselves face to face with a rival bigger than they could have ever imagined.

The Guide takes place about a year or two after Covid first began, so the year is probably 2022 or so. Covid has gotten worse, and people are looking for all kinds of remedies. I found this story full of juicy descriptions, but it was definitely a slow burn. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue, and I think that could have helped peak my interest. All in all, 3 stars.

The Guide is available now wherever books are sold!
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Peter Heller is back with the beautifully quiet, but descriptive, prose that makes his writing so compulsively readable. In this stand-alone follow-up to The River, Jack finds himself the newest guide at a private fly fishing resort for the world's most elite patrons, nestled in the Colorado mountains near Crested Butte. But something strange is happening beneath the veneer of five-star meals, spa treatments, and world-class fishing.

Heller is infinitely skilled at combining the mystery and fast-paced twists of a thriller with the lush detail and atmosphere of a literary novel and I couldn't say enough good things about The River. While I couldn't put this sequel down, the story arc felt more formulaic and I wished the ending hadn't been wrapped up quite so quickly or tidily; it pushed this far-fetched (though riveting) premise into suspension-of-disbelief territory. I'd still come back any day for Heller's immersive language and page-turning plots!
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Excellent book by author of The Dog Stars. This book would make a great movie. Fast paced and an easy read. The background features a pandemic, which makes the overall story more current.
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A continuation of the character Jack from Peter Heller’s previous book: The River. It’s not necessary to read the first book, maybe even better if you haven’t as there is information from the first book that is repeated. But if you did read the first book, you’ll want to read this one.

We find Jack sitting on a small cabin porch nearby a small river, creek really, where he will be a guide to the ultra-rich in their fishing adventure during their time at the Kingfisher Lodge. Jack thinks he could sit here and watch the stream for the rest of his life. Quickly enough Jack finds that the Lodge is not all that it seems. He's paired up with Alison K, a famous singer, and she is also needs to know what is going on here, as it doesn't seem like fishing is the main event.

It was surprising to find the pandemic and coronavirus as part of the plot points in the book. I almost wished it wouldn’t be there, but it did help to add to the tension at a pivotal moment.

I like Heller’s way of describing the setting, I felt myself there in the woods, hearing the birds and the water over the stones. Nearly smelled the pine.

One issue that really bothered me was we had Jack's point of view for nearly the entire book. But then we get moments, mostly near the end when it switches to Alison. A stronger book would have stuck with the one view point. In any case, an improvement over the previous.
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Definitely a thriller.

Set in a world just a few years in our future - a young man with a past of loss and pain signs on as a fishing guide at a high end resort for only the extremely rich and famous.   

After just a few days - things start to appear to not be what he signed up for.  

This author describes all the things I love about the Colorado Rockies in such a way - I could feel the breeze and see the mountains and streams.   He also delves into a world of true ugliness - what the extremely rich might go through to stay young and healthy.  

Great read, very good page turning thriller.
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Peter Heller is one of my favorite writers (and “Celine” especially is one of my all-time favorite books), so I was very excited to read his new release! The story picks up after “The River,” so be sure to read that book first to avoid spoilers. Jack arrives at Colorado’s elite Kingfisher Lodge for a seasonal job as a fly fishing guide. The lodge boasts world-class fishing, an idyllic mountain setting, and wealthy, high-profile clients. It soon becomes apparent, though, that something sinister is also taking place at the lodge…⁣
I don’t think that anyone writes a more atmospheric book than Heller, and I love love loved all of the nature descriptions. I’d read a book just of these, TBH. But “The Guide” was such a page-turner, too. It was a slow burn of building tension and unease— I just had to keep reading to find out what the heck was going on at this lodge! I also thought the portrayal of grief and how that can shape a person’s choices was very well done. And this was the first book I’ve read with a Covid-like pandemic referenced (masks, temperature-taking, etc.) and it was handled super well.⁣
“The Guide” was really short (< 300 pages) and the ending felt rushed to me. I also felt that way about “The River” though, so maybe I just prefer a more drawn-out conclusion. I also thought some of the characters’ choices didn’t make a ton of sense, but isn’t that the case in many thrillers ?! I don’t think this book is for everyone— if you don’t like reading nature descriptions, this might be too slow for you— and it wasn’t my favorite of his books, but I really enjoyed reading it so much. It was creepy, mysterious, compelling, with lots of beautiful nature.
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Close your eyes after reading the final words of Peter Heller's superb THE GUIDE...and you'll instantly find yourself in the deep, rich, vivid world he so masterfully created. You don't have to be a fisher-person to find yourself longing for a rod and reel after reading the enticing segments where Jack, a fishing guide, either fishes or teaches his client to fish--the dance is marvelously evoked, down to the glitter of the scales of the fish they catch and release. 

Add to that the relentlessly building suspense--the scent of something wrong in the air--and Heller once again delivers a first-class read which delivers rich characterizations, a marvelous sense of menace, an unforgettable sense of place--and some surprises along the way. A splendid literary thriller--not to be missed!
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The Guide by Peter Heller picks up with Jack after the events in The River.

"After a terrible personal loss, Jack takes a job as a fishing guide at a remote, exclusive resort. His first client is a singer who happens to be an excellent fisherman. They both discover that something horrible is going on at a nearby lodge and wonder how they can get the information out."

I don't fish - I don't really get fishing - I'm not an outdoorsy kind of person. But Heller's descriptions of trout fishing make me want to go buy a rod and reel and some waders and book a trip. It's wonderful writing. There are hints along the way that maybe things are not as they seem. I like the subtlety that Heller uses - and it's a horrible thing that's happening.

This reads like a literary, lyrical thriller. It hooks you pretty quickly. (see what I did there? ;-)  The ending is a wild scramble. 

A good choice if you want a book you can sink your teeth into but still want a thrilling story.
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The Guide is a suspenseful outdoor thriller with excellent, vivid world-building. Kingfisher Lodge is an exclusive mile and a half of river locked behind a gate reserved for the wealthiest of clients looking to fish. Jack has had it rough and is looking for a way back on track when he's hired as a guide for a well-known singer. All he has to do is hold her gear, rig her line, and find fish. Things in the resort are not what they appear to be. The plot is unpredictable. The outdoor descriptions are remarkable. Highly recommended!
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A fishing guide is hired to fill in at an ultra-exclusive resort where odd things are happening. This was an engrossing read that was an interesting blend of vivid fishing descriptions, thriller and sci-fi.
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Peter Heller’s “The Guide” is a gripping thriller set at a fishing lodge in Colorado. Surrounded by the picturesque landscape of mountains, rivers, and fly fishing this is a title that made the hours slip away as I was reading.
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A slow-burn psychological thriller with a big payoff! Heller is excellent at setting an intriguing premise, creating a strong sense of place, and giving the reader a reason to keep turning pages.

What I liked:
- Continuing with a likable but flawed (read: normal human being) main character that I already knew from The River, who became even more fully-fleshed out in this novel;
- Hanging out along a river bed nestled in the Rocky Mountains;
- A likeable secondary character and a little bit of sexual tension;
- A creepy mystery undercurrent with a big payoff;
- It's very cinematic in style.

What I didn't like:
- It's a small thing, but for those who haven't read The River there are some spoilers in this one.

I like to categorize Heller's novels as "page-turners with brains". Overall, I really liked the experience of reading this book and would recommend it for fans of William Kent Krueger and Ron Rash..

(Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book!)
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I am coming to rely on Peter Heller for a suspense thriller set outdoors! I hope there are more to come.
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Outdoorsy action mystery. Kept my attention and had plenty of details to show the author knows of which he writes. An entertaining story.
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