I have to say that I’m glad I plugged along with this series when the first book kind of threw me off. Author Jeff Carson has managed to combine intrigue and small-town politics as well as a murder mystery in a way that feels genuine. The relationships feel real as well, especially now that I’m on the fifth book and the characters are more fleshed-out.
Sluice County, whom Sheriff David Wolf works for, is merging with another county and the job of Sheriff is being sent to a vote. In the middle of the campaigning, a fisherman pulls up a severed head from Cold Lake. Sheriff Wolf is called to investigate and thinks it might be from a 22-year-old missing person mystery that his father, the former Sheriff, could never solve. As they drag the deep, cold lake looking for the rest of the body, they find more than what they bargained for.
Along the way, David is trying to reconnect with his ex-wife. They spend time together and reminisce and things seem to be going well between them. However, there’s information she has that helps him in the case but also puts a target on her.
Through five books, Carson has fleshed out these characters and gives them even better backgrounds here. With the impending merging of the counties, the Sheriff’s department would seem to be hunkering down and the deputies are nervous. Each of them has a connection to the town of Rocky Points and Sluice County, and if they lose their jobs it’s not certain where they would land. At the same time, there are deaths to be investigated and they must do their job. Sheriff Wolf does a good job fending off feelers from the officers in Byron County, the county they are merging with, and keeping the investigation within his department. At the same time, he’s fending off the very public criticism from the Sheriff of Byron County about his handling of the case. Instead of responding in kind, Sheriff Wolf puts his head down and does his job, rather than enter into a potential media circus.
The story is good, with a lot of twists and turns. I thought I had it figured out, but I didn’t in the end. There are some red herrings dangled before the reader but that just makes it better. The pace is a bit frantic, but that sets the tone for Sheriff Wolf trying to close the case before it’s potentially taken away from him by the election. He’s a good guy and the type of person who should be a Sheriff because he sees justice as part of his job, and justice is a search for the truth which might not always be the easiest answer.
The mystery had a feeling of being a little contrived and that’s the only really bad thing about it. In a small town, there are certain things people know and I can’t believe that some secrets would stay hidden as well as these do for 22 years. I can excuse that for the good story and an ending that made me want to dive right into the next book in the series.
Previous book in the series (link): Deadly Conditions by Jeff Carson