Part-time Sun Valley resident and prolific thriller author Pearson (Killer Weekend, 2007, etc.) gives readers an informed take on valley politics, class divisions and rugged backcountry as Sheriff Walt Fleming returns for a second case.
An anonymous tip about a missing person sends Sheriff Walt Fleming and Mark and Randy Aker, two brothers who are members of a Sun Valley rescue squad, into the night as an early snowstorm cloaks the hills. Randy, who had gone ahead, is found dead at the base of a cliff. A fall? Fleming thinks not. Too many clues—the sound of a distant gunshot and the possibility that the surviving brother may be a poacher—suggest foul play. In what appear as unrelated developments, Fleming learns that water at a local bottling plant contains contaminants, that mountain sheep are dying and that a man with powerful ties to government may be spying on him. Mark Aker, it turns out, survives, but in a remote wilderness cabin at the hands of a thug with a three-foot shoulder span (an overdrawn character who persists in dropping heavy-handed clues). Into Idaho’s Challis National Forest (vividly described) to search for Mark and connect the dots of the case goes Walt, aided by a deputy who took up with Walt’s wife when she left him and their two daughters, and a photographer who registers as a keen observer and a good romantic partner for the sheriff. Muscular action scenes ensue. Mark escapes his captor and fends for himself in the wilds, surviving at one point by snuggling up to a hibernating bear. Walt gets out from under an avalanche; plays cat and mouse with pursuers as he pilots a glider; and learns the ramifications of his case were as far-reaching as he had suspected.
Pearson may not send readers to the edges of their seats, but his practiced work lets them lean comfortably against the backs of them as they follow durable Sheriff Fleming’s engaging pursuit.