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Inferno Mass Market Paperback – December 19, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
A serial arsonist ignites Harper's latest romantic thriller, the engaging story of a manhunt in a mountain logging community. Lauren Taylor is a bush pilot and single mom working out of her rural hometown of Vermillion, Mont., widowed two summers earlier when her husband died fighting a local wildfire. When a newcomer, Evan Durand, arrives in Vermillion, Lauren is sure she recognizes him as the Boy Next Door Arsonist she has read about in the papers, a deranged, egomaniacal killer wanted by the FBI. Lauren relays her suspicions to a federal hotline, and FBI arson investigator Brad Hale arrives to check out the scene. Soon the two are working together in a race to stop over-the-top Durand from carrying out his next explosive plot. Lauren and Brad are full, appealing characters who are easy to care for, and their growing mutual attraction feels organic and unforced. Harper keeps tension high as the insane villain cleverly evades efforts to capture him. And Harper really shines in the final act, providing readers with a satisfying and exciting denouement. Harper is also the author of The Hooded Hawke (Mystery, p. 36). (Jan.)
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"Harper has a fantastic flair for creating and sustaining suspense." -- Publishers Weekly
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Lauren Taylor and her young son, Nicky, live alone in the small town of Vermillion, Montana where Lauren makes her living flying a small Cessna, ferrying people in and out of town to the larger settlement of Kalispell. Lauren's husband and his partner were killed two years ago fighting a fire which Lauren always believed was suspicious as her husband was a well-trained fire specialist.
One day she flies a stranger into her isolated hometown but little does she know that she may be responsible for the fires being set in Vermillion which eventually become a raging inferno!
FBI agent Brad Hale hesitantly flies into Vermillion after Lauren phones in her suspicions, but Laura seemed so intent on the phone that agent Hale couldn't refuse her. After his arrival, Lauren's young son Nicky goes missing which turn the tables for agent Hale. Perhaps Ms. Taylor is right about the stranger she flew into Vermillion?
Together, agent Hale and Lauren set out to find the mysterious stranger who seems to have literally disappeared but little do they realize that they themselves may be caught in the raging inferno!
I would highly recommend this novel to anyone. Karen Harper is a skilled author who knows how to build characters and has the ability to keep the suspense going, only releasing a small clue at a time making you want to keep going headlong into the story.
Karen Harper does a good job building suspense (and relationships) throughout the book, creating a truly destructive and horrible antagonist in Evan Durand, "The Boy Next Door" arsonist. Brad, the FBI arson specialist on the case, is earnest and brings his own baggage, and Lauren, a widow who lives with her son in the isolated community of Vermillion, MT after her husband was killed in a wildfire in California, behaves in a, I believe, fairly realistic manner when faced with danger to herself and her son - which is to say, she doesn't become hysterical, weeping and wailing and running around in circles; she plans out what to do and she does it, no matter how scared she may be. She was a good character and I enjoyed, overall, this book.
Now, the reason I marked this 4 stars rather than 5 (you can skip this paragraph if you prefer to avoid semantics). Ms. Harper may have enjoyed her sojourn into the mountains of Montana, but she didn't spend much time getting to know the people if she thinks that women in Montana are going to freak out over the sight of a man carrying a gun. More than likely, they will be carrying a revolver or pistol of their own. It's just the way things are in Montana, and especially in a community that is a) as isolated as Vermillion is described and b) in an area where one is likely to run into ... shall we say - somewhat hostile wildlife, such as bears, mountain lions and/or rattlesnakes. You simply do not run about unarmed up there. Secondly, she may or may not have actually spent time riding in a small aircraft, I don't know, but I can wager she did not try sticking her arm out the window to find out exactly why Brad didn't stick his arm out to wave at Red before dropping his package out of the airplane. My brother is a pilot and several times I've flown in his 2-seater Taylorcraft with the doors off ... and forgotten myself and tried to wave at someone on the ground. The airspeed will just about rip your arm off, and that's at fairly low velocity. </end semantics>
Small details, perhaps, you may say - but as someone who grew up in Montana and has experienced some of the things written about - I just feel it is best to set the record straight. That will not stop me from recommending this book to anyone who likes a good suspense novel with a dollop of romance on the side.