Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Stiff Penalty (A Mattie Winston Mystery #6)

Author:  Annelise Ryan
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

Deputy coroner Mattie Winston knows a thing or two about dead bodies. That's why she's on the case of Derrick Ames, a high school math teacher stabbed to death with a barbecue fork straight to the heart. Sure, she's turned up some motives and a few suspects, but nothing adds up. Especially when the evidence points to Ames's teenage son. Newly pregnant Mattie can't believe it, even as her own long-estranged father may be following her. But one thing's certain, she'd better start figuring things out fast, or a deadly perpetrator could be subtracting two more victims from the population of Sorenson, Wisconsin.

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Mattie Winston is the deputy coroner for the small town of Sorenson, Wisconsin.  Her life is usually in tumult, but now especially so, partly because she's pregnant, and hasn't yet told anyone; mainly because the father, Detective Hurley, is away from town and she figures she needs to tell him first, which she is avoiding as long as possible...why, we find out later...

When she is called to the scene of a homicide she finds a high school math teacher, Derrick Ames, stabbed through the heart with a barbeque fork.  But, as it turns out, that probably wasn't what killed him.  It seems he was also stabbed with a knife, and, as the saying goes, if one didn't kill him the other would have eventually.  When all the evidence points to Derrick's angry son Jacob - angry because his mother and father are divorced and he wants them to get back together, among other things - Mattie becomes convinced that Jacob didn't do it.

Then Hurley returns to town, and Mattie gets some other news:  the police are installing video cameras, and the videographer assigned to help them learn the system is is gorgeous - and she's first teamed with Hurley.  But while Hurley and Mattie haven't "solidified" their relationship, it doesn't stop her from being jealous and/or suspicious of the woman.

To top it off, someone is trying to kill Mattie.  At first it started with phone calls, then a car was following her.  When it escalates, Mattie is given 24-hour-a-day police protection, which only irritates her in her present condition, even though she realizes it's necessary; and Hurley isn't helping with his mother hen attitude toward her pregnancy.  And oh, there is more, but I won't reveal it here.

It was all the subplots (and there were many) of this story that kept me riveted.  They were all mixed together, even though one didn't lead to the other.  But within them all, there was the key to the entire story; not overt but not hidden, either.  And you don't see it coming until it hits you in the face.  But instead of slogging through the story to get to the end, the journey is the fun part.  Getting inside Mattie's head with her thoughts could leave you with a tangled mess yourself, because the book is told from conversations with her therapist, and then backtracked to when everything happened.  As in, 'it all began with...'  Which makes for a very good book indeed.  The ending, when it comes, is typical of Mattie and you would expect no less from someone who led as complicated a life as she does.  Highly recommended and I eagerly await the next in the series.


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