Mattie Winston has a new, fancier “medicolegal” title in her fourth adventure, but she is still her smart, tenacious deputy coroner self. She and her detective crush, Steve Hurley, set out to solve the murders of three individuals in their small Wisconsin town. Author Annelise Ryan delivers an intelligent sleuth and plenty of interesting forensic detail, along with humor, in this engrossing page turner.
Though she knows that a relationship with Hurley means one of them would have to quit their jobs, they cannot resist flirting. The chemistry comes off the pages in between evidence collection and suspect interviews. Her boss and mentor, Izzy, warns her that she should look elsewhere for a social life. A new case, involving a burned paraplegic gambling winner, takes Mattie and Hurley out to a casino, where she encounters a hot manager and a strong new vice. Throughout the book, Mattie drops more and bigger bets as she convinces herself that she is “growing” the divorce settlement she finally received from her ex, David.
"Author Annelise Ryan delivers an intelligent sleuth and plenty of interesting forensic detail, along with humor, in this engrossing page turner."
The case also involves a gold-digging girlfriend, stacks of missing cash, home health aides, immigration, and more as the detectives try to piece together how much money disappeared and who wanted it the most. Clues are written into each interview, and readers will have to pay attention to the details in order to find the killer.
Another body, that of a missing fisherman, is found, but when Mattie and Hurley visit the widow’s home, they find her packing up her husband’s clothes --- before she got the official word. Interestingly, this case has a realistic and sad angle that is unique to amateur sleuth stories recently published. The situation and the forensics involved in solving it offer fascinating insight into both science and human nature.
When a third body is found on a person related to the paraplegic case, Mattie and Hurley think they have solved the case when missing drugs seem to explain the events. But a twist brings Mattie into danger and helps her find answers.
Mattie and Hurley take a break to attend a conference, and both think they are going to resolve their personal issues at the event. Instead, they encounter one disaster after another in a humorous escapade, though the romantic situation gets more focus when they return. Mattie makes decisions, but several nasty surprises in her personal and professional lives will make readers look forward to the events in her next story.
The juxtaposition of Mattie’s knowledge of medicine along with her poor choices in her personal life makes her a complex yet relatable character. Fans of forensic or medical suspense, as well as those who enjoy small-town amateur sleuth stories, will love LUCKY STIFF.
Reviewed by Amy Alessio on March 15, 2013