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Book Scene: Clever mystery makes Cascades a character

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cascade killer

I met Rob Phillips a few weeks ago. He had on a mask. So I might not be able to recognize him on the street after COVID-19.

I have, however, read his Yakima Herald Republic column for years. I like the comfortable way he writes, never exuding the expert outdoorsman vibe that keeps others from wanting to participate in woodsy exploration. His writing is inviting and includes the reader in his adventures. He loves dogs, too, a fine character quality if you ask me.

Rob wondered if Inklings might be willing to stock his book and he left our staff a reading copy. When I told him we would be honored to stock it, he brought in an armful of books and a nice display to get us started.

We’ve refilled the display four times and I’ve made another order for 30 more.

Rob is a guy who has made the most of this hunker-down time. He wrote a book! What did you do? I played Words with Friends, cooked and ate things. Rob redeemed the time by turning out a clever mystery firmly set in the mountains and valleys near Yakima, a region he knows very well.

I don’t usually read mysteries. Not counting the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew stories of my girlhood, I’ve probably only read five or so. I have never enjoyed being terrified, so when I picked up Rob’s book with a bit of trepidation, I was drawn mostly to the setting: the Cascades that I love. I had a feeling that the experience of the author would provide a realistic picture of what can happen in the forest, and I could either overlook the scariest parts or stop reading altogether.

The prologue hooked me. A father and son were bear hunting one spring day. The son got his bear, but they got a whole lot more than that.

There is witty and realistic dialogue, familiar places that I can picture on almost every page, and even a little romance. I stayed up way too late to finish the story and trace the creepy villain along rivers and forest service roads after smelling a few red herrings. This is a good, solid story, told by a guy who knows bears, bad guys and biology.

I really enjoyed reading Rob’s first book. He is working on another in the Luke McCain series, and if you remember “The Rifleman,” a TV show from the 1950s and ’60s starring Chuck Connors, you’ll recognize the name Lucas McCain. This is just one of the cultural and geographic surprises you will find in “Cascade Killer.” This book felt like we were gathered around a campfire hearing a scary tale from a nice guy. Just the right amount of scary. Your dad and grandpa will be happy to find this one under the tree, and I bet we can get you an autographed copy.

• “Cascade Killer: A Luke McCain Novel” by Rob Phillips was published by Latah Books. It retails for $16.75.

• Susan Richmond is the owner of Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space every week.

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