Dani Pettrey is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read every one of her books and blogged about most. Her Alaskan Courage series was sterling in every way. As a result, I’ve been greatly anticipating her books in her second series, Chesapeake Valor. The first book, Cold Shot, met my expectations (http://bit.ly/1jYDQvT) as you can read on my December 14, 2015, posting.
All that to say I was a bit disappointed in Still Life, the second book in the series. Not with the story, which was eerie and dark and entertaining, but with the characters. I was totally confused at the profusion of characters and who belonged with whom. Dani’s books involve mystery and romance, and Still Life was definitely a mystery. I would suggest a Cast of Characters at the beginning of each of these novels unless the back story from proceeding books is better explained. I also thought the start was a bit slow.
Still Life focuses on Avery Tate, a crime-scene photographer who has been blacklisted by the Baltimore photographic community after one of her pictures proved a rape had occurred. She goes to a gallery showing in support of bestie from her childhood, Skylar, but Skylar never shows up. Worse yet, Gerard, the photographer with the show, denies the picture of Skylar was taken by him—and Avery is frightened as the picture makes Skylar look dead.
Taking the picture to secure any evidence, Avery calls Parker Mitchell, the crime-scene analyst she had worked with—and fallen in love with—six months before. Parker is the best and comes immediately to her aid. Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement start trying to figure out the case and what has happened to Skylar. Here’s where the confusion begins because the story assumes we know the characters and their pasts. In addition to the mystery about Skylar, there’s a terrorist, illegally transported refugees, and blackmail involved—the different sets of characters handle the different sub-plots. And there are twists and turns and linkages aplenty.
Eventually, I ignored the subplots and concentrated on Avery and Parker and their blossoming feelings for each other—Parker is hung up on an old girlfriend, who had been murdered, and isn’t sure he can give his total love and allegiance to another. Avery is hung up on her past, even though she’s become a Christian and knows her past has been forgiven. Their story matures and I found them both sympathetic and real characters. The other characters—not so much. Yet, I’ll recommend Still Life IF you read Cold Shot first. This is not a series where the books can stand alone, and for that reason, three and a half stars.
Dani Pettrey writes inspirational romantic suspense and has been honored with several awards for books in her Alaskan Courage series: the Daphne DuMaurier Award, two HOLT medallions, two National Reader’s Choice Awards among others. She and her husband reside in Maryland where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and two adorable grandsons. More info is available at danipettrey.com.
Bethany House, a Division of Baker books, gave me a complimentary copy of Still Life, but I was in no way obligated to write a favorable review.