Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I’m kind of biased to like this book to begin with as it TAKES PLACE IN CANADA, OMG. Seriously, Harlequin, I’ve read two books set in Canada from you guys in the last couple years. Can we get some more Can-Con up in here, already? Are there no opportunities to have Canadian cops/ex-military/CEOs/playboys/cowboys/insert hero trope here?
Also, I’ll admit to a
slight bias for angsty law-enforcement types. This may or may not have something to do with
Jack Bauer being my TV boyfriend
my being a fan of a few suspense/mystery series featuring that type.
So with that out in the open, let’s move on to what other people should like about the book, shall we?
RCMP Staff Sergeant Gabe Caruso hasn’t been the same since his fiancee was murdered by a serial killer he captured a year before. Still dealing with the guilt and grief, he accepts a posting to the remote Yukon town of Black Arrow Falls, where he meets Silver Karvonen, expert tracker and owner of a hunting lodge. Silver has her own emotional trauma that she’s still dealing with, but more importantly when it comes to the new Mountie in town, she has secrets to hide. Secrets that might not stay that way for very long when the killer from Gabe’s past comes looking for revenge, and when Silver and Gabe realize there’s a strong attraction between them.
I initially found out about Manhunter from a review on Dear Author, and it was one of the first books I got as soon as the Reader arrived. Holy damn, am I ever glad I did, because I literally could not put this one down. Tightly plotted, with interesting characters, it packs a pretty good punch for something that runs about 370 pages in the Sony ebook format.
The best part of the characters is the balance that White manages with them, the layers that give them life. Gabe is haunted by his responsibility in what happened a year earlier, but doesn’t wallow in it. Not only did he take the posting in Black Arrow Falls to get away from places that held memories for him, he also did it because of feelings of anger from that day that still linger, still scare him and make him unable to trust that he wouldn’t take it out on someone else if he stayed with the homicide squad down south.
Silver keeps many people at a distance, and Gabe in particular, but doesn’t tip over into bitchy to do so. She holds back from him for reasons that are completely believable when we find them out, but not so much that we want her to just drop the attitude already and make with the snogging. She’s strong, capable, and an expert in her field.
But even better is when the two characters come together. From about mid-way through the book, they’re a team, equals, with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are a couple cases where their stubborn pride gets in the way of doing what the person who knows their shit tells them to do, and while it sometimes starts heading toward TSTL territory (Gabe, when Silver tells you to back away from an angry bear, you back the fuck away), it never quite reaches it. While a little annoying, it stays within the realm of “this is what a real, pigheaded person would do”. Their arguments are resolved fairly quickly, and when Gabe finally learns Silver’s secret, he doesn’t shrug it off or condemn her off the bat. And it’s a real secret with some possible consequences, not some pansy-ass secret that makes you roll your eyes.
White’s descriptions of the setting are also well done, evoking the setting in a way that allows the reader to see the setting and the action clearly in their mind’s eye. She also uses it well to ramp up the tension, as a winter snowstorm traps the town’s inhabitants with the killer, cutting them off from the outside world.
And the tension, she does get ramped. I was reading the climax on lunch at work and was very reluctant to turn off the reader and get back to work. For a book with a shorter word count, the suspense plot is relatively straightforward, and most importantly, isn’t really separate from the romantic plot; each one drives the other.
Now okay, you’re probably wondering if I’m going to say anything negative at all about this book. I mean come on, it can’t be perfect, right? Well…it’s close? I mean, like I said, there are a few spots where the romantic leads can do some things that verge on TSTL. Probably thanks to the short word count, we don’t really get to see much of any of the other characters with any real depth, which would help if this is going to be a series (*makes beggy eyes*). And okay, a little bit of the setup is, well, kinda like Nora Roberts’ Northern Lights (which I also loved). Though the “cop with trauma moving to small town” is kind of a common trope to start with.
But other than that, seriously, love this book. I reread it in preparation for the review and gobbled it up yet again. I’d even recommend it to those who don’t usually like romantic suspense. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m giving this one an A.
Now can we get some more Canadian boys over here, Harlequin? I mean come on, we’re not all frozen wilderness.