Sun Valley, Idaho is a playground for the rich, and in Ridley Pearson's new thriller, Killer Summer, a wine auction in Sun Valley is the backdrop for an unthinkable caper. Sheriff Walt Fleming grows suspicious when he sees a tow truck crossing a bridge with a car in tow while out on a fishing trip. When he catches up with the truck, he discovers a dead man in the car with a briefcase chained to his wrist. In the briefcase are three bottles of wine purportedly to have been a gift from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams. Immediately, Fleming starts to think that he's stumbled upon a plot to steal the wine. But the further Fleming digs, the more hie discovers that something much more elaborate and sinister is afoot.
This book marks the return of Sherrif Walt Fleming, one of Pearson’s favorite protagonists who had previously appeared in Killer Weekend and Killer View. Although I hadn't read the other two volumes in the series, I found Fleming to be an easily accessible character. He's a down-to-earth lawman with his share of issues: a messy divorce, strained relationship with his two daughters, an estranged father, and a deputy who is dating his ex-wife. In spite of the many strikes against him, Fleming doggedly pursues the truth. Pretty soon, his nephew Kevin gets entangled in the plot and the case takes on an extra sense of urgency.
Pearson engages in a terrific bit of misdirection letting the reader believe that the caper revolves around the rare bottles of wine. An upcoming wine auction also helps foster the belief that the wine is the focus of the crime. When the story does change direction, the twist is entirely believable thanks to Pearson's subtlety in foreshadowing what lurks around the bend.
The action is tense and by the end of the book the reader finds him or herself really pulling for Fleming to not only to solve the crime but save his nephew and to patch up his relationship with his father as well. It was easy to identify with Fleming and feel the emotional pain that he was dealing with. Pearson obviously has thought through Fleming's backstory and uses that to flesh out his character throughout the book. Each one of Pearson’s characters is vivid and thoroughly believable.
Pearson also draws heavily on his own knowledge of Idaho, providing vivid descriptions of the area including the terrain which plays a key part in the plot.
Readers who are fans of crime thrillers will not be disappointed with this book. I found it fascinating and was thoroughly surprised by the twists in the plot. Killer Summer makes for a thoroughly satisfying summer read.