A review by kbranfield
Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima


4.5 stars

With Killing Trail, Margaret Mizushima's Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series is off to strong beginning. Starring an intrepid and appealing crime fighting duo, this debut police procedural is a suspense-laden murder mystery that I highly recommend to fans of the genre.

Deputy Mattie Cobb's first case with her new K-9 partner, Robo, is particularly heart wrenching. The teenage victim, Grace Hartman, is well-liked and has never been in trouble, leaving everyone mystified as to why anyone would want to kill her. While she has just completed twelve weeks of training as a K-9 handler, Mattie is a veteran of the small town police department and she is determined to bring Grace's killer to justice.

Mattie is an excellent police officer who is more comfortable with murder than her emotions. She is bit prickly and although she is immensely likable, she tends to be a loner. In her early thirties, Mattie relates well to children but she is reluctant to form friendships and she shies away from romantic entanglements. Growing up in a series of foster homes, she went through a rebellious period as a teen but she managed to turn her life before getting into too much trouble. No matter how far she has come from her troubled childhood, Mattie still carries residual guilt for her role in the events that tore her family apart.

The first stop on Mattie's investigation is local veterinarian Cole Walker. Grace's dog, Belle, was discovered alongside her body and the canine is in need of treatment for a bullet wound in her leg. While caring for her, Cole makes a startling discovery about Belle that points the investigation in a very unexpected direction. This information coupled with a vital clue from Cole's oldest daughter, Angela, leads Mattie to search for Mike Chadron, a local dog breeder who has been missing since Grace's body was discovered. What, if anything, does Mike have to do with Grace's murder? Wanting the answer to this question, Mattie's search for the missing man leads to yet another dead body. The investigation takes a few more unexpected twists as she follows the evidence and her suspicions turn to someone much closer to home.

Killing Trail is a spellbinding police procedural with a marvelous cast of eclectic yet engaging characters. The novel is fast-paced with a unique and intriguing mystery. The investigation is quite interesting and Margaret Mizushima skillfully keeps readers guessing whodunit through a series of misdirects and a very clever red herring. An excellent debut that will leave fans impatiently awaiting the next installment of the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series.