My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don’t often read debut novels, but Margaret Mizushima’s Killing Trail (Crooked Lane 2015), set in rural Colorado, main character a K-9 officer, and sufficient murder and mayhem for my thriller appetite, caught my attention. It only added to my excitement that it’s recommended for those who love CJ Box (writes the Joe Pickett series based in the backwoods of Wyoming). Killing Trail is the story of a young officer, Mattie Cobb, and her K-9 partner, Robo. They are both new to their jobs, just out of the training academy, and faced with what turns out to be one of the biggest cases her small town of Timber Creek has ever faced. While Mattie tries to unravel the clues, she fights internal battles against her inability to trust rooted in her foster care upbringing.
The plot’s pace is just north of fast enough: Nothing gets boring, but I have time to breath. The characters are all interesting, with hints at what they will become as the series develops. Mizushima’s voice sounds a lot like Tony Hillerman’s daughter Anne (who took over writing her father’s mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Chee and Leaphorn) with simple sentences and never a word I needed a dictionary to decode. Sometimes the dialogue goes one sentence too far, dipping into actual conversation rather than the truncated approach used in novels, but it does flesh out the characters well as moral, honest, and hard-working.
I should disclose: Any story starring a dog starts with five stars from me. My only concern will be if the human parts detract from what otherwise would be a great story. Robert Crais set the bar high with Maggie in Suspect (the sequel is due out any day–I can’t wait). This book lost one star only because the author is still figuring out who she is and how she writes. Overall a great start and I’ll definitely read more of this series.
More about dogs:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.