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Lone Jack Trail

de Owen Laukkanen

Sèrie: Winslow and Burke (2)

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Lone Jack Trail is an excellent sequel by Owen Laukkanen featuring ex-con Mason Burke, an ex-Marine Jess Winslow, and Lucy, their shared therapy rescue dog. In the first book, they took on the local corrupt police force, and Jess is now the local lawperson. Mason is helping to renovate Jess's house, which was wrecked along with a loner kid he has taken under wing. A local, wealthy hockey hero returns to town having been paroled from prison for a dog fighting conviction, and Mason's disdain is palpable and public (since Lucy was rescued from a dog fighting ring.) When "Bad" Boyd washes up dead on a local beach with a hole in his head, Mason becomes the prime subject, putting Jess in an tenable position. Then, a witness comes forward saying she heard them arguing and the murder weapon is found under the boat where Mason is living. Mason flees, and finds the witness with her throat slashed, bringing in the state police for a manhunt. Initially worried about her judgment, Jess knows Mason would not have killed a witness and sets off to find the culprit and motive, placing herself in grave danger again. 4.5 stars, recommended.

Note: Special thanks to Hatchett Book Group for providing a complimentary copy for me to read. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
4-1/2 stars, actually... fairly good read. A little thin in places, but one of the better books I've read this year. ( )
  ChetBowers | Mar 10, 2021 |
Same Same but Different
Review of the Mulholland Books audiobook edition (2020) released simultaneously with the hardcover

I really enjoyed Owen Laukkanen's first Neah Bay/Burke & Winslow thriller Deception Cove (2019). Admittedly that was largely due to my being a sucker for great dog stories and pitbull mix Lucy, the rescue dog turned emotional support animal, was therefore a big part of that. Lucy played the role of bringing ex-con Mason Burke together with PTSD survivor ex-Marine Jess Winslow. Note also that Lone Jack Trail is often a spoiler for events in Deception Cove so it is best to read the latter as your first outing if you are interested.

Lone Jack Trail felt somewhat limited by its environment, in that how many far-reaching conspiracies can there be in a small coastal community within the space of a few months? Here we have good-guy redeemed convict Burke framed for a crime by unknown forces and of course Winslow (with Lucy still there, yeah!) setting out to prove his innocence despite the evidence stacked against him. It of course leads to another showdown. Still, I love these characters and I hope Laukkanen continues with them. A small town mystery would be ideal, it doesn't have to be a major conspiracy every time.

The narration by Courtney Patterson (female voices) and Kevin Stillwell (male voices) was excellent. The same narrators were also the performers in the Deception Cove audiobook. ( )
  alanteder | Dec 4, 2020 |

A veteran Marine and an ex-convict find themselves on opposite sides of the law in this propulsive new thriller from award-nominated suspense master and "damn fine storyteller" Owen Laukkanen (Kirkus Reviews).

Could your closest friend be a killer?

When a body washes up outside Deception Cove, Washington, Jess Winslow-once a US Marine, now a trainee sheriff's deputy-is assigned to investigate. But when she realizes it's "Bad" Brock Boyd, a hometown celebrity lately fallen from grace, things become complicated. The last person seen with Boyd was her own boyfriend, Mason Burke.

An ex-convict and newcomer in town, Mason is one of the only people who can understand Jess's haunting memories of her time in Afghanistan-and her love for Lucy, her devoted service dog. Finding one another in Deception Cove has been the best thing to happen to either of them in years. So Jess knows Mason could never be guilty of murder-doesn't she?

As the facts of the case point ever more squarely at Mason, Jess must face that everything she thinks she knows about him might be wrong. A thrilling sequel to Deception Cove, and a heart-pounding adventure all its own, Lone Jack Trail pushes Jess and Mason to a shocking confrontation and will test everything they've come to love and trust in Deception Cove.
My take....

Second time around for me with Owen Laukkanen and his small Deception Cove community and main characters Mason Burke and Jess Winslow. Here, the fledgling friendship-cum-romance is put under extra strain when Mason is accused of the murder of another ex-con, the hometown celebrity Brock Boyd. Boyd has a bullet in his head and Mason still has the cuts and bruises from their very public brawl days before Boyd's death. When a witness puts the two together and the gun used in the killing is found near Mason's boat, Burke moves from a person of interest to chief suspect. His close proximity to another suspicious death cements that opinion in the minds of most of the on scene law enforcement and the locals, especially when his past his taken into consideration.

There's a lot to savour here, in particular the dynamics of the relationship between our two baggage-laden, lead characters (plus the dog they kind of share). Mason is an ex-con who owns his crime and is trying to forge a future with Jess and Lucy, the pitbull he trained while inside. In fact, despite fifteen years incarcerated, Mason is actually quite well-adjusted. He likes/loves Jess, but is enough of a gentleman to go at Jess's pace and to walk away if she decides there's no future for them as friends or a couple. Jess has her own demons. She's a PTSD suffering veteran and a widow to boot. She has trust issues and few people that she lets into her life. Jess is now in the unenviable position of juggling her job as local police with the fact that the man she may/may not be considering a future with, may/may not be guilty of a couple of homicides.

Lone Jack Trail - other main plus points ...... a decent pace without seeming rushed; a couple of murders to unravel; relationship troubles; some backstory to the first victim and our main characters, which serves well for those who might not have read the first in the series, but doesn't feel like deja-vous for someone who had; a decent support cast - eg. Rengo, Burke's only friend and another outsider, as a man living on the fringes of the community - and the sheriff and the other officers in the small town police force (names elude me); a man on the run and a manhunt; a conspiracy; some low level criminals - thinking bigger or not thinking at all; an amateur investigation, as well as an official one; a fistfight; a plausible motive for our crimes - initial and subsequent; a showdown and shoot out; an escape and a pursuit and a decent resolution.

Excitement, tension, action, interesting setting and a bit of a slow burner love story as the two main protagonists try and figure out if they have a future together or not.

Negatives - nothing especially. Maybe a slight stretch of disbelief as our man escapes arrest by an impulsive swim, though I suppose it wasn't totally outlandish. Far better than a convenient jet ski.

One other piece which kind of distracted me was the naming of some of the supporting characters, a few of which must have featured unnoticed in the first book of the series. I don't know whether I liked this element or not to be honest. I might be over-thinking things but I spotted ..... Joe Clifford, Ed Aymar, a Pruitt, a Winslow, a Mason, a Harper (or was it Jordan), a Hart (maybe), a Fetridge (a hat-tip to John Mc perhaps?)....... maybe some more, or maybe I just read too much crime fiction and everything in my brain just loops and circles back to other authors I've encountered? On balance, I think I liked this element, there's too many examples for it to be pure coincidence.

Overall 4.5 from 5

I'll be keen to see a third outing in the same setting with the same cast of characters, should the author choose to write one. In the meantime I have some of his earlier books on the shelf unread that ought to be given an airing. Deception Cove is the only other book I've read from Owen Laukkanen thus far.

Read - October, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 306
Source - Net Galley review copy
Format - ePUB read on laptop ( )
  col2910 | Nov 3, 2020 |
I absolutely adored last year’s Deception Cove by Owen Laukkanen, so I was both thrilled and apprehensive to read the follow-up thriller. Thrilled, because I was gifted a copy of the book by the publisher and because I was in the mood for a good thriller. Apprehensive, because of the what-if that haunts the pre-reading of a sequel: what if the sequel isn’t as good as the first book? What if the sequel ruins everything that I loved about book one? What if, what if, what if–

I shouldn’t have worried. I loved Lone Jack Trail just as much as Deception Cove!

While this is a sequel, you can read the book as a standalone. At the same time, Lone Jack Trail does reference the events in Deception Cove quite a bit and builds on the relationships and conflicts there. It’s probably best to read Deception Cove first.

This book hit the sweet spot for me. It’s compulsively readable, with well-developed characters, a setting that shapes the story, and tension that doesn’t abate until the final page. Throw in an adorable dog named Lucy, and it’s a winner. I was enjoying the story so much that it was hard to remember I was reading to review it.

The Protagonists

Opening the pages of this book, it felt like I was meeting old friends. Jess and Mason feel like real people. While they love each other, there’s tension between them about where their relationship is going.

Both have a violent past. Mason’s an ex-con who served time for murder, Jess is an ex-Marine who served her country and wound up mentally broken. Both struggle to overcome the past with mixed success. He’s worried that he’ll always and only be a killer, especially as the locals shun him for his past actions. Aside from Jess, Lucy, and a young kid named Rengo, his mentee (and an interesting character himself), he doesn’t have friends.

Jess also has something to prove. She’s a trainee deputy, finding her way as law enforcement in a county that’s still overrun by the corruption. She might be a tough ex-Marine, but she’s still vulnerable to flashbacks to the horrors of war.

Laukkanen does a terrific job of creating a sense of who these people (and dog) are and what makes them tick. Sure, they make bad decisions. They’re human and humans tend to make bad decisions for bad reasons. Or good decisions for good reasons. Or bad decisions for good reasons, or vice versa.

The Antagonists

The antagonists feel human, too. While their actions are clearly wrong, they have well-developed motives, ones that become understandable, even sympathetic, as the story unfolds. I could identify with people like Jana and Dex and Logger even when I didn’t particularly want to. Who hasn’t wanted revenge? Who hasn’t lied? Who hasn’t made a mistake and then compounded that mistake with a bigger one? Laukkanen’s characters span the scope of humanity. There’s everything from the bad-to-the-bone victim, to the troubled ex-Marine, to the weary sheriff, to the ex-con striving for redemption and fearing he’ll never get it.

The action might be a tad predictable. The outcome was never truly in doubt for me.

The Reading Experience

But at the same time, the story unfolds with such rich detail that it completely absorbed my imagination. I felt like I was riding shotgun with Jess and Mason, with Lucy sitting on my lap, thumping her tail and licking my face when she wasn’t sniffing the smorgasbord of aromas outside the window.

I heard the fired gunshots, shivered in the cold alongside Mason when he runs, smelled the chemicals lingering in a former meth lab.

I was there when the harsh landscape became as formidable a foe as any killer.

And I enjoyed every moment.

The Hope of Redemption

For these characters, redemption comes drenched in beauty and heartache and blood. Laukkanen doesn’t flinch from portraying evil, but he does so in a way that offers hope of something better. People can be rescued; people can change. You can move forward from a dark past and work for a better future. He gives us glimpses of grace in the midst of the harsh and unforgiving Makah Bay county, and he does so in a thrilling, satisfying way.

Lone Jack Trail fully lived up to my expectations, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here. It is a haunting, thrilling story. Read it. You won’t regret it.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. ( )
  MeredithRankin | Sep 18, 2020 |
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