It can be easy to find fault with the novels of Owen Laukkanen. The critical knock on him, and it's a fair one, has been that his characters tend to be types rather than living, breathing creations, and that they exist in a single dimension as constructions built to be broken to the wheel of his plots. His narratives often fall too far on the wrong side of the show vs. tell divide, with Laukkanen spelling out emotions and motivations that the reader would prefer to have the chance to puzzle out for themselves, thus creating a needlessly distanced reading experience.
All that on-the-nose-ness, however, threatens to overlook something that shouldn't be overlooked: that Laukkanen is a hell of a storyteller. His ideas are often inspired, and his plotting and pacing are light on their feet, and he knows how and where to plant hooks and twists and jack up the stakes for maximum page-turnability. And that's the thriller writer's job above all.
And in DECEPTION COVE, Laukkanen brings the best of his strengths to the table in the debut of a new series featuring characters that stick to the cerebral ribs more than the bland, anodyne heroes of the Stevens-and-Windermere novels that comprised his first series. They come to fully realized life through a powerhouse setup: Mason Burke, convicted of murder even though he never actually killed anyone, is out of prison after fifteen years and wants to reconnect with the only thing that made him feel worthwhile behind bars: Lucy, the pit bull he trained as part of an inmate program. When Mason learns that Lucy is slated to be destroyed after she was impounded from her owner in the coastal town of Deception Cove, Washington, he decides to do what he can to save her. That brings him into the orbit of Jess Winslow, Lucy's owner, a PTSD-afflicted war veteran and new widow; and a cabal of corrupt sheriff's deputies on the hunt for a hidden cache of stolen drugs. In short order, the lives of Mason, Lucy and Jess are thrown into a blender, and, faced with death by law, they make a memorable and inventive final stand on a tiny island off the Washington coast.
In carrying out that ingenious premise, Laukkanen does his job: I never stopped wanting—needing—to know who would live or who would die, psychologically or otherwise. There are better stylists out there, but Laukkanen is nearly without peer at taking a powerful idea, making it plausible, and pounding it through several hundred pages at a galloping pace. DECEPTION COVE is the work of a journeyman storyteller with standout commercial instincts at the height of his powers.
- Hardcover: 372 pages
- Publisher: Mulholland Books (21 May 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316448702
- ISBN-13: 978-0316448703
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.2 x 24.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 590 g
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