Deception Cove by Owen Laukkanen


Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin

Just this week, I read that books with a dog in them are “enchanting” while books where a dog dies are “heart-rending.” Let me assure you that you’ll be safely enchanted with Deception Cove though your heart may swell in the reading.


This story is about a dog, a very particular dog named Lucy, and those determined to destroy her and those bent on saving her. Author Owen Laukkanen knows Lucy well. He adopted her as a six-year-old pit bull who was destined for death in a California kill shelter. She became his muse and found her way onto the page and into our hearts. Like Laukkanen, the two protagonists in this story are bound to Lucy.

Mason Burke has been incarcerated since he was eighteen years old and caught doing the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Part of his work at the Chippewa State Pen was training dogs to become emotional support for veterans with PTSD. When he’s released, all Burke wants to know is if the dog he trained and fell in love with is surviving. He manages to find his way to Deception Cove, a small Pacific Coast town in Washington. There he meets a recently widowed US marine named Jess Winslow whose post-war world revolves around Lucy.


Enter the problem. Winslow’s husband was playing with a bad crowd, stole something he shouldn’t and got himself killed for it. Now, the bad boys, who just happen to be lawmen, have stolen Lucy and are threatening to kill her if she doesn’t give them back their package.

There is no melodrama in this book, just deep-hearted soul that binds us to these wounded characters in their plight to stay alive. On the run with Burke and Lucy from the lawmen who murdered her husband, Jess’s story is revealed through vivid flashbacks. Afghanistan is never far away for Jess and her PTSD doesn’t take a day off. It was Lucy who saved Jess from blowing her head off and now she can’t “look at the shotgun without seeing the lead.” Who steals a war veteran’s therapy dog?

Though a thriller, Deception Cove could also be marketed as romantic suspense. The growing relationship between Burke and Winslow simmers on the page as they race to save Lucy, get the package, and avoid getting killed by some very evil men. These three are characters you want to befriend. The good news is you can. Deception Cove is only the first in this series.

Laukkanen’s voice is rich, slow, and easy, though the story never misses a beat in its relentless pacing. A natural storyteller, he holds us in the palm of his hand as he spins out honest dialogue and superbly paced action in a richly detailed marine environment. Once a commercial fisherman, Laukkanen’s knowledge of boats and the Pacific coast is apparent with the expertise and ease he writes.

If you’re looking for a soulful thriller that you can’t put down, this book is for you. I kept getting drawn to the back cover and the photo of Laukkanen and Lucy. His love for her and for writing translates to the page. “It was on walks together through the city that I rediscovered my love for writing, and so I owe this book to the hound, and so much more besides.” Thank you, Lucy, and thank you, Owen, for this gem. Perfect summer reading.

Deception Cove is published by Mulholland Books.

W. L. Hawkin writes the Hollystone Mysteries (bluehavenpress.com).

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