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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review - Backcountry

I reviewed the first book in the series, Endangered (click hereand the second book, Bear Bait (click here), third book Undercurrents (click hereas well as interviewed the author (click here.)  I eagerly anticipate each new release and this is quickly becoming a favorite series.  For this addition to the series,  we will follow Sam Weston for twenty-one days on the wilderness outing

Author: Pamela Beason

Copyright: June 2017 (Wildwing Press) 302 pgs

Series: 4th in Sam Westin Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, Amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Summer Westin, Wildlife Biologist 

Setting: Modern day, North Cascades National Park

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

From cover: "Sam Westin is rarely afraid in the wilderness, but maybe she should be now, in spite of her self-doubt. Her friends Kyla and Kim were murdered on a popular hiking trail only a few weeks ago and the murderer is still unidentified. When Sam steps in as a substitute for Kyla to shepherd six troubled teens through the backcountry, she can't help watching over her shoulder. Has grief at the violent deaths of her friends made her paranoid, or is she right to suspect her rag-tag band is sharing the mountain wilderness with the killer?"

Sam Westin is a powerhouse in her own right, even facing troubled teens in the middle of nowhere.  FBI agent Chase Perez  is present sporadically throughout the story, primarily in the struggle to maintain a long-distance relationship.  Maya Velasquez from the second book gets a starring role in this story as a team member for the wilderness trek.  The troubled teens are: Olivia Bari - frequent truancy and suicide risk, Gabriel Schmidt - computer gaming addict, Justin Orlov - bully and on probation for vandalism and assault, Taylor Durand - obsessed with appearance and potential drug user, Nick Lewis - cuts himself, and Ashley Brown - drop out and run away.

Wilderness Quest is a twenty-one day wilderness therapy program for troubled teens and provides the set up for this murder mystery. The grandeur of North Cascades National Park is on display as Sam imparts her love of nature to the troubled teens.  There is a sense of danger that shadows the group on its daily hikes and overnight camping throughout.
The plot is deceptively simple and develops before your eyes in subtle ways that are easy to miss.  Without intentionally investigating the murder of her two friends, Sam is picking up clues as she leads these troubled teens.   A subplot is the investigating detective for the murder suspects Sam somehow being involved. Pacing is steady throughout between the daily rigors of dealing with six troubled teens, the investigation which Sam is a suspect, and Sam's personal life juggling time with Chase.

The various threads and tensions continue even after the trek  and Sam stumbles across the murderer who was closer to the Wilderness Quest than ever suspected.  The wrap-up is satisfying, ties up all the loose threads, and and ensures the next book will continue Sam's exciting adventures. To say it is a happy ending seems so trite, yet it does leave a smile on your face as the story ends.

I am particularly fond of Chase Perez and would like to see more of this character - perhaps Sam and Chase could work on the same mystery.   Of the many romantic interests in the cozy genre, I find Chase Perez the most fascinating and holds the most potential.  I was surprised at how vested in these troubled teens I had grown through the story. I have to admit that when the Wilderness Quest concluded and Sam watched these teens return to their families I shed a tear or two.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

Here is a short little video on the North Cascades National Park.

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