The premise of a thriller against the backdrop of the Iditarod sled race is an exciting one. The novel (Sabotaged, 2015) starts strong. Kirra’s cousin Meg is abducted. Kira’s uncle Frank, a musher in the race, is coerced by criminals into doing a mysterious job for them before they will release Meg. Frank is able to tell Kirra and her burgeoning love interest, Reef, what happened to Meg. He wants them to rescue Meg without involving the police.
At first, Kirra and Reef appear to have a testy relationship. The development of the romance between them is fairly predictable, and once it has developed, it unfortunately becomes a bit saccharine. More conflicts or disagreements between the two as they investigate Meg’s abduction may have helped. Though Kirra is nervous about Reef’s trustworthiness early on, he is generally depicted as strong, caring, tenacious, and faithful. Kirra is scarred and impulsive, but he appears to have no faults, and I think because of that I became bored by their romance.
I was prepared to accept the exclusion of the police, but it did bother me after a while. Kirra and Reef virtually become the police, seeking out leads and questioning them like characters are questioned in police procedurals. The detective-style was an interesting but unexpected approach, and to me it almost became more technical than thrilling.
That being said, Dani Pettrey is a gifted writer who has a way with words. The characters are grounded in Christian beliefs which is refreshing compared to other novels these days. The Alaskan Courage series also has great covers, conjuring up a spirit of beautiful outdoor adventure.
I read this book partly because it’s on a Goodreads list called “Fiction: Police, Military & Service Dogs.” It isn’t the fault of Pettrey that the book has been branded by readers this way, but unfortunately the listing (and cover and dust jacket involving the Iditarod) set up an unrealistic expectation for me. I thought the Iditarod and the sled dogs would feature much more prominently in the plot. Growing up in the South and being accustomed to labs and hounds, the idea of huskies and sled dogs always seemed very exotic and compelling to me. I got my hopes up that I would learn something about the dogs of the Iditarod in this novel. There was some information about the race itself, most of the action took place outside the Iditarod trail, and nothing about the dogs.
Oh well. It was still an enjoyable romantic suspense novel if that type of book appeals to you.