Sunday, June 05, 2016

Fishing, Tracking, and Crime in Wisconsin, with Victoria Houston, DEAD LOUDMOUTH

Hard to believe this is already number 16 of the rural Wisconsin "Loon Lake" mysteries that Victoria Houston braids so adeptly with fly-fishing, bass fishing, tracking, and survival around the lakes and woods. Just goes to show, a book a year adds up! From her first book, Dead Angler, onward, Houston's embrace of her return home to Wisconsin has paid off.

I've found the series uneven at times, so I meandered into DEAD LOUDMOUTH slowly, feeling the water, so to speak. It's a good catch! After a quick prologue to set the tone of vengeful murder, the book opens from the point of view of Police Chief Lew Ferris, quickly partnered (as usual) with her fill-in forensics associate, retired dentist Paul Osborne. Osborne has good news to share (the two have become an occasional couple but always seem to be catching up from separate activities). But Lew (and we) will wait for that news a while, because old-fashioned deputy Roger Adamczak's on Lew's phone with an emergency.
"Two, chief, and they are dead, real dead --"

... She hit the speaker button on her desk phone. "Okay, Roger, start from the beginning, please."

"Chief, we got two bodies. Fragrant derelicts. Know what I mean?"

Lew looked over at Osborne, a puzzled expression on her face.

"I think he means 'in flagrante delicto,'" whispered Osborne... "That means naked and ...," he hesitated as he searched for a polite way to described what he imagined Roger must mean, "...entwined for lack of a better word."
The bodies on the elevated piano at the pricey (and very sexist) "gentlemen's club" near the area's posh private hunting preserve are pretty clearly homicides. Who'd want to kill two people at once? Well, there could be jealous lovers. Unhappy employees. The list goes on, and Doc Osborne barely has time to welcome his visiting granddaughter in between calls to check out what's going wrong in the town's tourist-dependent sporting locales.

But when Doc's granddaughter disappears out on the water while Doc's at work, even Lew's expert tracker (and poacher) buddy Ray Pradt can't find her, and -- there's clearly a murderer on the loose in the same region.

Quick pace, a wonderful sense of Wisconsin out-of-doors, and characters who care about each other -- with these components, Victoria Houston has spun a lively and enjoyable mystery, closer to a "traditional" feel than to a police investigation. I enjoyed it all, and I'll go back for more.

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