KILLER SUMMER by Ridley Pearson

Book Quote:

‚ÄúWalt attempted not to show the despair he felt, but this last bit of news had sent a wave of panic and dread through him. The U.S. Airways jet had taken less than two minutes to crash land in the Hudson. He caught himself staring at the phone, expecting it to ring. He’d lost his brother several years earlier. He couldn’t bear to lose his brother’s son.‚ÄĚ

Book Review:

Reviewed by Kirstin Merrihew (JUL 04, 2009)

Sheriff Walt Fleming is back. He and his department are¬†tasked with guarding¬†a pair of¬†ballyhooed “John Adams”¬†bottles of wine¬†(reportedly a gift to¬†Adams from fellow revolutionary Thomas Jefferson) until they can be¬†auctioned¬†at the summer Sun Valley¬†fund-raiser. He is also trying to¬†shoehorn in some fishing with his¬†nephew, seventeen-year-old Kevin.¬†But duty interrupts their river time when Walt, ever-vigilant,¬†notices a wrecker towing a Taurus¬†away from town where automotive repair services¬†are located. His intuition tells him something isn’t right, and he, with Kevin tagging along,¬†chases after the tow truck.¬†This presumed traffic stop escalates into¬†something¬†much bigger.¬†Walt, Deputy Brandon, Fiona, Walt’s father,¬†Kevin. and¬†others¬†are propelled into¬†a¬†tense imbroglio featuring¬†a trio of increasingly desperate criminals, a wealthy man’s private jet, that dawn-of-America wine, a frustrated teenage girl¬†with whom¬†Kevin¬†becomes entangled, a¬†leather-tough ranch cowboy,¬†fraud, diversions that endanger lives, and¬†a string of nail-biting¬†struggles in rough country. Walt, who still feels the loss of his brother in his very bones,¬†at first worries that his nephew has committed a crime, but¬†he¬†rapidly realizes Kevin has far worse problems —¬†such as staying alive.

Killer Summer is¬†a¬†more direct¬†thriller than Ridley Pearson’s¬†previous Fleming novel,¬†Killer View.¬†By that I mean it¬†relates its story straightforwardly, always identifying the players, unlike¬†Killer View which deliberately left some characters nameless and mysterious¬†for a good portion of the book.¬†Killer Summer also commences on a lower register of drama¬†and is generally a less dark read.¬†Some¬†may enjoy this¬†change of pace;¬†others¬†may keep expecting more of a revving of the plot engine and be surprised when it seldom reaches full throttle. That isn’t to say¬†Killer Summerlacks¬†summits of¬†adrenaline rush excitement.¬†Arguably,¬†though,¬†Killer Summer is¬†slightly more predictable, and although it does whip out¬†some twists, savvy readers may¬†anticipate them.¬†But it¬†rounds out itself¬†with¬†its own charm, its own special tone, and its¬†unusual cluster of converging situations.

As in the¬†prior novel, Ridley¬†expertly switches scenes and actors as the plot unfolds; sometimes the reader accompanies Walt, sometimes the the men he wants to apprehend, sometimes Kevin, and so on.¬†Where it again¬†differs is¬†that much of the story revolves strongly around the teenagers, Kevin and Summer Sumner (and now you see the double entendre in the novel’s title).¬†Perhaps these two impetuous teens¬†are meant as honey for attracting younger readers, and I, who haven’t been¬†their age¬†in quite some time,¬†have been known to get¬†impatient with such attempts if they seem forced or awkward.¬†Whether¬†Kevin and Summer’s¬†peers will consider them believable is¬†a question worth asking. Although they are by turns, foolish¬†then brave, vulnerable¬†then¬†closed off —¬†similar¬† to real teens probably — they¬†sometimes¬†border on being¬†closer to¬†stereotyped, “TV”¬†young people¬†than¬†to¬†real kids on the cusp of maturity. And their dialog is, oddly enough, sometimes a little¬†too adolescent and canned. Still,¬†I ended up rooting for them and¬†was glad they were¬†vital¬†to the¬†plot. Faced with¬†unexpected emergencies, they showed mettle and the ability to shed some of their youthful, narcissistic¬†tendencies.

Also, like its predecessor,¬†Killer Summer presents some¬†terrific wilderness suspense as characters battle the elements and each other for simple survival. The¬†confrontations with nature and with the¬†bad¬†guys give this thriller its edge, although wild animals aren’t as threatening and the reader doesn’t crawl as far into the villains’ psyches¬†in this Walt Fleming¬†outing as in the last.¬†The Sun Valley area,¬†vibrantly described by Pearson, is a¬†central “character” in this series, and¬†Killer Summer is no exception.¬†Walt, a master tracker, is at home in the mountain reaches, the difficult passes, the eddying rivers, the tree-lined miles, and the cliff faces. Ridley lovingly passes his own obvious pride and joy in the Idaho Rockies to his fictional hero.

Walt,¬†a reliable, intelligent man,¬†bears realistic insecurities and conflicts in his private life. He feels¬†more in control as sheriff of Blaine County¬†than as son, father, uncle, or lover. He’d rather sheriff from his¬†beloved¬†new,¬†technologically-studded¬†law enforcement Command Center¬†than face domestic problems such as his divorce.¬†His¬†tentative¬†romance with Fiona and his sometimes petty irritations endear him to the reader.¬†At the same time, his professionalism¬†as well as¬†scouting and¬†investigative skills make him an authoritative,¬†capable protagonist. I look forward to his further adventures.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 28 readers
PUBLISHER: Putnam Adult (June 30, 2009)
REVIEWER: Kirstin Merrihew
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Ridley Pearson
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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July 4, 2009 ¬∑ Judi Clark ¬∑ 3 Comments
Tags:  ¬∑ Posted in: Sleuths Series, US Northwest, Wild West

3 Responses

  1. Katherine Petersen - July 14, 2009

    Nice review. I’m curious to read some of the Fleming books. I’m familiar with the Boldt/Matthews series, and I like those. I’m also intrigued by the location of the Fleming books as I spent summers in Sun Valley, Idaho growing up.

  2. MFadmin - July 15, 2009

    Katherine.. I am also a long-time fan of the Boldt/Matthew series — and I like his standalone novels as much if not more. The man writes well in my opinion. I think you will like the Fleming series. It is different than his other books but he still manages to sneak the high tech stuff in and Walt Fleming is a really decent guy. Let us know when you get a chance to check out the series, especially in light of having spent summers there, how lucky for you! — Judi

  3. Kirstin - July 15, 2009

    Glad you enjoyed the review, Katherine. I haven’t read the Bold/Matthews series — yet. So far, of Pearson’s books I’ve only had the pleasure of reading the two Walt Fleming volumes I mentioned. I’ve never been to Sun Valley yet either, but Pearson makes it sound like a vacation spot I’d like to try — as long as I didn’t become embroiled in one of the crimes Sheriff Walt investigates course, lol. That would be entirely too much excitement!


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