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Book Review: Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson

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This is my first encounter with Ridley Pearson’s Sheriff Walt Fleming, and Killer Summer was a good blend of mystery/thriller. Now I gotta go back and pick up the other two. I really enjoy the character and all the things he has to face in his life. Despite the fact that the plot lends itself to all the drama in Walt’s life, I know from raising five kids of my own that these things will come at you in the worst of times.

Pearson’s writing is lean and taut. He also introduced enough factoids about wine-making and glider flying and some of the other medical and law enforcement stuff that I enjoyed getting something of an education along the way as well. But those things mixed right into the story line and characters, and proved essential as well.

However, the pacing sacrifices a little of the character development of the ancillary players I wanted to see more of. Janet Finch, the specialist in wine history and wine bottles, seemed to drop right out of sight after her bit in the mystery was done, and I wasn’t really ready to let go of her or the wine expertise she brought to the story.

To be fair, by the time some of the characters that revolve around the wine plot disappeared at the same time the suspense plot kicked into high gear and Walt’s emotionally battered nephew Kevin was in danger.

The first half of the book took a little effort to get into, but Christopher Cantrell’s hijacking of a car in the middle of traffic was cool enough to suck me in almost immediately. Unfortunately, the plot followed side roads for a time, including a jaunt down Walt’s personal life that stuck out, before swinging back into the groove. Then the last half of the book seemed to rush right through things, and a lot of the action shifted off Walt’s efforts to save Kevin while focusing on Kevin’s efforts to save himself.

Still, this is one of those perfect beach reads. Killer Summer has short, compact chapters and an elaborate plot that spins naturally out of the action and the characterization. The book’s engagement and pacing is good for a lazy summer or a few hours in the sun or on a trip.

I enjoyed the feel of organic growth of the books. The references to past cases (two previous books) let me know I’d missed a lot worth reading, but it didn't throw me off so much that I couldn’t enjoy this book. Now I want to see how all this started, and I want to read the next Walt Fleming novel to find out what happens in this likable sheriff’s life. One thing is for certain: whatever comes through next isn’t going to be easy, but it will be interesting.

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