Copyright: October 2012 (Berkley) 320 pgs
Series: 2nd in Summer Westin Mysteries
Sensuality: sex scenes
Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense, amateur sleuth
Main Characters: Wildlife biologist Summer Westin
Setting: Modern day, Olympic National Park in the
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Summer is on a twelve-week project for the National Park Service at Olympic National Park, writing a management report to join new land into the park. She also helps out as a volunteer fire-watcher, which is how she hears an explosion and calls in a fire. After the fire is put out, they discover a park trail crew member, a young woman named Lisa Glass, who is badly burned and hanging onto life by a thread. They also discover a hole blown in the earth uncovering an old forgotten mine. There is local resistance to the adding of land to the park service because hunting is stopped. Signs pop up throughout the new park land defying the new park management rules, which hints at an underground resistance to the Park Service management and authority. Summer is confronted by an armed camo-wearing man outside any hunting season, which doesn't look good for a newly introduced bear into the park.
A parallel subplot is Summer's relationship with FBI Agent Chase Perez that is sporatic with their busy schedules, but is taken to the next level during this book. Agent Perez and his partner are in the area traking down robbers which may cross over into the activities Summer is facing. There is another subplot of Ranger Joe Choi asking Summer to help with his thirteen year old daughter Lili who may be getting in over her head with a teacher and a clique that share the same tattoos as the burned trail crew member.
Summer is a passionate wildlife biologist who is stubborn, has a hard time taking orders, is vulnerable, and yet tough. We find out more about Summer's precarious relationship with her authoritarian father, and her fear that her vagabond wilderness lifestyle is not agreeable to a long-term relationship.
Olympic National Park in the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful setting and you understand Summer's love of the park through the moonlit lake and lookout sunsets. The author makes the park an integral player in the story, not just a backdrop. The realities of Park Service management, wildlife conservation, and good old boy hunters thrown together are realistically portrayed.
The plot builds suspense by revealing more to the reader to keep you a few steps ahead of Summer and Agent Perez. But the full scope of the true motivations and ultimate goal is slowly revealed even with the reader being more "in-the-know." This builds the suspense to an edge of the seat climax where Summer is specifically in the cross-hairs. The wrap up leaves the reader anxious to read the next book in the series.
This is a great second book with a solid suspenseful plot and pacing that will likely keep the reader up all night turning pages. I feel it tops the debut book, which is a challenge for every author. It is hard to not compare this series to Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series because of the theme of wildlife and parks, but the character of Summer Westin and the unique writing style carves a niche out all its own.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.