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DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen: Book Review

Former U. S. Marine Jess Winslow has returned home after three tours in Afghanistan, but that country won’t let go of her.  Jess received a medical discharge due to PTSD, a condition caused by her blaming herself for failing to save the life of an Afghani woman who was aiding the Marines in their fight against the Taliban.

She has come back to Deception Cove, Washington, the town she was raised in, but there’s nothing left for her there.  Her brief marriage to her high school sweetheart Ty was basically over when she re-upped for her third and final tour; by the time she returned home she was a widow, Ty having been drowned while on his fishing boat.

Given Jess’ lack of family and the loneliness she feels in Deception Cove, the only positive in her life is Lucy, the “comfort dog” the Corps allowed her to take home.  Lucy has literally been a life-saver, sensitive to Jess’ despair and depression, perhaps the only reason Jess has not taken her own life during one of the many flashbacks she continues to endure.

More than a thousand miles to the east, Mason Burke has just been released from jail at the end of a fifteen-year sentence for murder, a crime committed when he was a juvenile.  The only positive thing in his life was that same dog, the one he trained under the auspices of Rover’s Redemption, a dog-training program that encourages rehabilitation of prisoners.

Mason’s first goal upon gaining his freedom is to find out that Lucy is alive and well with her new owner, and he is disbelieving when the woman he speaks to at Redemption tells him that Lucy attacked someone and is about to be destroyed.  From the background on an old photo of the dog that was sent to him while he was imprisoned, he manages to read the name of the town where Lucy was sent–Deception Cove, Washington.

In Mason’s heart he knows that Lucy would never have bitten anyone without strong provocation.  He borrows two thousand dollars from his sister, his only surviving relative, and begins the trek to find the dog, not to reclaim her but to get to the truth of why she attacked someone and hopefully to rescue her from death.

The man Lucy bit is Deception Cove’s sheriff, Kirby Harwood.  He had come to Jess’ cottage shortly before the novel opens, determined to find something he said Jess’ late husband had hidden.  Jess told him she knows nothing about this, but Kirby didn’t believe her and moved towards her as if to attack.  The dog then bit him, and the next morning the sheriff and his deputies came to take Lucy away to have her put down.

Now Mason has arrived in the Cove, going to Jess’ place and telling her why he’s made the trip west.  After hearing her story, he’s determined to rescue Lucy, and together he and Jess start out on an adventure that will become life-threatening for both of them.

Deception Cove is pure thriller, with the suspense escalating from page to page.  Owen Laukkanen, who writes both outstanding stand-alones and a wonderful series about Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Carla Windermere of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has written another mystery with an exciting plot and believable characters.

You can read more about Owen Laukkanen at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.