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Emergence by Ellie Beals

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It starts with Just Watching. But danger emerges when Just Watching ends.

When the “wild child” Xavier first encounters Cass Hardwood and her dogs in the woods of West Quebec, he is enthralled. Unknown to them, he Just Watches them in a lengthy ongoing surveillance, before finally staging a meeting. His motives are uncertain—even to him.

The intersection of the lives of Cass, a competitive dog handler; her dogs; her cousin Lori; and the complex and enigmatic Xavier leads them all into a spiral of danger. It starts when Just Watching ends—when Cass and her crew encounter tragedy in the bush. Xavier’s involvement in the tragedy, unknown to Cass, sets off a chain of potentially lethal events that begin in the dark woods of Lac Rouge, when hiking, skiing, hunting, trapping, marijuana grow-ops, and pedophilia collide. It matures in the suburbs of both Ottawa and Baltimore, and culminates back in Lac Rouge, when Lori’s spurned and abusive lover arrives uninvited at Cass’ isolated cabin in the woods. In the night. In the cold. In the heavily falling snow. Xavier observes his arrival, whose motives are again uncertain, but whose propensity for action is not.

Join Xavier, Lori, Cass, and the realistic and compelling dogs that are essential players in this dark drama as their fates converge in a deadly loop of revenge, fear, guilt, and hope.


Ms. Beals’ novel is both a lesson in the love of the Canadian wilderness and dog obedience training and a slow-building thriller that had this reader holding her breath.

Cass and Noah are private people with a few close friends and family. Their trips to Lac Rouge are always a welcome getaway that gives Cass time to train her obedience dogs for competition as well as enjoy her secluded cabin and the beautiful Canadian wilderness. Little does she know she’s being observed by a young boy with unknown intentions.

Told in Xavier and Cass’s points of view, the story gives off a creepy stalker vibe at first and turns into a lesson in friendship and protecting those you care about. It starts with a slow build of well-developed characters and underlying danger intertwined with new friendships and troubled relationships. I went into this story thinking it was a suspense thriller, but it is much, much more. It is has a twist that you don’t see coming with an antihero that earns the reader’s trust and acceptance.

I enjoy Cass’s closeness with her cousin, Lori, as they enjoy the outdoors together. However, Cass’s life with her husband is a bit strange. She treats him like one of her dogs. In fact, I just don’t see the attraction between them. As for the dogs, the training routines that Cass exercises seem authentic and very informative.

The author does a wonderful job inserting the reader into the physical and emotional developments of this story. Sometimes they are gratifying and playful, sometimes they are tense and unpredictable. I felt like I was right there in the midst of the Canadian wilderness as Ms. Beals drew me down a path of mystery and revenge with a bit of a letdown when it seemed to end abruptly.

I recommend this suspense-filled thriller for dog lovers and naturalists alike who enjoy compelling characters with a twist.

Thank you to Ms. Beals for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


Ellie Beals will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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My eyes did adjust, but I thought it would be a surer shot if he’d just stay still for a minute. He did. He was on alert, but not because of me. His back was to me. I settled the LeeEnfield firmly into my shoulder, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot cut through the air. I suspect Jean-Luc didn’t hear it until he was already falling forward, like a tree felled by a pro like Stefan. I felt that rush that you always get when you’ve hit your living target.

And then, nothing. A stillness as thick as snow fell on us. No wind. No birds. No movement from Jean-Luc. And no awe. When I’ve shot a buck before with Stefan, there had always been that moment when you’re so full of life and joy, you think you’ll explode. But for Stefan and me, that is always quickly followed by a feeling that Stefan has told me is awe, where you feel small and grateful to and sorry for the beautiful animal that will feed you in the coming months, and where you hope he had had a good life and would be happy to die this way instead of getting old and sick and dying of starvation. This was different. At the moment I would have expected to feel awe, instead I just had a feeling of…. rightness. Stefan and I have been reading stories by Edgar Allen Poe, and I had been afraid that I’d feel the terrible guilt he wrote about. I didn’t. I felt peaceful.


Ellie Beals grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Canada when she was 20. She spent the majority of her professional career as a management consultant in Ottawa, Ontario. Plain language writing was one of her specialties.

Dogs have been a constant in Ellie’s life from the time she was a child. In the mid-1990s, she started to train and compete in Obedience with Golden Retrievers, with considerable success. In 2014, she had the highest-rated Canadian obedience dog (Fracas—upon whom Chuff is modeled), and her husband David Skinner had the second-rated dog. During a ten-year period, both Ellie and David were regularly ranked among Canada’s top ten Obedience competitors. They have an active obedience coaching practice in Ottawa, having retired from their previous professional careers in order to spend more time playing with their dogs and their students.

Like Cass and Noah Harwood, Ellie and David have a log cabin in the wilds of West Quebec, where Ellie is an avid wilderness recreationist, constantly accompanied by her dogs. As COVID-19 spread in March of 2020, she and David temporarily shut down their coaching practice and retreated to their cabin, where Emergence was written. Lac Rouge is not the real name of the lake on which they live. Everything else about the locale for Emergence is faithful to the character of the gentle Laurentian mountains of West Quebec.

Follow Ellie on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


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