by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have another mystery review catchup for your shelter in place reading-Dead Ringer: A Mattie Winston Mystery by Annelise Ryan, Playing the Devil: A Bridge to Death Mystery by R. J. Lee, and Who’s Dead, Doc? A Jules & Bun Mystery by J. M. Griffin. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, and links to purchase it.
Dead Ringer: A Mattie Winston Mystery by Annelise Ryan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Life for Sorenson, Wisconsin’s medicolegal death investigator Mattie Winston is satisfying, if a little complicated. Her two-year-old son is asserting himself rather aggressively with tantrums and makeshift superhero costumes, while her husband’s newly discovered teenaged daughter is dating a boy about whom he has definite opinions. An unexpected impending arrival completely throws Mattie off her usual steadfast path, just in time for her to put all her focus on a new case linked to a solved serial killer’s. Information given to Mattie a bit drunkenly at a Milwaukee forensic conference has her re-connecting with flirtatious Todd Oliver, whose presence brings about as many personal speed bumps as it does political ones.
Mattie’s family life is the very definition of complicated, with an obsessive-compulsive hypochondriac for a mother and a father who only recently emerged from the Witness Protection Program. Mattie has not entirely forgiven him for abandoning their family, but a health crisis has them attempting to mend fences and overcome resentments. Mattie’s having a difficult time adjusting as a working mother as well, and her confused and conflicting feelings prevent her from talking to the one person she needs to talk to: her husband, homicide detective Steve Hurley. Helping her to juggle childcare and family responsibilities is her mentor/boss Dr. Izthak “Izzy” Rybarceski and his husband Dom, who adorably serve as Mattie’s ideal functional family. The clock is ticking for them to determine whether a copycat killer, or one close to the case, is ready to kill again, especially when an innocent man could be sitting in jail and weighing further upon Mattie’s conscience.
This series has always succeeded in fascinatingly blending forensic investigation with Mattie’s personal dramas. She continues to be a well-rounded, complex woman, one whose experience as an ER nurse affects her lifestyle today. Empathy for patients while always living life on-the-go and ready for an emergency, Mattie always seems braced for impact. She also tends to escape from personal confrontations and family problems by drowning herself in her work, which of course leads her to feeling guilty and lacking maternal skills. It’s a compelling challenge that many will relate to, especially considering how Mattie attempts to compartmentalize her life into boxes to be dealt with later. Mattie’s intelligence and talent as a death investigator are undeniable, which is why her emotional vulnerability makes her all the more likable. The dynamic between Mattie and Hurley continues to be fiery and full of miscommunications, but their love is undeniable. By evolving and allowing their family lives to grow, this series has maintained its high standards as it explores both the depths of human depravity and the extraordinary challenges faced by health givers and forensic investigators.
Playing the Devil: A Bridge to Death Mystery by R. J. Lee
Review by Sandra Murphy
Wendy Winchester is an investigative reporter for the local paper. It’s a dream come true for her, but she also has a talent for solving puzzles. Last year’s puzzle was the mystery of four society matrons who died while playing bridge. Wendy’s dad is the chief of police and her boyfriend is a detective so it seems natural for her to quiz people as part of her reporter job as well as to find out anything suspects and witnesses were reluctant to tell the police.
She loves playing bridge and with the help of Deedah, director of the country club, they’ve formed their first foursome—Wendy, Deedah, her son Hollis a local artist, and Carly, wife of the most hated member of the club, Brent. He is quick to make fun of Hollis for being gay, Carlos for having Hispanic ancestors, Mitzy for being the first female golf pro at the club, the groundskeeper for letting the rough grow too rough, his friends for winning a game of golf, Deedah for making the club more welcoming to women, and anyone else who gets in his way.
During the first bridge game, the electricity suddenly goes off due to a transformer being struck by lightning. The power company is able to restore the lights in about half an hour, but during the blackout, Brent was murdered. He was drunk, in the hot tub, and each of the others at the club were alone and without an alibi for at least a few minutes. With so many suspects and so little to go on, it’s going to be a hard case to solve.
This is the second book in the series (Grand Slam Murders, book one, was reviewed HERE). Wendy is a likable character who has a good relationship with her new editor, her dad, her detective boyfriend, and Merleece, who was introduced in book one. Poor Wendy just wants to be a better bridge player, and this is the second time someone has died while a game was in progress. With a new fourth for the next book, will Wendy’s streak hold or will she get to finish a game before someone expires? Look for a number of changes to come as her romantic life heats up.
Who’s Dead, Doc? A Jules & Bun Mystery by J. M. Griffin
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jules Bridge rescues abused and neglect rabbits, bringing them back to health. In order to educate the public, she provides bunny entertainment at birthday parties and public events. She’s entered one of the bunnies into an agility competition but an allergy sidelines the bunny.
One of the judges for the rabbit show, Evelyn, a universally disliked woman, is found dead in the woods during a child’s birthday party. Sheriff Carver has previously told Jules to butt out of his investigations. This time, he asks for her help since she’s got an inside track on all things rabbit.
Bun, Jules’ favorite rabbit because of his special talents, goes with Jules to the show. Bun’s talent is he speaks and understands English. Of course, he doesn’t speak out loud but telepathically. Jules is one of the few people who can hear him. Because his ears are so much better than a human’s, he’s invaluable help in eavesdropping on conversations Jules can’t. In her capacity as a judge and a resource for the sheriff’s department, Jules asks questions, but should she? It might be dangerous for and Bun.
This is the second book in the series. Jules has two teens working with her to care for the rabbits and staff the retail shop when she’s gone. A friend, who is a veterinarian, has an office in her barn. It takes a few pages to get used to the idea of Jules hearing Bun’s side of conversations, but it soon smooths out. He’s witty, demanding, fairly conceited, and a delight. There are always a few comedic moments when Jules tries to answer him and appears to be talking to herself. All that and a mystery, too.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “april catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 2, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.