Wednesday, August 24, 2011

100 Books 47 - Victoria Houston's DEAD DECEIVER

As everybody knows by now, I'm one of those serial-compulsive readers; if there's a series, I avoid jumping into the middle of it and insist on starting with the first book if at all possible -- and in this day and age it almost always is possible, one way or another. But this one is not only not the first but the ELEVENTH in the "Loon Lake Mystery Series," which I did not know when I was browsing around for something new and different on Tyrus Books'* website. I was drawn in by the schtick: a murder mystery set during an ice fishing derby -- once upon a time, I was the sucker in charge of organizing the ice fishing derby for my tiny Wyoming town, you see.

Alas, the ice fishing derby is just a backdrop/window dressing for an otherwise ordinary series murder mystery, and not even much of that. I found I didn't mind that too much, though; every once in a while a nice murder mystery is just the thing to while away a few otherwise unproductive hours (series mysteries are insanely popular among my co-workers), and this series has a lot of charm to recommend it.

From what I can gather, all of the series' titles are derived from fishing flies, and have a strong fly-fishing theme to them; the characters are all fly fishers at varying stages of expertise, and this is an enchanting world to explore, full of arcane lore and terminology and famous as a source of poetry and metaphor. The grace and difficulty of the sport makes a nice counterpoint to police procedurals, coroner problems, blood spatter, ballistics and the eternal whodunnit. In addition, the main characters, a female police chief named Lew, her boyfriend-cum-forensic dentist Dr. Osborne, photographer and ne'er-do-well Ray and assorted other types, are engaging. I can see why this series is popular.

This outing had them exploring cybercrime, after a fashion, in the midst of investigating the shocking murder of a wife and mother who got lost snowshoeing and asked the wrong guy for help. The cybercrime angle was vaguely interesting but too neatly wrapped up and felt mostly like an excuse to bring a new character or two onto the team. But that's okay; nobody's going to pick something like this up expecting a techno-thriller or a primer on spammer tracing, and series fans probably dug the fresh new angle.

Am I going to rush to read the prior eleven? Probably not. But nor do I regret my little visit to Loon Lake, Wisconsin. Towns full of fishing nuts are nice places to hang out, as I know, having grown up in one.

*Tyrus, new home of my boy Seth Harwood, is one of two publishers whom I treat as reliable places to find quality stuff even if I don't know the author. The other, if you're interested, is Angry Robot.

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