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HUNTING HOUR
by Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, August 2017
320 pages
$25.99
ISBN: 1683312775


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In addition to being a mystery about two girls who disappeared, this book is about how mental illness, both minor and severe, manifests itself. Deputy Mattie Cobb's past trauma plays a role in her attempt to save a missing girl with the help of her police dog, Robo, as well as in her personal and professional relationships. More than one suspect suffers from mental illness, and Mattie has trouble stepping away from the effects of her personal experiences to see the facts clearly. Mizushima adds depth to this thriller as she shows how childhood damage can impact an adult's perspective.

While Mattie and Robo are searching for the first missing girl, the town's veterinarian, Cole Walker, fields call after call from a strange customer who is concerned that someone is harming his animals. Cole begins to suspect that Gus is suffering from a form of Munchausen Syndrome. When Cole's daughter, Sophie, goes missing and the suspense ratchets up, Gus is high on list of possible subjects. The search for Sophie brings Cole's estranged ex-wife back into town, putting a strain on the rest of his family as well as on Cole and Mattie's relationship. This stress, combined with the stress of the search and her memories, causes Mattie to reach a psychological breaking point. The palpable tension in the book is as much personal as it is professional, as we watch Mattie's judgment falter repeatedly even as she and Robo play an important role in the investigation.

Robo provides a much-needed relief from the darkness of the book. He is serious in his search to find the girls and vicious in his defense of Mattie, but he also loves to play when he's not working. When he has accomplished the task at hand his reward is some ball-play, which helps the reader relax a bit in the midst of all of the well-written anxiety of the search. Robo undergoes some additional training during this investigation, and it appears that these experiences may set him and Mattie up for a role outside of their rural Colorado town of Timber Creek. We will have to see if that's where Mizushima is taking the series.

This is the third in the series, and reading the earlier books will help provide some context to the relationships. However, the plot works as a standalone so this book could work as an entry point to the series. Both Cole and Mattie are fully developed characters in HUNTING HOUR, so it is only the more peripheral characters who would suffer from the lack of backstory for the uninitiated. As in all of the books, the locale is extremely well described, transporting the reader to Timber Creek. The reader may guess the resolution before Mattie figures it out, but the plot is well tied up while still leaving room for the next installment. I'm looking forward to the next in the series already!

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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