First Line: A bead of sweat rolled down Deputy Mattie Cobb's face beneath the plastic guard on her helmet.
When a search and rescue mission for Deputy Ken Brody's girlfriend turns into an overnight vigil over a dead body in the snowy mountains, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find themselves in the middle of a determined killer's stalking ground. There's only one thing for the two to do: find the killer before any more people die.
Reading Margaret Mizushima's first book, Killing Trail, hooked me on her characters and the setting. I thought her debut had a couple of minor glitches, but looked forward to her second book. I am thrilled to say that Stalking Ground addresses almost all those points I noticed in the first, and in addition is an even stronger, tighter, more thrilling read.
Mattie's relationship with her K-9 partner Robo is a very important part of the book (and the series)-- and not just because of the mysteries they solve. A training session for the two of them in Denver is worked seamlessly into the narrative, and later on Mizushima introduces us to another canine character, Bruno the Doberman Pinscher. It's fascinating to learn about the lives of working dogs like Robo.
These Timber Creek K-9 mysteries are a character-rich environment, which may not be preferable to those who prefer mystery to that "relationship nonsense," but I love it. Mattie and Robo aren't the only two in town; we also are privileged to watch busy veterinarian Cole Walker on his rounds, as he volunteers for search and rescue, and-- most importantly-- how he and his daughters adjust to a very difficult divorce in which his wife left the family. This adjustment period isn't going smoothly because Mizushima's characters are very human and make their share of mistakes. Cole and Mattie are obviously being paired off (slowly), and it will be an interesting relationship to watch develop. Mattie has her own demons, and her own dreams of family that may, or may not, come true.
Once again, Mizushima has written some wonderful action sequences high up in those Colorado Rockies, especially the scene involving Cole. There's just one little thing to dull the bright shine of Stalking Ground: it was still all too simple for me to deduce who- and where-dunit. All that needed to be divulged were a few specifics. However, with the characters and setting this author has created, this is a minor quibble indeed, and I'm certainly looking forward to book number three.
Stalking Ground by Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books © 2016
Hardcover, 320 pages
Police Procedural, #2 Timber Creek K-9 mystery
Source: Amazon Vine