G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 496 pages, $9.99 (c2017)
“Burning Bright” picks up the adventures of Peter Ash, honorably discharged military vet and PTSD sufferer. Because Peter cannot be in enclosed spaces for very long, he lives in the great outdoors, getting by with infrequent contacts with civilization, a combat-weary Thoreau. One day a bear crosses his path, sending Peter up a tree. Bears can climb, but apparently Peter’s discarded backpack sufficed to keep the bear earthbound. There was nowhere for Peter to go but up and outward, which is what he did. Astoundingly, he found traces of prior habitation in the treetops and, more significantly, equipment to help him navigate the world created on the tiptop of the forest. That’s when Peter meets June. She’s on the run from nasty people, some of whom try to shoot her (and Peter) down out of the trees.
And that’s how the book begins. It barely gives you time to draw a breath before rip-roaring onto the next dangerous encounter.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve read the first book in the Peter Ash series, “The Drifter,” because “Burning Bright” stands adequately by itself. However, if you want to learn more about the mysterious Lewis, the deadly sidekick in the footsteps of other great sidekicks — think Mouse, think Hawk, think Joe Pike — you would do well to start there.
When Peter met June. When Peter met June the world became a much wider place. Who or what is after June and what for? Her mother had just been murdered by a hit-and-run driver. It turns out she was a formidable computer programmer on the verge of creating a genuine AI. But had she succeeded before she was killed? June is trying to find out, while keeping the kidnappers/killers from catching up with her.
There are memorable characters to be met along the way: Shepherd, the assassin; Yeti, the looming, dark presence who could be the key to everything that’s happened to June. Author Nick Petrie keeps the action rolling but also keeps his eye on making his characters three-dimensional. Peter seems grateful for any joy that unexpectedly crosses his path and for steadfast friendships. It’s hard not to root for him both to find his way out of the pickle he’s in and to find peace.
“Burning Bright” drops from the tree tops to trips through the Pacific Northwest to finding an isolated compound in the mountains. It’s not a travelogue, however, but it did make me wonder what the view would be like from the tallest tree in the forest.