Onyx reviews: Killer Summer by Ridley
Killer Summer—the title begs reviewers to label the book a summer
read, a term used to dismiss a novel as worth only a few hours of a person's
time. Ridley Pearson doesn't try to disabuse readers of that
notion. One three-page chapter after another propels the book from crisis to crisis.
It starts with the attempted robbery of a vehicle transporting
valuable bottles of wine. The plan is sophisticated, involving several perpetrators and clockwork timing. Only the fact that the
private security courier has his cargo handcuffed to the frame of the car thwarts the theft.
Sheriff Walt Fleming arrives on the scene while the crime is still in progress, but the perpetrators get away.
figures the criminals won't give up, especially when he learns that their objective—wine that
was supposedly a gift from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams—is valued at over a million dollars. The most obvious venue for their next
attempt is the
forthcoming wine auction, which will be attended by serious oenophiles. The
Jefferson wine is the star attraction, even though a graduate student is casting doubts on the authenticity of the wine
and wants access to the bottles to perform tests. Janet Finch thinks that the
expert who vouched for the wine was murdered at an Amsterdam brothel to cover up
his part in the scam.
Killer Summer is
the third book featuring Walt Fleming, the man in charge of law enforcement in
Idaho's Sun Valley, a mountainous resort area that attracts the rich and famous.
Walt's personal life is complicated—his wife left him for his deputy
which, not surprisingly, creates some tension between the two men. He has a
crush on the woman who takes crime scene photographs for the department, but he
isn't well adjusted enough to know how to express his feelings for her. He's
also trying to fill the shoes left by his brother's death (either by murder or
suicide) by acting as a father figure to his teenage nephew Kevin.
living under a cloud of disappointment cast by his ex-FBI father, who disapproves of Walt's career choice.
Walt was trained at Quantico but decided not to join the agency, favoring the more serene life in Blaine County. Still, all
that training comes in handy, because life in Blaine County isn't always serene.
in point: while Walt's busy preparing for another robbery attempt, Kevin is
being seduced by a flirtatious and rebellious seventeen-year-old girl with
the unlikely name of Summer Sumner. Summer arrived in Sun Valley with her father
on his private jet. Her father, who once produced a highly successful caper
movie but was never able to repeat the feat, is in severe financial trouble.
Summer doesn't care—she just wants to get away and Kevin is her
unsuspecting accessory. Her somewhat vague plan is interrupted when she and
Kevin cross paths with a group of determined thieves. In fact, it seems like the
sole reason for Summer's flight plan is to manipulate circumstances to put her
and Kevin in harm's way.
This is symptomatic of the book's biggest problem—the
thieves have concocted a needlessly complicated plot when their goal is easily
attainable. All their machinations and diversions and distractions don't serve
any point when they're able to simply walk away with their objective. It makes
the book seem too clever by half. All that subterfuge—it begs the question
of what would have happened had the first attempt on the wine succeeded?
in the second half of the book, once Kevin and Summer get tangled up with the
caper, things get much more exciting and far less contrived. Everyone's
established survival skills kick into gear, including those of a solitary
caretaker, John Cumberland, who gets caught up in the thieves' escape plan.
the final analysis, Killer Summer lives up to its billing—it is a
rollicking beach read, once readers get past the artificial complications that
get the ball rolling.
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