A review by kbranfield
Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima


4.5 stars.

In Hunting Hour, the discovery of a missing teen's lifeless body has a rather profound effect on K-9 handler Deputy Mattie Cobb. Although this latest release is the third installment in Margaret Mizushima's Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series, it can easily be read as a standalone (but I highly recommend the entire series).

Mattie is still trying to work through the deep-seated and extremely troubling issues from her highly dysfunctional and abusive childhood when her search for missing thirteen year old Candace Banks ends in tragedy. The subsequent investigation uncovers startling information that makes Mattie suspicious that the girl's father, Burt, might have been molesting his daughter. Although there is no evidence to substantiate her theory, inconsistencies in his alibi definitely make him a person of interest in the case. The investigation into Candace's death is barely underway when Mattie's friend, local veterinarian Cole Walker's youngest daughter is kidnapped.  Certain the two cases are linked, Mattie, Chief Deputy Ken Brody and Detective Stella LoSasso begin a frantic search to locate eight year old Sophie before it is too late.

In recent months, Mattie has distanced herself from Cole, his daughters and her co-workers as she undergoes therapy in an effort to come to terms with her traumatic past. With these terrible memories fresh in her mind, she is exhausted and emotionally battered as she and her canine partner Robo begin searching for Candace. After finding the young girl's body, Mattie and the team soon discover somewhat unsavory and very unexpected information about the young teenager and Mattie's childhood experiences lead her to a very troubling conclusion. Since Stella is the only person with any knowledge of the demons that are haunting Mattie, she gently, but diligently, cautions her to try not to let her past cloud her judgment and maintain her focus on the evidence they are uncovering.

Despite Mattie's unsettling suspicions, there are other viable suspects who have valid reasons for harming Candace. Several members of the high school football team are brought in for questioning but is one of the young men Candace's killer? After Sophie's disappearance, suspicion then falls on Gus Tilley, one of Cole's clients whose out of character behavior in recent days moves him to the top of the suspect list. Mattie and the rest of the Sheriff's office are also frantically searching for a recently paroled pedophile who has been spotted in Timber Creek, but their efforts have thus far yielded few results.

With an engrossing storyline and an intriguing mystery to solve, Hunting Hour is a riveting police procedural that is incredibly suspenseful. Mattie is a deeply flawed yet immensely appealing protagonist who is gradually making progress with coming to terms with her past. Cole is a wonderful possible love interest but he is also carrying emotional baggage that leaves Mattie doubtful he is ready for a new relationship. The investigation into Candace's death and Sophie's disappearance is fast-paced and without a discernible motive for either crime, Mattie, Robo and the Sheriff's department are faced with an almost daunting task as they ramp up their search for answers. Margaret Mizushima continues to keep the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series fresh with the addition of new characters, evolving relationships between Mattie and her co-workers and perplexing mysteries. This newest addition to this phenomenal series is sure to be a hit with loyal followers and readers who are just now discovering this fantastic crime fighting duo.