Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find a body in the spill basin of Hanging Falls while hiking with Glenda, who is a Park Ranger. After they manage to fish the man out of the water before he’s washed further away, they find the word “PAY” carved on his torso. An instant mystery! I like it! He’s wearing what look to be homespun clothes, with buttons as closures. I have to admit, I saw this bit and knew instantly there was going to be some kind of quasi-Amish religious group involved.
The rest of the book follows Mattie and Robo, and the rest of the Sheriff’s office, running who this man was, who killed him, and why he was dumped in that location.
During the investigation, Mattie and Robo find a young man camped out on a ridge overlooking the falls. He doesn’t have a ton of money on him, and seems a bit scared when they bring him in to pick his brain about the murder they think he may have seen. He insists he knows nothing, and ultimately is released. He pops up in a scene a little further into the book, and not in a good way – you’ll understand when you get to that part.
A secondary story running under the main story is Mattie finally getting in touch with her long-lost sister and her grandmother. The plan was for Mattie to take some vacation and go to meet her sis and grandmother. Instead, since she’s hung up in this murder, her sister decides to come to her instead, with grandmother in tow.
Meanwhile, my guess about the quasi-Amish religious group is correct, but there’s a dash of polygamous Mormonism tossed in as well. While the people of the Sheriff’s Office are suspicious of the residents of the compound, they have nothing concrete to charge anyone with anything – they can’t prove polygamy in the compound or that the children are in danger, and so forth. The dead man was part of the congregation, but according to the men running the group, he had left, saying he was returning home.
There are a couple of cowboys on the property next to the Amish/Mormon folks, and the two groups have clashed, and the two men had a run-in with the dead man, but insist they did not kill him.
There’s also a third story point running through this – Mattie’s relation with her vet boyfriend, and the vet’s relationship with his daughters. If you’ve not read the previous books in this series, the vet’s daughters provide a way, in the narrative, to know some of the sordid details of Mattie’s past (warning here: this features Mattie, her brother, and her mother being kidnapped by a very, very bad man. Domestic abuse is detailed, and child sexual abuse is intimated, so if these are no-gos for you, you’d better skip this one). This third story point also involved a veterinary drug rep dealing meds to a farrier illegally.
Eventually, through some very good and realistic work, the Sheriff’s Office find the culprits for all the crimes and various arrests are made. Mattie’s family meetup give her some details about her father’s death, and the book ends on an intriguing note about Mattie tracking down her mother.
The book is well-written, and the characters, when they speak, speak like normal people would in whatever the situation is. There are no glaring plot holes, and there’s no driving horses into doing things they would not do in real life (which is something I care about, with horses or other animals). Mattie’s personal life issues are informing her current life, but she’s not a mope about it, or thinking about it 24/7 to allow it to invade her every moment.
Recommended, and I’ll likely head back to the start of the series to read up on what has come before.
A solid four stars out of five. Just one ding because the baddies were fairly easy to guess for me, but it’s still an enjoyable read.
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the review copy.