Book Review: Tracking Game by Margaret Mizushima @margmizu @crookedlanebks

Tracking Game
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #5
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-64385-135-8
Hardcover

Deputy Mattie Cobb is at a local gathering enjoying an evening with Cole Walker the local vet, when there is an explosion nearby.  As they rush to the site they find a van on fire and a dead body, a body with two bullet holes.  The body is that of Nate Fletcher married to the daughter of Doyle Redman from a nearby ranch.

Who would want to kill Nate Fletcher? As the investigation quickly gets underway Mattie and her K-9 partner Robo make a few important discoveries including finding the gun used to kill Nate.

As the local police, along with Mattie and Robo focus on unravelling the mystery, another body turns up. The case grows ever more complicated as questions regarding possible drug running and other dangerous activities slowly surface.

This one started with a Bang, literally. The pace slowed somewhat during the investigation.  Mattie is dealing with some personal issues regarding her relationship with Cole, but she determinedly sets those aside to focus on finding the perpetrator or perpetrators.  There are a number of viable suspects and the mystery takes an unusual turn that sends Mattie, Robo and Cole on a tracking mission up into the mountains.

This is the fifth book but my first introduction to the Timber Creek Series, and even though there is back story regarding Mattie’s past referred to in the book, I didn’t feel I was missing too much and enjoyed meeting Mattie and her very smart K-9, Robo.

I was drawn in reading how Mattie and her K-9 worked together.  The author also vividly captured the beauty as well as the danger of the Timber Creek landscape.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, January 2020.

Book Review: Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

Robicheaux
Dave Robicheaux #21
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-7684-5
Hardcover

Detective Dave Robicheaux returns from his last adventure in Montana to the sheriff’s department in Iberia, Louisiana, an area about which James Lee Burke writes poetically in the long tradition of southern writers like Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren.  Robicheaux is a haunted person, suffering from the loss of his wife, Molly, who was killed in an auto accident, nightmares from his time in Vietnam, and alcoholism.  In fact, he goes off the wagon (a devotee of Alcoholics Anonymous) and wonders if he could have murdered the victim, the person who caused his beloved wife’s death, while drunk, even as he conducted the investigation into the incident.

The novel is filled with all sorts of nefarious characters, ranging from outright gangsters to a Huey Long type who glibly mesmerizes the populace and plays a prominent role in events by representing how wealth and imagery can lead to undermining American traditions.  And, of course, Clete Purcel, Dave’s closest friend, is front and center in the story, as is his daughter, Alafair, who writes a screenplay for a movie based on a Civil War event.

The piercing prose and the sweep of the tale, combined with the extraordinary characters, are incomparable.

It is interesting to note that while Mr. Burke writes about the South with such feeling, he lives in Montana.  I guess distance makes for perspective.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2018.

Book Review: Bitter Creek by Peter Bowen

Bitter CreekBitter Creek
A Gabriel DuPre Montana Mystery #14
Peter Bowen
Open Road Media, April 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4976-7658-9
Trade Paperback

Stock inspector, fiddle player extraordinaire, father, grandfather, stepfather⏤Gabriel Dupre is a man of many parts. Most of all, he’s a man of unlimited curiosity and observation who isn’t about to let a mystery go unsolved. Not even if it’s a hundred years old, and especially not when it concerns his people, the Métis.

Chappie Plaquemines, DuPre’s girlfriend’s son, has come home from Iraq maimed in mind and body. So has Chappie’s commanding officer, Lieutenant John Patchen, who’s come to Montana to persuade Chappie to accept the Navy Cross. While both young men are having a sweat bath in the mystic Benetsee’s steam tent, voices come to them that even DuPre, waiting outside, can hear. The voices of a group of massacred Métis from one hundred years in the past speak to them of Bitter Creek. They beg to have their story heard. But before DuPre can point a finger at the culprits, he’ll have to find where the bodies are buried. Only intense investigation will reveal the dead’s story, but not without a few new victims.

When you pick up a Gabriel DuPre book, you’re going to think it needed an editor⏤at first. Commas are in the wrong place, you think. And then, after a couple pages, it all makes perfect sense. As you read the words, you begin to hear the cadence of the characters’ voices. I love it. It’s some of the most compelling dialogue I’ve ever encountered.

Beyond that, DuPre is a character who comes to life under author Peter Bowen’s sure hand. From his old Police cruiser that he routinely drives over the speed limit, to his roll-his-own smokes, to his fiddle and his music.

He’s not the only fine character. Bart, Booger Tom, Madeleine, the many grandchildren. Even Eustace, the musk-ox, and Father Van Den Heuvel, the clumsy priest come to life in the book. And never forget Benetsee, who seems able to change shape.

The dialogue is crisp and often funny, especially when it concerns Booger Tom or the grandchildren.

I, for one, hope there’ll be many more DuPre mysteries.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake by Terry Shames—and a Giveaway!

The Necessary Murder of Nonie BlakeThe Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #5
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, January 2016
ISBN 978-1-63388-120-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

“She was a dangerous girl and people think she’ll be a dangerous woman.”

Nonie Blake is back home from a mental institution where she has spent the last twenty years, and people in Jarrett Creek are worried. Maybe too worried, for within a week of her return, Nonie is murdered.

Chief Samuel Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her tight-lipped family. Ever since Nonie tried to kill her sister when she was fourteen and was sent away to the institution, the family has kept to itself.

Clues are scarce and Craddock is stumped. So he checks with therapists at the mental hospital to see whether they can add anything useful to his investigation. But he discovers that she has not been there for ten years. Now Craddock has to find out where Nonie has been all this time.

Soon Craddock finds himself dealing not only with murder, but layers of deception and secrets, and in the midst of it all—a new deputy, one Maria Trevino, sent by the sheriff to beef up security in the small Texas town.

Back when I was a bookshop owner, I developed a real fondness for mystery series based in Texas and Florida and I know plenty of other readers also are particularly drawn to them. Such authors as Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Rick Riordan, Susan Wittig Albert, Bill Crider, Joe R. Lansdale, Susan McBride, Leann Sweeney, Nancy J. Cohen, Mary Anna Evans, Kathy Hogan Trochek, Elaine Viets and Randy Wayne White were my early-on favorites and more have joined the fray in recent years. None top Terry Shames in my opinion.

One of the most wide-spread rumors about living in small towns or rural areas is that everybody knows everybody else’s business and there is a lot of truth in that but it’s also true that secrets are kept in small towns. That’s what Samuel begins to discover after Nonie Blake comes home unexpectedly and then is murdered just a few days later. Where has Nonie really been all these years? Did her family, ALL of her family, forgive her for the heinous attack on her sister and why did she do it? Perhaps most perplexing, did the family keep to itself all this time because of a natural embarrassment or have they been hiding even more secrets?

Adding more tension to Chief Craddock’s job this time is the addition of Maria, a female Hispanic cop, to the force, appointed by the sheriff. It’s not that Samuel is biased against her but this is a town that has suspicions about strangers and her ethnic background plus her gender in a “man’s” job don’t help. Meanwhile, when Samuel agrees to teach his friend, Julie, how to cook a fine meal for a date, I found myself grinning during the entire episode, starting with the trip to the grocery store. Also, spending time with Samuel on his small cattle ranch and with Ellen, the art gallery owner who’s beginning to make him feel more than a little attracted, portrays the Chief as a nicely well-rounded guy.

It’s that normal side of life that adds a dimension to this series I appreciate so much. In some ways, I’m reminded of Donna Leon because we get to know the character so well, not just the police work. Samuel Craddock has become one of my favorite lawmen and I’m always assured there will be a good mystery to keep me guessing. That puts Terry Shames in my very short list of authors I always have to read and The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake is an excellent addition to the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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To enter the drawing for a trade
paperback copy of The Necessary
Murder of Nonie Blake by
Terry
Shames, leave a
comment below.
The winning name will
be drawn
Thursday evening, February 11th.
This
drawing is open to residents of
the US.

Book Review: Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb—and a Giveaway!

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas PastNora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
A Ballad Novella
Sharyn McCrumb
Abingdon Press, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4267-5421-0  Hardcover

From the publisher—

When someone buys the old Honeycutt house, Nora Bonesteel is glad to see some life brought back to the old mansion, even if it is by summer people. But when they decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the walls.

On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home.

Two companion stories that really are not related except that a few of the people know each other and they’re in the same mountain location offer a brief but gentle look at the Christmas season. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and his deputy, Joe LeDonne, are tasked with arresting a traffic offender on Christmas Eve with snow approaching and the elderly Nora Bonesteel, who has the Sight, is asked by a “snowbird” neighbor to find out why peculiar things are happening with her Christmas decorations.

Both stories, on the surface, would seem to be rather simplistic and they actually are but there’s a kernel of meaning in each that reflects the best of home and hearth, so to speak. At times, the stories drag a little but it’s nice to spend time again with Nora and the Sheriff and Joe (as cranky and cynical as the last might be) and absorb some of the Appalachian sensibility Sharyn McCrumb conveys so well. Is there mystery here or perhaps fantasy? Yes, in a very mild way, but it’s far more about the characters and the setting. The appeal is in these people and their community and I always enjoy returning to Appalachia and, in particular, to Ashe Mountain.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
by Sharyn McCrumb, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
Tuesday evening, November 25th.
This drawing is open to residents of the US.