A veteran Marine and an ex-convict find themselves on opposite sides of the law in this propulsive new thriller from award-nominated suspense master and "damn fine storyteller" Owen Laukkanen (Kirkus Reviews).
Could your closest friend be a killer?
When a body washes up outside Deception Cove, Washington, Jess Winslow-once a US Marine, now a trainee sheriff's deputy-is assigned to investigate. But when she realizes it's "Bad" Brock Boyd, a hometown celebrity lately fallen from grace, things become complicated. The last person seen with Boyd was her own boyfriend, Mason Burke.
An ex-convict and newcomer in town, Mason is one of the only people who can understand Jess's haunting memories of her time in Afghanistan-and her love for Lucy, her devoted service dog. Finding one another in Deception Cove has been the best thing to happen to either of them in years. So Jess knows Mason could never be guilty of murder-doesn't she?
As the facts of the case point ever more squarely at Mason, Jess must face that everything she thinks she knows about him might be wrong. A thrilling sequel to Deception Cove, and a heart-pounding adventure all its own, Lone Jack Trail pushes Jess and Mason to a shocking confrontation and will test everything they've come to love and trust in Deception Cove.
Second time around for me with Owen Laukkanen and his small Deception Cove community and main characters Mason Burke and Jess Winslow. Here, the fledgling friendship-cum-romance is put under extra strain when Mason is accused of the murder of another ex-con, the hometown celebrity Brock Boyd. Boyd has a bullet in his head and Mason still has the cuts and bruises from their very public brawl days before Boyd's death. When a witness puts the two together and the gun used in the killing is found near Mason's boat, Burke moves from a person of interest to chief suspect. His close proximity to another suspicious death cements that opinion in the minds of most of the on scene law enforcement and the locals, especially when his past his taken into consideration.
There's a lot to savour here, in particular the dynamics of the relationship between our two baggage-laden, lead characters (plus the dog they kind of share). Mason is an ex-con who owns his crime and is trying to forge a future with Jess and Lucy, the pitbull he trained while inside. In fact, despite fifteen years incarcerated, Mason is actually quite well-adjusted. He likes/loves Jess, but is enough of a gentleman to go at Jess's pace and to walk away if she decides there's no future for them as friends or a couple. Jess has her own demons. She's a PTSD suffering veteran and a widow to boot. She has trust issues and few people that she lets into her life. Jess is now in the unenviable position of juggling her job as local police with the fact that the man she may/may not be considering a future with, may/may not be guilty of a couple of homicides.
Lone Jack Trail - other main plus points ...... a decent pace without seeming rushed; a couple of murders to unravel; relationship troubles; some backstory to the first victim and our main characters, which serves well for those who might not have read the first in the series, but doesn't feel like deja-vous for someone who had; a decent support cast - eg. Rengo, Burke's only friend and another outsider, as a man living on the fringes of the community - and the sheriff and the other officers in the small town police force (names elude me); a man on the run and a manhunt; a conspiracy; some low level criminals - thinking bigger or not thinking at all; an amateur investigation, as well as an official one; a fistfight; a plausible motive for our crimes - initial and subsequent; a showdown and shoot out; an escape and a pursuit and a decent resolution.
Excitement, tension, action, interesting setting and a bit of a slow burner love story as the two main protagonists try and figure out if they have a future together or not.
Negatives - nothing especially. Maybe a slight stretch of disbelief as our man escapes arrest by an impulsive swim, though I suppose it wasn't totally outlandish. Far better than a convenient jet ski.
One other piece which kind of distracted me was the naming of some of the supporting characters, a few of which must have featured unnoticed in the first book of the series. I don't know whether I liked this element or not to be honest. I might be over-thinking things but I spotted ..... Joe Clifford, Ed Aymar, a Pruitt, a Winslow, a Mason, a Harper (or was it Jordan), a Hart (maybe), a Fetridge (a hat-tip to John Mc perhaps?)....... maybe some more, or maybe I just read too much crime fiction and everything in my brain just loops and circles back to other authors I've encountered? On balance, I think I liked this element, there's too many examples for it to be pure coincidence.
Overall 4.5 from 5
I'll be keen to see a third outing in the same setting with the same cast of characters, should the author choose to write one. In the meantime I have some of his earlier books on the shelf unread that ought to be given an airing. Deception Cove is the only other book I've read from Owen Laukkanen thus far.
Read - October, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 306
Source - Net Galley review copy
Format - ePUB read on laptop