I still haven’t quite figured out what it is with me and cozy mysteries, but I can tell you I picked this one up on a freebie deal from amazon because it’s set in a small town in Wyoming. My people are from Wyoming, so I was hoping McLinn would do all right with the characterization.
Short answer: she does okay.
E.L. (Elizabeth) Danniher is a transplant to the small town of Sherman, Wyoming. Used to the Big City lights and brights, she’s lost her career in national broadcasting thanks to getting older, and to divorcing her ex. She thinks Sherman is a stopover on her way to starting, maybe, a talk show. To picking up the pieces of her life.
And then, a murder happens.
Actually, that’s not quite true: the murder in question had already happened before E.L. was on the scene. But take one stubborn girl convinced her dad isn’t guilty, one pushy sportscaster who E.L. judges is going places, and one taciturn dad who wants nothing to do with being saved by E.L. and you have the pieces of a pretty good tale.
It was an accident asking that question. I didn’t mean to. Because I wasn’t interested. Not in the answer, not in the case. I had my own concerns, remember? But have you ever tried to not let your leg jerk when the doctor hits your knee with that little mallet? That’s what questions are like for me. Something someone says hits that nerve and pop! out comes the question. (Kindle edition, section 464)
This novel is a case of the reluctant detective, but I was okay with that. I’m a little less okay with the potential romantic rivalry being set up, and I had really hoped E.L. was from Wyoming, not just landed there in a case of being gotten out of the way by the powers that be. But in the end, she’s a curious woman with too much tendency to ask questions — not always the right ones — and who gets swept up in the mystery despite herself. This isn’t usually something I like, but McLinn’s writing is really descriptive and keeps the reader moving at a good clip.
Dark has a volume, a texture, in Wyoming that I don’t remember anywhere else. Maybe it’s because there’s so much of it, trying to fill that eternity of sky. (Kindle edition, section 896)
Especially on a crisp day with a sky so blue it looked as if it might vibrate. (Kindle edition, section 2404)
Having seen the dark and the sky in Wyoming, I can vouch for both these descriptions as accurate. But there are other places where McLinn’s descriptions really shine, both of people and of things:
The sheriff’s face would have done a pomegranate proud. (Kindle Edition, section 3459)
A spider had been busy, building a web from the door pulls of the deep gun cabinet to the windowsill. Droplets of red clung to it, outlining the intricacies that man so idly pushed aside without thought when they got in his way. A fine spray of blood traced the web, brought it to light like dyes that doctors use to trace veins. (Kindle edition, section 2563)
McLinn’s yarn is enjoyable, quick-moving, and all-in-all worth reading if you like cozy mysteries, small town dynamics, and a mystery dog. Who might be a coyote. Or just a dog. E.L. isn’t any more sure of the dog than she is where she’s going in life. Sherman isn’t quite as memorable as Crazy, but I haven’t had as many books to fall in love with it, either.