Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Police Procedural/Mystery
Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words
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Mike Markel teaches writing at Boise State University. In addition to the Seagate and Miner Mystery series (this is the fourth in that series) he has written eight non-fiction books on writing and numerous articles for various publications.
For more, visit the author’s website.
Grad student Austin Sulenka is found in bed, dead from strangulation. Detectives Seagate and Miner investigate. The philandering student has a plethora of people who might have motive. Will the detectives be able to uncover the guilty party?
I like police procedurals, mysteries with a cop, usually a detective, as the protagonist. The mystery part matters (obviously), but what sets one book or series apart from another, raising it from average to great, is how I relate to the protagonist. Their personality, sense of humor, and backstory all figure into that reaction, along with their intelligence and cleverness in solving the crimes they’re investigating. I’ll come back to the protagonist in a bit.
One thing I look for in a book is a sense of place. If it takes place in an actual town or city, does the author get the details correct? Seagate and Miner are detectives in Rawlings, a fictional college town in Montana. Rawlings is generic enough to keep the author out of trouble by not having to worry about getting details of a specific town correct, yet has enough character to feel like it could be one of several actual places. (The only actual town in Montana that figured into the story beyond a brief mention, the author nailed the details, right down to the name of a real motel and its description.)
The mystery in the story was a good one, with Seagate and Miner uncovering lots of suspects with possible motives, having to investigate and attempt to eliminate each one. The climax was exciting and even though at that point whodunit was apparent, it took an unexpected twist, with Miner doing several things that seemed out of character for him, but made sense in the end.
This brings us back to the protagonist. Or maybe I should say protagonists. Although some might view Karen Seagate as the protagonist since she’s the lead character and, in this case, narrator, I viewed her partner, Ryan Miner, as co-protagonist. They’re a team, even if Seagate is the lead detective who calls the shots. Seagate is a foul-mouthed recovering alcoholic with an in-your-face attitude. Miner is a Mormon who would probably describe himself as a bit of a Boy Scout. They’re always giving each other a hard time, but there is never any doubt that despite their differences, they view themselves as a team and have mutual respect. The dynamics of these two opposites working together added a lot for me, not only in the humor inherent in such a pairing, but the different knowledge and viewpoint each brought to the investigation. This team has a lot of potential as the series continues.
Lots of adult language and themes.
Although this is the fourth book in the Seagate and Miner Mystery series, the book can be read as a standalone.
No significant issues
Rating: ***** Five Stars