Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Review: First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Series regulars shine, interesting developments in Meg’s life
Cons: This book’s mystery overshadowed by other developments
The Bottom Line:
Body in steam room
Meg’s life gets complicated
Series fans will like

Meg Faces a Muddy Mess

My love of mud runs has come full circle.  I first heard of them when a mystery author I read did one, and now I’ve read First Degree Mudder, set during the training for a mud run.  (And yes, I even timed it so that I was reading it the week between doing the Camp Pendleton Mud Run and the Irvine Lake Mud Run this month.)

Meg Reed’s newest assignment for Northwest Extreme magazine is to participate in Mud, Sweat, and Beers, a mud run coming to Portland in three weeks.  But before that, she’s signing up for Mind Over Mudder, a training course that meets every morning to whip people into shape for the run.  The drill instructor running the course is Billy, and he takes his job very seriously.  Some might even say too seriously, and after two weeks Meg is seriously questioning her decision to sign up.

The Saturday before the race is the first time Meg and her team actually crawl through the mud as part of their training.  It doesn’t go well, and Meg sneaks out early instead of completing the rest of the run.  However, when she arrives back at the barracks the company uses as their headquarters, she discovers Billy’s body in the steam room.  What is going on?

First, I’ve got to say that author Kate Dyer-Seeley is much nicer to Billy than I would have been.  When I heard mystery set at a mud run, I was expecting the dead body to show up in a mud pit.  But that’s completely beside the point.

This is now Meg’s fourth mystery, and I really don’t recommend you jump into the series here.  In fact, if you do, I think you’ll be disappointed.  The mystery of what happened to Billy and why is more of a sub-plot than the focus of the book.  Instead, we get stories of Meg’s life changing and some serious twists in the plot of her father’s murder, a series long plot thread.

Here’s the thing.  As someone who has been following this series since the beginning, I want to know this information.  I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next.  But without that background, I don’t think I would have been as engrossed in this book.  Believe me, with the way this book ends, I’m already looking forward to finding out what happens to Meg next.  (Can we say cliffhangers?)

Given this, I’m sure it will be no surprise when I say that the characters introduced in this book are good, but not given enough page time to be fully developed.  However, the series regulars are more than up to the task of carrying this book.  Meg especially continues to grow as the book unfolds.

And at the end of the book, we get the usual adventure tips and tour guide if you’d like to go to some of the real places where this book is set.

If I sounded overly harsh earlier, let me be clear, the mystery here has some good twists and definitely holds together.  It’s just overshadowed by some other developments in Meg’s life that will only mean something to those who already care about Meg.

So if you are up to date on Meg’s adventures, you’ll definitely want to read First Degree Mudder.  If you are new to the series, I recommend backing up before you dive into these murky waters.

If you need to back up, here are the rest of the Pacific Northwest Mysteries.

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