Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Sophia Rose Reviews: The First Death by Kendra Elliot

Today Sophia Rose returns with her review of, The First Death, #4 in Kendra Elliot's Columbia River series that releases today!

The First Death by Kendra Elliot

#4 Columbia River

Romantic Suspense

Publisher:  Montlake

Published:  6.13.23

Pages:  313

Rating: 5 stars

Format: eARC

Source:  NetGalley

Sellers:  Amazon

ADD TO: GoodReads


GoodReads Blurb:

For a search and rescue expert, the buried remains of her past are a dangerous obsession in a twisting novel of suspense by a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author.

Rowan Wolff was five years old when she, her brother, and their babysitter were kidnapped by a serial killer in the Pacific Northwest. The babysitter was murdered. Rowan was saved. Her brother was killed and buried in the forest, his remains never found. The convicted killer refuses to say where he buried the boy. Twenty-five years later, Rowan is committed to search and rescue with her faithful canine and is obsessed with finding her brother’s grave—and closure.

Detective Evan Bolton thrives on unraveling tough cases, but his latest is disturbing. There’s another serial killer hunting in Deschutes County, Oregon, and the crimes are identical to those committed by the sociopath languishing in prison. Each victim is linked to Rowan. When skeletal remains of several bodies are exhumed in the forest, Rowan’s connection becomes more entwined and impossible to ignore.

Rowan and Evan are determined to solve the case before someone else dies. And someone else will, as the truth about the past is unearthed.


Sophia Rose's Review:

A Search and Rescue dog handler and a determined police detective find more than a working partnership in the Oregon Wilderness, but a serial killer is hunting and the danger is closer than they realize.  Kendra Elliot dazzled me with her Mercy Kilpatrick series and I’ve found each new release is as gripping as the last.


The First Death is the fourth in the Columbia River series of standalone mysteries.  Now, though these are standalones, it has been fun to see that each return to one of the author’s previous series to tell further stories, usually of a side character.  In this case, two side characters from the Mercy Kilpatrick series get the spotlight.


The First Death is told in split time and between alternating narrators.  Rowan’s narration goes between the past as the little five year old who was kidnapped and as the adult woman, amazing search and rescue dog handler.  Then there is Malcolm’s perspective as Rowan’s seven year old brother desperately trying to protect his sister, a mystery narrator in the present, and Evan’s present narration as he works the case of a murdered camper and the serial kills of young women.  This might seem like a busy, confusing story, as a result, but in reality, these split storylines and perspectives draw the reader into the story so it is felt viscerally.


The impact of this story was hard and heavy.  Child kidnapping, serial killing women, enslavement, torture, and indoctrination were all there.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel gets dark before the other side is reached.  And, in the midst of it all, Evan and Rowan connect and tentatively began to find the beginning of a relationship as they work on a murder investigation, the previous murders of three women, and tease out how Rowan’s past kidnapping fits into this scenario.


As the reader, I was privy to more than Rowan and Evan, but that took nothing away from the tension as they track down the truth and raced to stop an evil that has been around for years and still preying on people.  I loved how the author was careful with the situations presented in this thrilling romantic suspense and with the police investigation and Rowan’s dog handling work which was great to have a strong part of the story.


An amazing entry that wrung me out emotional and ended on a triumphant note.  Romantic suspense fans should read the Mercy Kilpatrick series and this additional series of standalones.

Author Bio:

As a kid, I read and read and read. Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden were my close companions, and I was never without a book in hand. Today mysteries and suspense are my primary reading genres. I enjoy Lee Child, Karen Rose, Robert Crais, Lisa Gardner, Michael Connelly, and Tami Hoag. But I also love to escape with a historical romance or an engrossing fantasy set in another world.
Authors are always huge readers.

In 2006 I’d recently finished one of Diana Gabaldon’s novels for the umpteenth time, and I loved how satisfied and content I felt at the end. A true sign of great storytelling. Could I provide that experience for a reader? I sat down and spent six months writing a contemporary romance. Strangely I kept tripping over dead bodies in each chapter. I got the hint and my stories evolved into suspense. I never felt the need to “tell the stories cluttering my head” or “share my work with the world” like some authors. My goal was to see if I could entertain a reader.

HIDDEN was the third manuscript I finished, but my first book purchased by a publisher. It came out in the summer of 2012 and since then has sold nearly a million copies. I won the Daphne du Maurier award three times and have hit the Wall Street Journal’s best seller list more than a dozen times. I’ve been an International Thriller Writers’s finalist and a finalist for Romantic Times Magazine’s best Romantic Suspense. As I update this in 2022, I’ve sold eleven million books, and I’m working on my twentieth novel. I’ve also written eleven novellas and sold the TV rights for my Mercy Kilpatrick series.

I wouldn’t trade this career for anything, and I count my blessings every day, thankful that readers have embraced my books.
I’ve always lived in the Pacific Northwest. It’s stunningly gorgeous, but I could use more sun and warmth. One of these days… (UPDATE) I made the move. Most of the year I now live

beachfront in Florida. It’s flip flops 99% of the time.

Sophia’s Bio:

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, piano-playing, and gardening. Road trips and campouts, museums and monuments, restaurants and theaters are her jam. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

As a lifelong reader, it was inevitable that Sophia would discover book blogs and the joy of blog reviewing. Sophia is a prolific reader and audiobook listener which allows her to experience so many wonderful books, authors, and narrators. Few genres are outside her reading tastes, but her true love is fiction particularly history, mystery, sci-fi, and romance. Though, sorry, no horror or she will run like Shaggy and Scooby.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/sophia.rose.7587

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiarose1816

GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13418187.Sophia_Rose


  1. I haven't read this author yet but her books always sound good.

    1. I was hooked after the first one. Hope you get the chance, Mary!

  2. I have read one of her other series and I liked it okay but this one sounds good

    1. I've read her Mercy Kilpatrick series entirely and started another. This one is a solid standalone that I hope you get a crack at Debbie. :)

  3. I loved this one too! Great characters and a dog! These previous side characters getting their own story but it's just the beginning. I hope we will see a bit more of them in future books. We got a lot of Evan in the previous book. And I want to know more about Malcolm.

    Anne - Books of My Heart

    1. I saw in the back of this one that she's got at least two more planned in the Mercy Kilpatrick world so maybe Malcolm will get a chance.

  4. Another author whose books I promised myself to pick up someday. So many good books to get through. This one sounds good.

  5. I need to catch up with this series. Once I get off my UF kick. Hehe...

    1. That could be a while. Haha! But, yes, these just get better and better, I think!

  6. You reminded me I can download this now. I'm happy it's a KU "read and listen". I worry a little about the heaviness of some of the topics, like child kidnapping, enslavement and torture. I have a hard time reading anything with torture in it. Maybe I'll put this one off. Glad to hear you enjoyed it despite the dark topics.

    1. The torture is more mental and emotional, but there are a couple times when the sicko tried to sic the kids on each other. So, yeah, I get needing to be in the right framework for it.