Sunday, December 22, 2019

Book Review: "Thin Ice" by Paige Shelton

I've commented before just how much I love books set in Alaska. It doesn't matter what kind of book—the imagery of the wilderness (and wildness), even the danger posed by the elements both animal and meteorological fascinate me. That was definitely one of the characteristics that led me to pick up Paige Shelton's new mystery, Thin Ice, but boy, it's so much more than just its setting.

Beth Rivers is known to the world as best-selling thriller author Elizabeth Fairchild. There are times she really can't believe a woman who started out a secretary to her police chief grandfather in Missouri could be a best-selling author. But when she is kidnapped and held captive in a van for three days, everything changes. She must overcome her fear and the ways her kidnapper has restrained her to escape, or she'll face certain death, if not worse before that.

She is able to escape the van one day but sustains a brain injury in the process. But with her kidnapper still at large, she worries how she can live the rest of her life without being afraid and looking over her shoulder every minute. So when she's (mostly) well enough, she decides she's going to run as far away as possible—to the remote town of Benedict, Alaska. It seems like the best solution, at least until the police find the suspect.

When she arrives in Benedict she discovers that a lot of people come to Alaska to run away from something, so while her presence drums up some curiosity, she probably fits in better than she would in most places. She also finds out that she booked herself a room at a halfway house for women rather than the historic inn she assumed she was, but she takes some comfort in knowing these women aren't violent felons, and the house is run under the watchful eye of Viola, a tough, take-no-prisoners-type of woman.

As she settles in, she finds that the fickle nature of the weather takes some getting used to, but she enjoys the relative isolation the town provides her. At the same time, she starts remembering bits and pieces of her kidnapping, which cause her to experience fear and paranoia, and prevent her from the full recovery she desperately needs. But when the local police chief, who knows her real identity (her pen name was how most people knew her), asks for her help looking into a suicide that doesn't quite look like one, it both gives her an opportunity to stay busy, and it forces her to confront some of the fears that sent her into hiding in Alaska.

I really enjoyed Thin Ice and read it in just a few hours. It's a mystery with lots of twists and turns, and while the culprit wasn't quite surprising (although I suspected the heck out of everyone who appeared in the book, which is my usual way with mysteries and thrillers), I love the way Shelton told her story. I'm hoping the cliffhanger-type ending means this is the start of a new series, because I really enjoyed these characters and the small-town setting.

I'm fairly critical of mysteries and thrillers because there are so many out there and many seem to share similar characteristics. Thin Ice hooked me from the get-go, and while it relies more on character development than action and danger, that's perfectly fine. I hope we'll see more of Beth and her fellow citizens of Benedict in the future.

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