Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dead Loudmouth (Loon Lake Fishing Mystery #16)

Author:  Victoria Houston
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
9781440568459; 9781440568442
Tyrus Books
208 Pages
June 1, 2016
Five Stars

It's a bright summer morning in Loon Lake when Police Chief Lewellyn Ferris is called to the scene of a horrific accident that occurred in the dead of night at a local gentleman's club.  the club is owned by one of the victims, a member of the private Deer Creek Fishing and Hunting Preserve and the scion of a wealthy family.  When the county coroner is unavailable due to a car accident, Chief Ferris deputizes her close friend and fellow fly-fisherman, retired dentist "Doc" Osborne, to step in.

Osborne's discovery of mysterious footprints confirms Chief Ferris's suspicions: this is no accident; it's murder.  Leaning on Doc Osborne for his forensic and interrogation skills, Lew also hopes to enlist the help of Ray Pradt, fishing guide and expert tracker.  But Ray's time is limited as he is coaching the University of Wisconsin's fishing team in a muskie fishing tournament.  Things get complicated when Doc Osborne's granddaughter disappears on the first day of the tournament.  Sunny June days turn dark as a desperate search ensues.

********

Lewellyn (Lew) Ferris is the police chief of small town Loon Lake, Wisconsin.  She's just getting comfortable in the fact that there hasn't been any crimes committed lately when she receives a phone call from her deputy Roger Adamczak that there's been what appears to be an accident:  it seems a couple were crushed to death on a piano that was hoisted to the ceiling while they were in the middle of having sex (to be blunt).

It turns out the dead couple are Chet Wright and Tiffany Niedermeier.  Chet is the owner of the club where they were found, and Tiffany was one of his employees.  While what they were doing was obvious to anyone, why they were on the piano, and one that was connected to lines which allowed it to be hoisted to the ceiling, was not.

With the head coroner involved in an accident and in the hospital, Lew must depend on Dr. Paul "Doc" Osborne, deputy coroner, with certification of the deaths until the crime lab crew can arrive from Wausau to help out.  Doc has helped her before; she depends on him noticing things she might have missed, and this case is no different.  When finished examining the bodies, he notices something not readily visible: two sandy footprints on a table.  When he brings it to the attention of Lew, she requests that Ray Pradt, a master tracker, to check a perimeter outside the club and see if he can find any more clues to who might be involved in the deaths.

Ray is also coaching the Wisconsin State College fishing team, and has offered Doc's granddaughter Mason a job helping out.  Mason, eleven years old, is like her grandfather and enjoys fishing; she's excited to be doing this and eager to learn in the process.

But as Lew carries on the investigation, learning that it wasn't an accident but a double homicide, she also learns that there are people who may have wanted Chet Wright dead:  his widow Karen, on whom he had been cheating for some time; and three friends whom he had been defrauding.  But what surprises her is that there are even more who might have wanted Tiffany dead:  her co-worker Nina Krezminski, for one, and, as it turns out, everyone else she came in contact with.  Tiffany, by all accounts, was not a nice person, and nobody seemed to like her - except Chet.  Which makes for a very interesting situation that Lew is left to untangle.

But Lew gets a break when a deer cam is found in a tree outside the club, with its camera trained on the back entrance.  When it is discovered that the camera belongs to Joyce Harmon, the janitor who found the bodies, Lew thinks she might have gotten a break.  But Joyce explains that she bought the camera because her supervisor, Fred Smith, is looking for a reason to fire her, and she needs the job.  Fred, for his part, has known Chet's widow Karen since they were children and Karen saved him from a fire at his home.  But what is also discovered on the camera is someone who was entering the club on the night of the murders; but since the person was covered head to foot and never faced the camera, it makes her job no easier than before; she still needs to discover if there is anything in the image on the camera that will help her find the killer.

To complicate matters, while Mason is working for Ray, she goes missing; and the murder investigation is temporarily suspended to find her, leaving Doc Osborne frightened and desperate, and Ray and his boys searching along with the police to locate her...

This was an excellent mystery.  While not deeply enmeshed in suspense, it was well written and the characters are fleshed out and convincing.  We sympathize with Doc when he agonizes over his granddaughter; we see the way Lew is sifting through clues and trying to come up with answers.  It makes for a very good book, with people who are interesting and who you might want to spend time with.
  
Sometimes you have to ignore letting others in on the plot because in doing so would give too much away in solving the murder, and this is one of those books.  Suffice it to say that when the murderer was discovered, it made sense while at the same time seeming rather sad.  This book is the 16th Loon Lake book, and proves that a series need not become stale as it grows.  Highly recommended.



More on Victoria Houston's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/victoria-houston/                                                                                            

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