Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson

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.

Walt 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.

He's also 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.

Case 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?

However, 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.

In 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.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007-2010. All rights reserved