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Dead in the Water–dive into a forensic crime mystery

Dead in the Water

by Annelise Ryan

dead-in-the-waterDead in the Water is the eighth mystery in the Mattie Winston Mystery Series. As I read, I suspected it was not a standalone, but I was unaware of the number of books preceding it. The author fills the reader in on the background of characters from previous books very effectively and efficiently.

Some readers refer to Dead in the Water as a cozy mystery. It deviates from the typical cozy mystery in its focus on forensic investigation of crimes, as is found in two popular television shows: the more current C.S.I. and the older series Quincy, M.E.  Initially as I read the descriptive portions, I could hear echoes of my teenage self: “Eew! GROSS!” and I determined that I could not possibly rate it with 5/5 stars. As I read on, however, I became absorbed by the complex mystery, interesting characters, and complicated relationships. I even came to admire the way the author handles the depictions of dead bodies and autopsies–just graphic enough for visualization without unnecessary repetition or exploration of details.

Another different feature of this cozy mystery is that the main character, Mattie, is an employee of the medical examiner’s office. Her job description is “medico-legal death investigator.” That position gives her access to medical and investigative information that would normally be denied to the general public. It also gives her a reason to be involved in the discovery of so many crimes, as opposed to the typical, hapless female lead who unbelievably, repeatedly stumbles into crime scenes. Her job makes her able to work WITH the book’s love interest, Detective Steve Hurley, rather than have to work around him. In this book, the tension about flow of information, normally assigned to the heroine and the investigative romantic interest, is taken on by a reporter who has developed a rapport with the crime fighting duo.

By the end of Dead in the Water, I was sold on the merits of this book despite queasiness at its post-mortem perspective. The author even manages to introduce a touch of humor in the midst of death. Ryan is inclusive of a variety of non-traditional families in a way that feels like an attempt at being politically correct. Although the writing is good, with so many interesting mysteries waiting to be read, I will probably not read more books in this series. I do recommend it for those devotees of forensic science mysteries.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: mystery

Notes: forensic science emphasis

Publication:  February 28, 2017–Kensington Press

Memorable Lines: 

I’ve attended a lot of classes over the past year and a half in an effort to learn more about forensic science and crime scene investigation. Most of them were great, but a few classes were so boring they could’ve been listed on a death certificate as a cause of death.

There aren’t many avenues for positive intrinsic feedback in this line of work, but seeing justice done is one of them.

A jail cell is my mother’s worst nightmare, not because she’s afraid of being incarcerated, per se, but because she is a raging germophobe. In her mind, sitting in a jail cell is akin to eating out of a petri dish at the CDC.

Fatality by Firelight–writers’ retreat, readers’ delight

Fatality by Firelight

by Lynn Cahoon

fatality-by-firelightFatality by Firelight, the second book in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, is appealing in so many ways, but primarily because it is an all round good mystery with twists and turns and abundant surprises. I had many interruptions during my reading of this book, but I was always anxious to return to the story and I always remembered where I had left off. Both signs of a good book.

The main character is Catherine (Cat) Latimer, a young, widowed, former professor.  Her ex-husband’s apparent betrayal and death form an underlying mystery that ties in with strange current occurrences. Other important folks you’ll meet are Shauna, Cat’s longtime friend turned business partner and chef for the retreat, and Seth, Cat’s high school sweetheart who has entered her life again and also has a major role in the writers’ retreat.

The book deviates from a typical cozy in two ways. Although Cat does want to solve the mysteries that present themselves to her, that is not her main mission in life. She is a writer and tries to pay for upkeep on a Victorian mansion she inherited by hosting a weeklong writers’ retreat once a month. The other deviation is the male romantic interest in the book. Usually that role is filled by some type of legal professional–a sheriff, detective, private investigator, etc. No so in Fatality by Fire. There are attractive men in her life, but her legal connection comes in the form of her Uncle Pete, a likable and supportive college town police chief.

I recommend this book for its plot with mysteries on two levels, its snowy Colorado setting, some quirky characters who attend the retreat, and its writer’s theme which is appealing to readers. Fatality by Firelight delivers an interesting story, a strong female lead, and a dose of humor as a bonus.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Second book in series, but worked well as a standalone

Publication:   February 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines: 

No matter what kind of turmoil Cat was experiencing in her real life, typically writing made her forget everything and concentrate of the story.

[talking about a writer’s retreat] …the magic is in the process, not the accommodations or the distance you travel from home.

Okay, so this was all conjecture, but that was her job. As a fiction writer, she filled in holes, and this story had more holes than a pasta strainer.

“Well, you know what they say: if it doesn’t kill you, and you’re an author, you use it in a book.”

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