Still Life is the sequel to Cold Shot, and as the books focus on a group of friends, my guess is that there will be a few more books in the series. While there were several things that I enjoyed about this story, it also fell into some ruts in places, so overall I’m going with the same rating as I gave the first book in the series – 3.5/5.
The initial mystery in this book is great. It starts with Avery visiting the opening of an art show. Avery used to be a photographer, but was blacklisted (before the events in the first book) because of a controversial political shot. After that, she worked for a while as a crime-scene photographer, which is where we met her in Still Life. However, she felt like her feelings were growing too strong for her employer, Parker (a crime-scene analyst), so since the ending of the last book, she has gone back to doing some free lancing.
At any rate, this art show is one of the first times that she’s reentered the professional photography sphere and she is a bit nervous. But she promised her friend that she would come. Skylar and Avery grew up together, and even though they aren’t as close as they once were, Avery still feels a lot of responsibility for Skylar. While Skylar isn’t an artist, she is the focus of the art show that is getting ready to open, as the photographer used her as his model. Weirdly enough, the artist chose to use a theme wherein he posed his subject as though she had died. Kind of creepy, but artists can be a strange lot.
When Avery gets there, she is surprised that she can’t find Skylar anywhere. But Avery doesn’t really begin to worry until the photographs are revealed – and the artist becomes enraged because not only has someone stolen one of his photographs, it has actually been replaced by another picture of Skylar posing as though she has died… except Avery isn’t convinced that it is actually a pose…
Soon Avery and our friends from Cold Shot (which you definitely need to read before reading this book to really understand the interactions between the main characters) are scampering all over the place trying to put together the clues. And while some of them have jurisdiction over what they are doing, I was sometimes confused about how they would just knock on doors and ask questions and people would just chat it up with them without requesting any kind of proof that these people should be asking these questions.
Then there was this weird secondary plot with a terrorist who snuck into the country illegally on a boat, and that thread just didn’t seem to fit with the Skylar story at all. Instead, it felt like a heavy-handed contrivance so Pettrey could keep setting up another couple for the next book. I found myself mildly aggravated, because with a little more attention, I think that the Skylar mystery could have been much stronger. Like I understand that you want to make characters flow from one story to the next, but I don’t have to be repeatedly told about the confused/conflicted feelings that these other two have for each other just so I’ll understand the next book. Instead, it felt like the other couple was stealing the show from Avery and Parker.
As with Cold Shot, there was more romance/relationship than thriller, which would have been fine if the focus had stayed on Avery and Parker. I think that Still Life would have greatly benefited from focusing on the Skylar mystery and the Avery/Parker relationship, and relegating the build up for the next book to the background. Still, this was a solid read with engaging characters, and I do see myself continuing through the series. The ongoing mystery of what happened to Luke several years ago is being woven into these stories, so I’m hoping for a grand finale tale at some point that will answer all of those questions as well.
My only other issue with this book is the cover art. This one isn’t quite as bad as Cold Shot, but I’m just really not a fan of carrying around a book with a brooding hero on the cover, especially when I felt like the book was actually a lot more about Avery than it was about Parker.
Many thanks to Bethany House, who provided me with a free copy of the book. My sincere apologies for taking so long to get to this review, but life has taken one of those turns for the crazy!