ORDER A COPY: Lucky Stiff (Mattie Winston Mysteries)
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publishing Date: March 4, 2013
Paperback: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
It’s Christmas Day in the sleepy town of Sorenson, Wisconsin, but instead of unwrapping presents, deputy coroner Mattie Winston is at the burnt remains of a house, where a charred body has been found. The victim is none other than Jack Allen-a paraplegic who recently won a huge casino jackpot at a website like Casino-bonus.me.uk. Upon closer inspection, Mattie and detective Steve Hurley are convinced Jack was murdered to steal his winnings, giving the phrase Black Jack a whole new meaning.
But as Mattie investigates, even her cutting-edge forensic skills keep coming up short in a case with as many suspects as twists. After her odds-on-favorite turns up dead, Mattie and Hurley must race to find a killer before another victim cashes in his chips
Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston has been re-assigned as the liaison between the ME’s office and the police. This new promotion has been a joy and a torture. She gets to work all her cases directly with Det. Steve Hurley, the one man who has gotten her hormones working overtime since her divorce. Although they are now constantly together, their respective jobs require a certain personal distance. This means simply that Mattie can’t have the one man she wants the most.
Their current case involves a paraplegic named Jack Allen whose body is found in the charred remains of his house. It’s beginning to look like a case of arson. It appears that Jack has just won a huge jackpot at the local casino, and he hasn’t kept that fact a secret. Everyone knows about his love of online casinos and likes to visit lennus.com and similar sites. So that makes just about everyone in town a suspect. When an autopsy proves that Jack didn’t die from the fire, Hurley and Mattie need to sort through the facts to narrow down their killer.
While the investigation is keeping them on their toes, so is the building attraction between them. To Mattie there is no longer a question of whether or not Hurley wants more from her, but can she give up a job she loves and which challenges her so she can be with this man that sets her body aflame.
I like the characters in this series. I like that Mattie Winston is an average, everyday woman. She’s got body issues and too much love for ice cream and pizza. She hates to exercise and she stress eats. A former RN, she now works for her friend Izzy who is the local coroner, and her medical background is a perfect compliment to Hurley’s police work.
After her husband, the local surgeon is caught cheating in the hospital where they both worked, Mattie has found herself attracted to Hurley. They have reached the point where it is no longer a of question of whether those feelings are reciprocated, but now that they have admitted their mutual desires, they are forbidden from pursuing the relationship so there isn’t any shadow of a doubt of coercion between the departments.
Now my only complaint in this series is that this is book four of the series and it is a first person narrative. We watched while Mattie drooled over Hurley with only his casual flirting with her in return so there is a lot of that “does he like me like I like him” angst. We saw a building up of the attraction toward the end of book 3 when they suddenly become direct co-workers and can’t be together personally. Now in book 4 we finally know for certain that Hurley returns Mattie’s affections but because of the rules they can’t decide what’s more important, being together or working together. From where we left off, I can guess how book 5 will leave us hanging still further and (again just me guessing) how book 6 might also continue to drag out how Hurley and Mattie can’t be together. I wonder if they get into Jack’s love for casino games more. I’d love to read about what sort of Online casino he enjoys practicing in to help him win those kinds of jackpots. It might be a contributing factor to Hurley and Mattie’s struggle or perhaps he may find some great RTG casinos and win even more money, leading to a life of luxury. I’m sure that would make for some good writing! I’m all for building the sexual tension but come on now you can still have a good story with them together as a couple. It is one thing to drag it out for as long as possible in a YA book, but we’re all adults. Let’s work this out.
Mattie is the character whose bread will never fall butter side up, (but she’ll eat it anyway) in a very “I Love Lucy” way. She’s the character who will be locked out of her house in her underwear, or do something embarrassing when she thinks she’s alone, only to find there was a camera or a two-way mirror with people watching her. It makes for a lot of entertaining situations.
This is not a heart pounding thriller, but the puzzle solving is very entertaining. If you like shows like CSI, you will enjoy the storytelling and the characters are very likeable and the situations Mattie keeps getting into will leave you laughing.
I enjoy the series, and wish it would come out more than once a year.
Received ARC from Kensington Books. Thank you.
“You seemed to be enjoying yourself,” Whitehorse says as I’m stuffing my money in my purse. “How about a one-hundred-dollar voucher so you can come back and play on us?”
Feeling like I’ve hit the proverbial jackpot, I’m about to agree when Hurley speaks up.
“Thanks for the offer, but we can’t accept any gratuities. It might be construed as a conflict of interest.”
I realize Hurley is right and pout. Whitehorse shrugs and looks at me; his dark eyes are smoking. “Perhaps you’d like to come back sometime on your own dime, then. I’d love to show you around the place. Maybe even take you out to dinner?”
I’m flattered; but before I can answer, Hurley once again pipes up.
“I’m not sure that would be wise, at least until our investigation is over.”
“Then we’ll make dinner a part of the investigation,” Whitehorse counters, undeterred. “I’ll provide you with some insight into the overall operations of the casino, and do the same with any employees of interest. I’ll even arrange some interviews for you. That way you can consider it an official part of the investigation.” He looks at me and winks. “At least for now.”
I like Joe Whitehorse. He’s handsome, witty, affable, and the smoke signals in his eyes are hinting at a possible end to my sexual drought. “Thanks,” I say, smiling at him. “That would be nice.”
Hurley shifts uncomfortably, communicating his irritation. Then he says, “Fine. Where and when should we get together?”
Joe and I both turn to stare at him.
“Well, we’re a team,” Hurley says, pointing from me to himself. “And we’ve been issued an edict to oversee one another’s investigative efforts. So if you two are going to have dinner and discuss our investigation, I need to be there.”
“I see,” Joe says.
Hurley has clearly thrown down a gauntlet and I wait, curious to see if Joe will take the challenge. It’s my own personal game of cowboys and Indians-and I’m kind of liking it.
“Okay, then,” Joe says. “Why don’t you two plan on returning here tomorrow evening and I’ll bring the employee list and some files with me and go over them with you. We can meet at the restaurant next door. Does seven sound okay?”
“Seven will be fine,” Hurley says. His eyes are the color of cold steel and he’s wearing a smug smile, which irritates me.
We part company from Joe; on the way out to Hurley’s car, I fume. As soon as we’re settled inside, I let him have it.
“You don’t think you’re fooling anyone with that whole team speech, do you?”
“What do you mean?” he says, sounding all innocent. “It’s true.”
“I think you know damn well that Joe’s original purpose for the meal wasn’t to discuss the investigation.”
“That’s what he said,” Hurley says, shrugging.
“Because you cornered him into it.”
“If that wasn’t his intent, then what was?”
“He was asking me out on a date.”
“He was? I’m sorry. I didn’t pick up on that.”
“The hell you didn’t.”