Reviews of the Walt Fleming series

In Harm’s Way

“IN HARM’S WAY is a suspenseful novel that challenges armchair detectives in many ways. Red herrings and real clues are scattered along the trail just begging readers to follow them to the unexpected outcome. This is a perfect beach, airplane, or vacation read.”

Book Reporter

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Walt Fleming and Lou Boldt, Ridley Pearson’s intrepid heroes, meet to work cases in this newest installment of the Killer series. Lou has starred in Pearson’s books for years, and the younger Walt has appeared in three previous police procedurals. This one takes place in Sun Valley, Idaho, rich in natural beauty and populated by the wealthy, famous and, in some cases, infamous.

Lou, the Seattle connection, and Walt get hooked up to solve several murders. A woman was killed in Lou’s jurisdiction, and he thinks a Sun Valley resident may be the culprit. Thus he calls upon Walt to help. Lou decides the best way to do this is to travel to Idaho and work beside his younger colleague.

As the book begins, the first sentence is a stunner: “Glancing out the windshield…Fiona [Kenshaw] spotted a log with flailing arms.” She jumps into the fast-moving water and rescues the child, thus becoming a local hero. Fiona, a police photographer, begs Walt to keep her picture from being plastered on the front pages of the local newspapers. He doesn’t succeed, and Fiona retreats into an emotional shell. She has a blackout and doesn’t remember anything during that time. From this opening, the plot moves at breakneck speed with twists and turns that could give a reader whiplash.

Suddenly, in the midst of this tension, the body of a man is found on the side of a road. He turns out to be Martel Gale, a famous ex-NFL star. Walt and Lou realize that he is the link between their two cases. Sports agent Vince Wynn and former football team owner Marty Boatwright shoot right to the top of the suspect list. But without evidence, neither Walt nor Lou can move ahead with their investigations.

Meanwhile, Walt has other problems. He is trying to cope with the break-up of his marriage and take care of his twin girls. As a cop, his time is not always his own, and he feels guilty when he has to leave his daughters with sitters or break promises to them. On top of that, a series of break-ins attributed to wild bears is cluttering his calendar.

As the investigation moves along, one prong points to Fiona. Could she be the murderer? She has a ward that she is trying to help recover from a brutal rape and beating. Kira is making great progress, but she knows her mentor’s secret. Can she remain quiet as the churning facts seem to put Fiona at risk?

IN HARM’S WAY is a suspenseful novel that challenges armchair detectives in many ways. Red herrings and real clues are scattered along the trail just begging readers to follow them to the unexpected outcome. This is a perfect beach, airplane, or vacation read.

“The latest “Killer” Walt Fleming police procedural (see Killer Summer and Killer View) is an excellent thriller… There is plenty of action, but it is the interaction between the key cast members that makes this a superb mystery.”

The Mystery Gazette

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Fiona Kenshaw rescues a small child from drowning in the river. She asks one thing from the man she is interested in; keep her face out of the local paper, the Mountain Express. Sun Valley Sheriff Wall Fleming is also interested in Fiona, but was burned by his wife who was cheating on him with his deputy. The paper’s editor ignores the pleas the sheriff by running the story with her photo. This leads to Fiona to withdraw deep into her shell.

When the corpse of former football player and ex convict Martel Gale is found, Sergeant Lou Boldt of Seattle thinks there is a link between the deceased, his former agent residing in Sun Valley Vince Wynn and a former sport team owner and entrepreneur Marty Boatwright and the dead courtesan Caroline Vetta. Boldt is working the Vetta case and Martel’s death enables Boldt to question Wynn and Boatwright. After Lou and Walt interview the men, both conclude one of them is guilty of homicide, but lack proof. Walt seeks evidence, but discovers a tie to Fiona that leads him to wonder if she is involved with the murders.

The latest “Killer” Walt Fleming police procedural (see Killer Summer and Killer View) is an excellent thriller as he works effectively with Ridley Pearson’s other top cop Lou Boldt (from the Boldt and Matthews series). Fiona’s relationships with Walt (sweet and just beginning), and with her ward Kira (coping with a rape as the youngster knows the truth about the guardian) enhances the entertaining whodunit. There is plenty of action, but it is the interaction between the key cast members that makes this a superb mystery.

“Pearson manages to team up the heroes from both his supense series for a transfixing tale filled with secrets both large and small. At the center of the story lies Sheriff Walt Fleming, and this book in particular explores the relationships in his life. With a Pearson novel, you can always expect to get riveting suspense, excellent characterization and a well-crafted plot.”

Romantic Times

“Lieutenant Lou Boldt, the Seattle cop who stars in Ridley Pearson’s deservedly popular series, is a sharp and touching figure—perhaps the most believable police officer in current fiction.”

White Prose

“The multi-layered plot and fast pacing makes this edge-of-your-seat crime novel crackle with suspense and unexpected twists.”

The Tuscon Citizen

Killer Summer

“…nothing is as it seems, and even the savviest readers will be fooled as Pearson drags poor Walt and friends through a series of clever twists and turns in this fast-paced nail-biter.”

Publishers Weekly

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Bestseller Pearson makes the most of the theme of the lawman with a bunch of personal problems in his engaging third crime thriller to feature Walt Fleming, the likable sheriff of Sun Valley, Idaho (after Killer View). Walt’s ex-wife is living with one of his deputies; Walt’s teenage nephew, Kevin, is grappling with his father’s suicide; and Walt’s trying to raise twin daughters on his own. Meanwhile, a big wine convention has come to Sun Valley, and three bottles owned by Thomas Jefferson and given to John Adams are sure to bring big bucks at auction, unless a gang of super thieves, which has hit town with an elaborate scheme in which Kevin becomes unwittingly involved, steals the bottles first. But nothing is as it seems, and even the savviest readers will be fooled as Pearson drags poor Walt and friends through a series of clever twists and turns in this fast-paced nail-biter.

“A throwback to the time when plotting and pacing were the detective story’s sine qua non; Pearson shows once again how it’s done.”

Kirkus

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Sun Valley Sheriff Walt Fleming (Killer Weekend, 2008, etc.) must guard bottles of wine that once belonged to John Adams—or did they? During one of those periods when he felt kindly toward his political rival, Thomas Jefferson supposedly presented Adams with three excellent bottles of wine. It’s a legend latter-day connoisseurs have come to cherish, and at Sun Valley’s very-well-attended annual auction, $1 million is routinely predicted as the going price for the storied bottles. At least one skeptical voice has been raised, but no matter how scholarly her research appears to be, few are ready to give credence to such an unknown as young Janet Finch. Whether or not the bottles and their story are authentic, Fleming’s job is to keep them out of covetous hands, especially those of the master criminal skulking in the vicinity. To Christopher Cantell, the harder the heist, the more irresistible the challenge, and while understated Walt would never compare himself to Sherlock Holmes (at least not aloud), he knows that he’s a qualified player. And so the game’s afoot, complete with a dizzying profusion of feints and gambits. Readers may well be confused, but never bored. Cheers! A throwback to the time when plotting and pacing were the detective story’s sine qua non; Pearson shows once again how it’s done.

“Intrigue, suspense, murder and kidnapping portrayed with frightening realism make Killer Summer a thriller sure to be adapted for a blockbuster movie. With an impeccable plot and rich text, Pearson has readers holding on to this cliffhanger with fingertips as strong and manicured as his poetic prose. He leaves subtle clues, and then, like freezing water in a shower, shocks the reader with how obvious the circumstances are that lead to a killer conclusion.”

Bookreporter

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Ridley Pearson baits readers with Blaine County Sheriff Walt Fleming’s feeling of dread — and near misses. “He’d had her within arm’s reach,” but the sinister woman he recognizes from the video of the abduction/murder of the man transporting priceless wine is a “professional.” Are Pearson’s clues red herrings, or are they easy-to-find puzzle pieces forming a picture border? Not everything is as it appears to be. Could a seemingly innocent teen girl be the title killer? A few million dollars for three bottles of wine is nothing compared to something of real value. With any Pearson masterpiece, subplots warrant being a novel unto themselves. The evil and cunning Christopher Cantell keeps popping up like a cork attached to Fleming’s fly fishing line. Cantell is involved in the wine heist, and a grander scheme that makes KILLER SUMMER a sure-fire bestseller.

Like Pearson’s red-hot writing, this summer will be a killer — with the life of Fleming’s nephew Kevin hanging in the balance. His thriller recipe incorporates psychological motivation to make characters believable and the psychotic aberrations appalling.

The ever-observant Fleming notices a car being towed out of town — with the driver, Randall Everest Malone of a private security firm, slumped over the wheel. A super-secret attaché case is handcuffed to the passenger seat frame, and he dies before Fleming can ask questions. It seems fitting that a protagonist based on a real-life person (Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling) is as real and likable as Sheriff Walt Fleming. Fleming’s “ad hoc crime-scene crew [includes] local news photographer and part-time deputy Fiona Kenshaw,” an endearing repeat character in the Killer series. Fiona is the queen of multitasking, a quasi-psychologist for Fleming and a sympathetic sounding board with cool logic.

And perhaps a romantic interest. In the throes of divorce, Fleming “tried to see her…only as a professional — a part-time crime-scene photographer, an associate — but failed miserably.” Fiona seems to know what sinister thing is about to happen, a scary sixth sense, and doesn’t take flack from Fleming.

Sun Valley hosts a summer wine auction, and a trio of priceless wines in the mysterious attaché case attract über-wealthy connoisseurs from around the world. Pearson throws readers into the deep end, with international intrigue, murder and kidnapping — all for “three dark green bottles of wine.” The wine is reputed to have been a gift from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams. (A precursor to the 2000 presidential election, in 1800, votes were so close to those of the incumbent Adams that the House of Representatives had to decide that Jefferson would be president. Jefferson had lost the election to Adams in 1796. Would Al Gore have accepted wine as a parting gift from George W. Bush?)

PhD candidate Janet Finch staunchly contends that the wine trio is fake, an attempt to bilk big bucks from those in Sun Valley who may not notice a few percent of their invested billions to be bogus. Janet tells Fleming that wine promoter Arthur Remy is “going to make off with a zillion dollars for some Rothschild bottled as something quite different.” Janet suspects that the murder at an Amsterdam brothel of one who authenticated the wine bottles was to cover up test results. The expert, Dr. Weisling, “was gay. He didn’t even belong in a brothel.” Janet tells Fleming this at the house where she stays during the auction, just after Fleming chases off a prowler wearing heavy ski gloves — in July!

Janet later confronts Remy with the truth: “Dr. Weisling was not stabbed to death by a madman. He was stabbed to death because his microfracture research uncovered your bottles as fakes. Either you knew that going in or it was too late to stop what you’d started, but either way your reputation is on the line.” The wine bottles surreptitiously wind up in the custody of Fleming, who allows Janet to examine them — and understandably asks her to speak English when she says, “I’d rather have a spectrometer…the piezoelectric effect is just as conclusive. We can measure density, size, clamped capacitance, and low-field dissipation.”

Seventeen-year-old Kevin asks Uncle Walt, “How come it’s always got to be something? You and me, this family, one crisis after another. What’s with that?” Fleming steps in as a father figure after his brother dies. Kevin suspects his father’s death was suicide and Fleming compromised integrity by having it reported as “accidental.” Fleming has precious little time to share with his own twin daughters, while gut-tightening thoughts of a messy divorce loom. Deputy Tommy Brandon makes a repeat appearance, still romantically linked to Fleming’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Gail — and again Fleming entrusts his life to Brandon. What a guy!

Young Summer Sumner is the daughter of Teddy Sumner — “one-hit wonder [with] Mastermind” — a film producer who squanders his dead wife’s fortune with a private Learjet, but “saves” money by not having a flight attendant on the trip from Los Angeles to Sun Valley for the wine auction. She seeks out a local teen her age, preferably a hotel staffer, but for what purpose? Her mark is Kevin, who finagled a position at the posh hotel (“better than a fry cook”) where the Sumners stay during the auction.

Summer broods over having to come to Sun Valley in a private Learjet, causing her to scheme a devious plot. “Only her father’s combativeness and certitude drove her on. If he hadn’t dragged her along on this trip, she wouldn’t be in a position of stripping naked in front of a virtual stranger. Kevin was looking right at her. His state of arousal was apparent from across the steaming pool.” Summer smirks that her deceased mother would have been proud of her conniving nature.

Poor-Little-Rich-Girl throws the ultimate tantrum to prove that she can be independent. With stolen jet key in hand, Summer lures Kevin into taking her to her father’s big-boy-toy Learjet, though an airport shuttle is available. She takes luggage with her, and Kevin suspects he’s being used — and he will be the one seen driving her. Dilemma: choose between a hot, rich chick fawning over a male teen, or do the right thing.

Though a sexual fire burns within, Kevin knows how to extinguish certain types of incendiary incidents. He has seen enough action flicks to know what’s what. When in a pickle, Kevin recalls what he had been told: “everything happens for a reason.” Kevin had “dismissed the platitude at the time the same way he dismissed anything an adult said.” He now uses that advice in a clever plan to escape certain death, and then offers himself as the ultimate sacrifice.

Intrigue, suspense, murder and kidnapping portrayed with frightening realism make KILLER SUMMER a thriller sure to be adapted for a blockbuster movie. With an impeccable plot and rich text, Pearson has readers holding on to this cliffhanger with fingertips as strong and manicured as his poetic prose. He leaves subtle clues, and then, like freezing water in a shower, shocks the reader with how obvious the circumstances are that lead to a killer conclusion.

“Killer Summer may be the best police procedural of the year so far as there are so many plausible twists that Walt and readers will wonder if they imbibed. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Walt notices the strange truck while fishing and never decelerates even when the plot takes a spin. Fans will enjoy Ridley Pearson’s terrific crime caper as the author keeps readers full attention throughout wondering what next.”

Genre Go Round

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In Sun Valley, Idaho, Blaine County Sheriff Walt Fleming goes fly fishing with his teenage nephew Kevin so both can escape the extended family woes that would fill up a months worth of Jerry Springer shows; the nastiest to cope with is the suicide of Keith’s father. At the same time, international wine experts are in town to bid on the best with the most acclaimed being three bottles that Jefferson gave to Adams.

As the auction begins, a bomb explodes as a cover to the scheme created by genius Christopher Cantell to steal the valuable wine by keeping the law enforcement occupied; as he knows how they will react. As Walt follows clues he feels himself being manipulated by a master puppeteer who has yanked him and his staff in a trillion directions with no leads coming together and following the same path. Meanwhile caught in the middle of the brilliant caper is Kevin who turns out to be the unanticipated fly in the ointment for law enforcement and super thieves.

KILLER SUMMER may be the best police procedural of the year so far as there are so many plausible twists that Walt and readers will wonder if they imbibed. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Walt notices the strange truck while fishing and never decelerates even when the plot takes a spin. Fans will enjoy Ridley Pearson’s terrific crime caper as the author keeps readers full attention throughout wondering what next.


Killer View

“Ridley Pearson writes some of the tightest fiction around.”

Scott Turow

“[A] tension-filled sequel… Pearson’s relentless sense of pacing and serpentine plot will have readers furiously turning pages until the end.”

Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Pearson’s numerous thrillers…will welcome this newest entry which sparkles with the writer’s crisp prose and unrelenting suspense.”

Booklist

“Pearson takes some of our biggest fears involving terrorism and government coverups and turns them into a gripping, page-turner of a novel.”

Rocky Mountain News

“It’s the middle of summer. Time for relaxing on the beach, or lazing in the backyard, or just vegging in your living room easy chair. Whichever manner of leisure you choose, you need a good book. But not just any book. You need a summer book, something that will keep your mind wandering and get your heart racing. Killer View by Ridley Pearson is such a book…. The only problem with reading a book like this on a hot summer day is that you may become so wrapped up in it that you’ll forget to put sunblock on.”

MSNBC Interactive

 


Killer Weekend

“Ridley Pearson has outdone himself with Killer Weekend.”

James Patterson

“This is the first in a new series for Pearson, whose cleverly interwoven plots and crisp, economical prose have graced more than a dozen thrillers, most notably the Lou Boldt-Daphne Matthews series. Pearson is the first American recipient of the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in detective fiction at Oxford University. The late, great creator of Philip Marlowe would be proud—both of the selection itself and of the recipient’s latest work.”

Booklist (starred review)

“A brilliant and fascinating adult thriller…small-town mentality collides with Day of the Jackal in this amazing book…it is nice to see Pearson back in the thriller fold, where few come close to his prowess.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“[a] quintessential beach book…We can only hope that this is the start of a new cycle for Pearson. In Fleming, he seems to have found an intricately human, brilliant character because, unlike so many other characters in the genre, he appears fallible. Perhaps that is why this is Pearson’s best book in years.”

Book Spoke

“Ridley Pearson writes some of the tightest thriller fiction around. In the deftness of his conceptions, the care with details, and the quality of writing, he’s fully worthy of comparison to Michael Connelly.”

Scott Turow

“If we had a Thriller Hall of Fame, Ridley Pearson would be a first-ballot certainty, both for his technical virtuosity and his intensely human stories. Does Killer Weekend maintain his standards? No, it sets new ones. Don’t miss it.”

Lee Child