Main antagonist in the book, George Allen Perry, is a fictional serial killer, focusing on young, athletic university students. His signature style is strangling and burying the victims with a red scarf tied around their necks. Perry managed to murder 12 women before finally meeting his match. Fiona Bristow, planned number 13, had a small knife hidden in her jogging pants her fiancé Greg Norwood had given to her. In Perry’s trunk, on the way to her grave, she managed to free her hands and feet, and attacked Perry when he opened the truck. She managed to identify him, had his prints, and yet the FBI only managed to capture him when Perry retaliated by murdering her fiancé and his K9 dog partner, Kong.
Years later, Fiona has moved on. She lives on the quiet island Orcas, in the USA. In memory of Greg, she started up a puppy training school and Search and Rescue unit involving trained canines.
Simon Doyle arrives at the island with an unappreciated gift from his mother. Jaws, his little puppy, take delight in chewing everything except his toys. When Simon finds Fiona and her school, he demands she takes them on as students. They start training Jaws, and his development runs along with his human trainers falling for one another.
Davey, the deputy sheriff, arrives to tell Fiona terrifying news: a copycat serial killer is on the loose. It is obvious Perry is behind it all, since the victims contain trademarks the police never released to the public. Perry refuses to cooperate, claiming ignorance, but investigating Officer Tawney sees the excitement that lurks behind his lifeless eyes. When the victims’ burial sites get closer to Orcas, it is obvious that the final victim will be Fiona, as payment and gratitude to Perry.
Francis Xavier Eckle led a boring, restricted life until he met George Perry. Now, as a trained copycat, he meticulously follows the plans that Perry set out for him. Soon, Perry’s way of killing becomes boring to Eckle, and he starts experimenting different ways to murder his victims. That, and the taunting scarves Eckle leaves Fiona (first in an envelope and then tied around her gate) angers Perry enough to get him to give information on his student.
Kati Starr sees Eckle as her way to journalistic fame. She continuously hounds Fiona for an article, and although ignored and declined, she publishes it along with a photo of Fiona in front of her house. Starr is abducted by Eckle and taken into the woods where Fiona lives, and Fiona and the Search and Rescue team set out to find her before she becomes another victim. Fiona gives her dogs another scent: Eckle’s, and she and Simon set out to find the killer. They finally do, and when Eckle aims to shoot Simon, Fiona shoots him.
With Eckle and Perry both behind bars, Fiona is finally able to live her life with Simon in peace.
I enjoy Roberts’ romantic suspense tales. She continuously researches her topics thoroughly, and the characters are quirky, fun and intelligent. I love how she incorporated animals and their wonderful nature into this book. Serial killers fascinate me, and reading about Perry and Eckle had chills running down my spine. I found Simon a particularly charming male lead, for he had no problem with being moody and brutally honest, and baffled first by his cute dog and then the woman he fell in love with. Fiona is a fun, inspiring character, with a backbone I appreciated – since it is rare to find romantic tales with proper female leads.