Monday, August 17, 2020

The Killing Trail (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery, #1) by Margaret Mizushima, Audible Audiobook narrated by Nancy Wu

Killing Trail (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #1)Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb is back on the job at the Timber Creek County Sheriff's Department after 12 weeks of advanced training with her new K-9 partner, a German Shepherd named Robo. They are on their way to a meeting at the local high school when they receive a call to investigate "suspicious activity" at the remote cabin in the mountains of the nearby national forest. Arriving the scene, they are met by Sheriff Abraham McCoy himself and the forest ranger that requested their assistance. The suspicious activity is a good-sized pool of blood on the porch of the cabin, and she and Robo are directed to search for its source. Robo successfully follows the trail, and the two discover the body of a teenage girl, half-buried in a shallow grave in the forest. She is being watched over by a large Bernese Mountain Dog that, although shot and bleeding, is faithfully protecting the body.

As her fellow deputies continue to work the scene and wait for the arrival of the assigned homicide detective, Mattie is charged with getting the wounded dog to the nearest vet. Dr. Cole Walker recognizes the dog, Belle, immediately and identifies her owner as 16-year-old, Grace Hartman, the best friend on one of his daughters. Later that evening, Belle gets sick and passes several small balloons filled with a suspicious white powder. Cole contacts Mattie, who returns to the clinic to help with the dog. She also makes arrangements to have Detective Stella LoSasso visit with his daughter the next morning, to hopefully shine some light on why Grace may have been up at the remote cabin. During the subsequent interview, Angela points Mattie and Stella to Mike Chadron, a local dog trainer whom Grace had a crush on. He had been spotted recently at the cabin conducting training exercises with this dogs, however, neither he nor his dogs are anywhere to be found. Mattie continues to ask questions of those that knew Grace fearing that she and Belle had somehow gotten involved with the recent upswing in drug trafficking in the small community.

Mattie, Robo, and Sheriff McCoy finally make their visit with the high school principal to discuss introducing a K-9 inspection program in the upcoming school year. This is the same principal Mattie clashed with during her high school tenure there, and he's not enthusiastic nor supportive of the idea but agrees.

The case moves along little by little, but when Mattie discovers the body of the missing Mike Chadron set up to look like a suicide, the pressure escalates to find the murderer. With a suspicious-looking new health spa that moved into the area at the same time as the uptick in drug trafficking and clues that seem to point at one of Mattie's coworkers, she and Robo have got their hands full tracking down leads and protecting their community.

The Killing Trail is the first book in the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteryseries by Margaret Mizushima. I liked the main character, Deputy Mattie Cobb, and look forward to learning more about her and her past. She grew up in foster care, separated from a much older brother from whom she is estranged in the book, but seems to be nearing a reconciliation. I am hoping that the relationship with the vet progresses positively in subsequent books as well.

The author provides several possible suspects and scenarios throughout the story, which kept me guessing. Still, I got a sneaking suspicion about the real killer early on that had me patting myself on the back at the conclusion. That wasn't a deterrent from enjoying the rest of the story as Mattie follows her instincts and all the clues she uncovers.

The author includes some back story on Robo's training and details regarding how Mattie prepares him to work, such as conducting searches and other exercises. I enjoyed Robo's reactions and reading about K-9 work.

All said I think I would have liked this book much more had I been reading it in book form. The audiobook narrator was competent but quiet and low-key, not a lot of animation in her voice. She has a very polished, soothing voice, and I wouldn't avoid listening to her in the future, but I think this story may have required something perkier to show it to a better advantage. This story has everything for a good reading experience, but for whatever reason, it just seemed to drag on and on until the last hour, where it finally got exciting. Not enough for my husband, though. We were listening to this in the car when we arrived at our destination, with about 45 minutes left. I wanted to finish it inside, and he wasn't interested - he was done with it.

I recommend this book, with the reservation as mentioned above regarding format, to mystery readers, especially those that like animals in the cast of characters. However, Robo remains a dog throughout, and the reader is not privy to his thoughts, feelings, or ideas like in some other series.

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