Crooked Lane Books (2018)
Reviewed by Adrienne Johnston for Reader Views (09/18)
“Burning Ridge,” by Margaret Mizushima is the fourth book of a series that follows Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo. Set in Colorado, the book includes all the elements a reader looks for when picking a rainy-day-novel: mystery, a beautiful setting, likeable supporting characters, a little bit of romance, and a tortured protagonist. The story moves at a good pace, maintained an appropriate comfort level for readers who are not into incredibly gruesome details, and the suspect was not an obvious choice. At only 280 pages, this book is easily finished in a day or two. For the reader who wants a cozy detective novel, “Burning Ridge” would be a good choice.
Overall, “Burning Ridge” is a good story and the author has created a likeable protagonist in Mattie Cobb. Mattie Cobb is flawed, has a turbulent history, she works with a K-9 partner in the department, and maintains a moral compass. She is the type of character that readers want to come out on top, which is ideal for the main character of a story. The down side is, Mattie Cobb as a character is only what the author reveals. Readers are told that Cobb is tortured and a loner, but there is a lack of character development. For example, a foster parent raised Cobb after her father died and her mother ran away. If the reader were raised in foster care, they would be able to relate because of personal experience. I was not raised in a foster home, so I had no emotional connection. Getting to know the characters on a deeper level would have created a better dynamic. Introducing the reader to the thoughts, fears, ideas, frustrations, and general emotions of the characters as they experience the events that occur would have created a better connection to the character with the reader.
The storyline has great potential; however, it felt flat and forced in some parts. At one point, K-9 Robo is on the brink of death but is quickly and conveniently saved. Immediately Robo is healthy and energetic enough to save the day. There are similar examples throughout the book, where the outcome is convenient instead of believable to the story. As a former police dispatcher, I appreciate that Mizushima wanted to show the relationship between K-9 and handler. There was a lack of explanation about the training that K-9s go through to receive certification for different searches (i.e. drugs, cadavers, search and rescue). This may have been covered in one of the three previous books in the series, but I missed reading it in this particular book.
Overall, I did enjoy the book as a whole. The story line was a great idea and the characters have potential to be favorites. Detective fiction, or murder mysteries, are my go-to books for a relaxing read; “Burning Ridge” delivers on that concept. This is a good choice for a rainy day, a cup of tea, hours to unwind, and a story that is fun while also keeping the reader guessing. The action is easy to follow, the suspect was a complete surprise, and the narrative concept was interesting. For anyone that likes to get lost in a story, I would recommend “Burning Ridge” by Margaret Mizushima.