For readers who want to escape the summer heat, Ridley Pearson's latest thriller, Killer View (Putnam, 340 pp., $24.95), should generate some welcome chills. Pearson's second novel featuring Sheriff Walt Fleming of Blaine County, Idaho, is fast and furious—but also thought-provoking.
Winter has come early to Sun Valley, Idaho, where the rich build mansions in some of the harshest wilderness in the West. Sheriff Fleming is conducting a search and rescue in a blizzard on a mountain pass, but the dogs find a body instead. This one isn't a missing skier—it's a murder victim, and the murderer has an agenda. Quicker than a snowmobile moves, the sheriff is also investigating a kidnapping and a brutal rape, all connected in a web of political and environmental intrigue.
Pearson is a popular author of best-selling thrillers, best known for his series about Seattle police detective Lou Boldt—and, interestingly, a series of Peter Pan prequels for kids, co-written with Dave Barry. Far from the Pacific coast, Pearson's latest stories are set near the Idaho National Laboratories, Craters of the Moon National Park and among remote sheep ranches, classically beautiful settings that Pearson fills with memorable characters—particularly that of Fleming, who is inspired by the real-life sheriff of Blaine County—and even more memorable action.
As Fleming searches frantically through the snowy mountains and frigid valleys for the kidnap victim, his personal life intrudes in the form of a nasty divorce, an attractive photographer, a deputy he can't entirely trust and the need to get reelected. The pressures of multimillion-dollar development are bringing huge changes to his jurisdiction, and it's clear there are some residents who, in the spirit of Ted Kaczynski, will do anything to stop the developers. Faced with an environmentalist demonstrator, Fleming perfectly expresses his dilemma: "Makes me look like all I've got time for is babysitting tree huggers. If I arrest him, I'm antienvironment; if I don't I'm a flaming liberal."
Environmental terrorism is a theme in Killer View, and the emotions surrounding the sometimes complex issues of contaminated water and national security trap Fleming into some hard choices and wrong conclusions. There are shades of gray mixed with the winter white of Blaine County, confusing the usual stereotypes. In combining the contemplation of serious issues with nonstop action in an original setting, Pearson has created a terrific read for any season.
Ridley Pearson appears at 7 p.m. Friday, July 18 at Books-A-Million.
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