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Monday, September 27, 2010

Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming by Paula Graves

Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming by Paula Graves
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Poppy

What was supposed to be a quiet vacation in scenic Wyoming turned deadly when Hannah Cooper became the target of a serial killer. Although she survived the attack, the ordeal was far from over. But she wasn't alone. Not when Riley Patterson appointed himself her protector.

Beneath Riley's strapping, solemn exterior hid a hard-driving sheriff who would stop at nothing to catch a killer. He promised Hannah safety, but it was the danger he posed that drew her in. Riley was as much a mystery as the man who sought to take her life. Trapped on his ranch, with no one but each other to trust, only justice could set them free...and possibly separate them forever.

I couldn’t wait to dive into this first official book in the Cooper Justice series! I’d met Riley, our hero, in the book Cowboy Alibi and was intrigued. That he got his own story thrilled me to the bone. He was obviously tortured, sad and lonely... a widower whose beloved wife was taken from him in an unsolved, violent crime.

When Hannah Cooper is attacked in a way that mirrors Riley’s wife’s death, he inserts himself into the case. Unfortunately, the trauma from the vicious attack on Hannah makes her memory of details a little blurry, but she’s determined to remember anything she can to help find the man who tried to kidnap and murder her.

After another attempt on her life, in the hospital no less, it’s determined that the safest place for her is to hide out on Riley’s ranch. He’s not officially part of the investigation, and the killer shouldn’t find her there.

Hannah is one of the strongest heroines I’ve read about in some time. It might stem from being the only girl in a large family otherwise populated by men. Whatever the reason, she was an admirable heroine, and one I wouldn’t mind my own daughter emulating. When she’s attacked, she never gives up. When she’s threatened again, she stands strong despite being afraid. She does what needs doing and takes reasonable risks to help catch a killer.

Riley is the perfect tortured hero. For three long years he’s put his life on hold in order to find out who killed his wife, Emily. He loved her beyond belief, and finds it hard to believe that he’ll ever feel the same about another woman... until he meets Hannah. A recurring theme throughout the book is the fact that Hannah, while very different than Emily, is someone the dead woman would have liked and admired. I appreciated that the author let the hero and his friends and family address the issue of his wife in a realistic fashion. It wasn’t tortuous, it was something that slowly emerged and the process seemed cathartic to both Riley and others in the story.

I wasn’t overly enthused by the short forays we made into the killer’s point of view. I don’t know that it strengthened the story and, though I think they were used to increase the feeling of peril to Hannah for the reader, it didn’t feel totally authentic and made him out to feel a bit like a caricature. Still, he ended up being a worthy opponent, smart, sneaky and determined as well as ruthless.

With a heart-stopping finale and a fabulous resolution to the romance, Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming is a incredible beginning to what promises to be another stupendous series by Paula Graves.