This is the second book in Paige Shelton’s series about thriller writer Elizabeth Fairchild, now in hiding in tiny Benedict, Alaska as Beth Rivers, after being kidnapped by a crazed fan. Elizabeth/Beth lives in a halfway house and appreciates the privacy she finds in the Alaskan wild, a place that truly seems to be its own country, existing without a real nod to the rules and regulations more common in the lower 48. Shelton, the author of four other cozier series than this one, is a real pro at narrative, pacing, and character. These skills easily transfer to this series which is a bit darker in tone, and fits in more with work by writers like Ellen Hart, Dana Stabenow and Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Hank Phillippi Ryan was on the cutting edge of the new wave of what I think of as “fem jep” with a psychological edge. Other writers like Gillian Flynn and Sophie Hannah were also early, excellent adopters of this formula. I read many of these books – they’re a blast – but I got to thinking recently, what sets one apart from another? Almost all of them have an insanely clever hook, and Ryan is no exception to this particular trope.
But what really, really draws me into Hank Ryan’s books is her pure empathy for her characters. Maybe it’s her years of working as a reporter, listening and taking in other people’s stories, but however she comes by this quality in her writing, it’s an extraordinary one, and one that’s often missing from similar fem jep thrillers. It makes you completely invested in her characters and to me, also amps up the suspense, because if you truly care about the people you are reading about, bad things happening to them are that much worse.