Iris Johansen and I have a love/hate relationship. If you're not familiar with her, she writes thrillers with paranormal elements. Normally, I like both of those things. About half of the time, when I pick up one of her books, I get a day or two of brain candy out of it. Sometimes, however, I pick up a Johansen book only to put it down in disgust 50 pages in. Not disgust like "Ewww, this is gory!", but disgust like "How can she think I'm dumb enough to believe that?!?" It's the brain candy that makes me keep trying (that, and the fact that my mother reads her so I get her books for free!)
Luckily for me, Dark Summer (2008) is like a giant Hershey kiss! Devon Brady is a devoted veterinarian, working a search and rescue mission after and earthquake on an island in the Caribbean (eerie coincidence!) with her dog, Gracie, when a mysterious stranger arrives carrying a wounded dog. Marrok, the stranger, leaves the dog in Devon's care, and disappears. Devon is forced to take the dog back to the states with her (a dog who is healing at a suspiciously rapid rate!). Before Marrok can come and get his dog, Devon's quiet small-town life is shattered when gunmen kill two of her friends, and force he to go on the run with Marrok and his dog. The secrets that Devon learns about the dogs, and Marrok, will change her life forever.
The novel is suspenseful, and the action well-paced. Devon as a character is pretty believable, and the Marrok character is one of those brooding men "with a past" that so many women seem to find intriguing in fiction. What makes the book, though, is the author's obvious love for dogs. The book is full of dogs-beautiful, smart, loyal, special dogs. Very quickly I found myself willing to do very nasty things to anyone who wanted to hurt the dogs-and yes, I knew they were fictional. But I didn't want them to be, which is perhaps one of the greatest compliments that a reader can give an author. Anyone who knows and loves dogs can completely believe the "superpower" that Johansen gives them could be real, which brought an authenticity to the story that you ordinarily don't get out of fantasy/science fiction, which is sort of what this book is. There is the inevitable romance between Devon and Marrok, which I sometimes find distracts from the story, but it fit here. This is a good summer read!