Monday, December 30, 2019

The lovely and the lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Kira is a survivor, her earliest memories are of living in the woods as a child, and her past has left scars - physical and emotional.  Years of patient support and acceptance from her foster mother Cady has enabled Kira to reenter society and find a place in it, even though at times her earliest survival skills take over making it difficult to fit in with everyone else.  The only time Kira feels truly understood is when she works with the search and rescue dogs that Cady trains, and with her own dog Saskia.  Life has a certain pattern and flow as Kira trains Saskia, and when they train with her foster brother Jude and neighbour Free.  The past occasionally intrudes, but she has it mostly under control as she focuses on turning 18 - once she is 18 she and Saskia can take the test to become a search and rescue team in their own right, a test that Cady thinks Saskia will fail.

Life has a certain flow and rhythm - one that is severely disrupted when Cady's estranged father turns up out of the blue and asks for her help with a missing child.  In asking for Cady's help, Bales Bennett is opening old wounds - not just for Cady, but as it turns out, also for Kira.  Along with Jude and Free and their dogs, Kira and Saskia find themselves working alongside other search and rescue teams in the Sierra Glades National Park.  It is challenging work, especially when the local Sheriff has made it clear he doesn't think teenagers belong on the front lines - unstable ones like Kira, and her unstable dog Saskia in particular.  As the search for the missing child draws out Kira will have to face increasingly unsettled feelings and force herself to face memories that are increasingly bubbling to the surface.  As secrets are slowly revealed it is all Kira can do to hold onto her humanity - but her instincts and survival skills may be the only thing that can save them all.

I always look forward to new books by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, not only because they are well written and have a great deal of depth and layers, but also because you very quickly connect with the characters and what they are going through.  I have a great deal of respect for working dogs and their handlers, and have been reading the Rider Creed series by Alex Kava for the past few years and so I was curious what this book would be like in comparison - and ended up finishing the whole thing in an afternoon because I didn't want to put it down!  Kira is a beautifully damaged soul, and it was not difficult to have sympathy for her while also admiring her personal strength and courage, and the courage of her foster family and the empathy and compassion they showed her.  Her foster mom and brother are clearly her pack, as is her friend and neighbour Free - as are the dogs that make up the rest of her pack/family.  

On top of all the amazing character development, there was an equally engaging and artfully developed story that kept you guessing what was happening as you slowly peeled back the layers chapter by chapter - usually through the eyes of Kira as she discovered a new secret or aspect of a persons personality.  There were no clich√© story book villains, or men in black hats, everyone was a rounded personality with their flaws, faults, and finer points.  There are discoveries along the way that help you uncover hints and clues, and while my guess about whodunnit was right, that is partly because I read so many crime novels and thrillers, and the unveiling was in no way a disappointment.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Kira and her story and while this seems to be a standalone novel I can't help but hope that this isn't the last we have seen of Kira and her human and canine family because it is on par with the Rider Creed series and it would somewhat gratifying to spend more time in their company.

If you like this book then try:
  • Little white lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • In another life by C.C. Hunter
  • Holding smoke by Elle Cosimano
  • Nearly gone by Elle Cosimano
  • The stranger game by Cylin Busby
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Lost girls by Merrie Destefano
  • Nickel plated by Aric Davis
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong
  • What waits in the woods by Kieran Scott
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

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