Book four of Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series follows Kayden, the most reserved of the five McKenna siblings, and Jake Westin, the man everyone else treated like family but she never could bring herself to trust. Though Kayden now respects Jake, even is attracted to him, her fears of vulnerability hold her back. While racing her sister up a wicked cliff on a climbing trip, Kayden comes face to face with a mangled corpse. As a local climbing expert, she gets paired with the deputized Jake to investigate the death, which looks like no average climbing accident. While they fly around investigating the case, they become targets of someone's obvious displeasure. Who and why is the person so fixated on Kayden and Jake? Could there be a far more personal reason for the threats than just the investigation?
In anticipation of this novel's release, I decided to reread the books
that come before it, and I was impressed and reminded all over again why
this series is so good! It is by far best to read it as a series, since the characters and relationships are introduced and firmly established throughout the books; to just read one in the middle would mean losing out on detail and good character development. This might just be my favorite suspense series out there! Following the previous pattern of the books, this one largely focuses on the secondary characters of the previous novel (Kayden and Jake) and introduces the viewpoints of the main characters of the next novel to come (Reef and Kirra).
Part of the appeal of Pettrey's novels is the setting: the rugged Alaskan landscape, with so much varied terrain, provides not only a unique and breathtaking backdrop, but also a remote location where the wicked can hatch their evil plans. Intimate knowledge of the terrain helps both the villain and the McKennas, and it adds a wild element of danger.
Sometimes a good villain is a danger to stealing the show from the
heroes of the story, and Pettrey has created one diabolical villain:
calculating, taunting, extremely intelligent, and unmercifully vengeful -
the kind that is always one step ahead. When we finally realize what this person is capable of, the tone quickly switches from a fairly basic mystery to intense suspense. I really appreciate a villain who thinks things through and provides a
challenge, planning against all contingencies - who does not hesitate to
keep the victim subdued lest they escape and ruin the evil scheme. There are no dumb mistakes for this one! Marvelous villain!
For someone so strong and seemingly fearless, Kayden has a lot of fear holding her back - from eating anything remotely unhealthy, from forming relationships, and especially from being vulnerable. Just because some people always seem fine and strong, does not mean they do
not hurt or fear or need any less support or love than those who are
"weaker". I enjoyed watching Kayden's transformation - as she begins making progress in one area, God starts opening the doors for progress in other areas too. I doubt she will ever be bubbly and effervescent like her sister Piper, but we can see the thawing around that part of her that froze when her mother died.
Pettrey has become one of the greatest suspense writers on the market, not only with on-the-edge-of-your-seat, gripping plots and romance, but also with the touches that make it real - detailed setting, family relationships, and God at work in people's lives. I highly recommend this novel - 5 out 5 stars!
Thank you Bethany House for a free copy of the novel for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
0.5: "Shadowed" (Sins of the Past romantic suspense novella collection)