Book Reviews

Book Review: Alive and Killing by Jeff Carson

David Wolf is the sheriff of a Colorado resort town. He’s trying to take a few days for himself and get away on a camping trip with his son when things go remarkably wrong. He deliberately chooses a rarely used, relatively unknown trail in the mountains to a spot he knows. As they are hiking along the trail, they meet up with another hiker acting strangely. David’s intuition puts him on edge after that encounter.

The two end up in a confrontation with armed men from which they must escape. David must protect his son and get back to their vehicle, now far away on the mountain. There’s no cell service in such a remote location, so he’s on his own. His military training kicks in and they escape, although he is shot along the way. Once down the mountain, there’s an extensive manhunt for the men David saw, but nothing turns up.

The FBI arrives to investigate in the form of Agent Kristen Luke. As the two try to figure out what’s going on, David realizes that both he and his son are still in danger. Someone who should be dead is still alive, and there’s a personal tie to Kristen in the case.

Having read a number of these former-military-turned-cop thrillers lately, I have a good appreciation for this one. Carson has written a character that I’ve seen before (many times) but he’s not a “Superman” type of character. David is smart and cunning, but he’s not perfect and he does manage to make a few mistakes along the way. At the same time, this makes him all the more a believable character. He’s trying to manage a small police force while trying to investigate exactly what happened up in the mountains. At the same time, there’s a big music festival about to happen that also needs his attention and that of his deputies.

Carson brings along some of the stories from the first two books in the series, but it’s not necessary to read them to enjoy this. I personally enjoy books that have a sense of real-life – that things happen or come up that will resonate later on. It’s much better than a self-contained story where everyone forgets everything that happened in the next story. There’s some small-town political intrigue here, although not as much as in the first books in the series. It makes for a multi-dimensional story that works on many levels.

The suspense in the book is really good. Things are revealed without it being overkill. Carson really gets a natural progression of events here that doesn’t feel forced, nor is there a moment of an “information dump.” The flow is excellent and well-paced. The budding romance between David and Kristen doesn’t feel forced or rushed; they both know they have jobs to do first and foremost.

By the third book in a series, I can usually figure out whether a series is worth sticking with, and I feel this one is. Carson definitely has promise as a mystery/thriller writer and the story here is excellent. I liked it much better than the first one in the series which felt like there was too much going on and not as much depth as it needed. Carson found a good pace and has developed the characters well. It’s a solid effort I can recommend if you like these types of suspenseful thrillers.

Previous book in the series (link): The Silversmith by Jeff Carson

Next book in the series (link): Deadly Conditions by Jeff Carson

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