I’ve really enjoyed books about women sheriffs, and Melinda Leigh’s Bree Taggert series fits the bill nicely. The third book in the series, “Drown Her Sorrows,” can be read as a stand alone book, but the whole series is so good, why not start with the first one, “Cross Her Heart” and then continue with “See Her Die.” Bree Taggert has returned to her hometown, Grey’s Hollow, where her abusive father killed her mother as eight-year-old Bree cowered under the porch with her four-year-old sister and infant brother. In the first book, Bree returns to solve her sister’s murder, and she stays when she is offered the position of county sheriff.
On the very first page of this book, we learn about a car parked next to a bridge on the side of Dead Horse Road. It’s a secluded place, and inside the car are a woman’s purse and cell phone. She is nowhere to be seen. When Bree arrives at the scene and goes down to the river, she finds the body of the driver. The woman, identified as Holly Thorpe, is first thought to have jumped into the river, the same place where her father had died many years previously. But the autopsy shows that the woman was dead before ending up in the river, and that’s just the first murder that Bree will be investigating over the course of this mystery. When Holly’s employer, a really repugnant character, is killed, we don’t feel bad at all. But we do wonder why he was killed and if the murders are connected.
The action moves quickly, and we don’t want to stop reading as we meet all the characters involved, many of whom are not nice people. We also view Bree’s romance with consultant and former K-9 dog handler Matt as it continues to grow. I enjoy reading about Matt’s sister, Cady, who runs a dog rescue. The first time we meet Matt in this book, he’s helping Cady rescue a sweet, skinny pit bull who was abandoned and tied to a porch in an unoccupied house. Nothing will stop her from rescuing a dog in need, and we love her for it!
One of the things I appreciate about reading books written by authors who know dogs (like Melinda Leigh as well as David Rosenfelt’s “Andy Carpenter” series) is that they get it right. An amusing but oh-so-true scene is when Bree and Matt go to his sister’s house because they can’t reach her by phone. Her dogs are behind a gate in the house. Leigh writes, “The Great Dane mix cowered at the rear of the pack, while the Chihuahua snapped and growled at the gate. The pit bulls simultaneously barked and wagged their tails.” Oh, so true. Give me a big dog any day of the week; it’s the little ones with Napoleon complexes that you have to watch out for, as Leigh is obviously aware.
What makes Bree an especially likable character is that she’s far from perfect, as she admits through the third person narrative that deftly shares Bree’s point of view. We understand her fear of dogs, stemming from when her father’s dog viciously attacked her as a child. It’s a fear she is trying to overcome, and she has grown to love the rescue Matt gave her, Ladybug, a chubby friendly dog. In real life, Leigh has a rescue dog named Ladybug. She shared with me, “We adopted Ladybug after losing our rescue mini pit to a heart attack a few years ago. Our older rescue, Bandit, was devastated. He has high anxiety and couldn’t be left alone. We had to hire a teenager to sit with him if we wanted to go out to dinner. I contacted our local rescue and asked if they had any super chill dogs. (Having 2 dogs with anxiety is not the best idea.) They recommended a four-year-old pointer/bulldog that had recently recovered from heartworm treatment. Ladybug was calm and friendly and perfect for Bandit. The vet calls her Bandit’s emotional support dog. Ladybug is the least intimidating dog I’ve ever owned. I’ve often thought that she would make an excellent therapy dog, which led to the idea of creating a heroine who was afraid of dogs, which led to putting Ladybug into the series I was just beginning to plot.” So there you go—the fictional Ladybug is based on the real life Ladybug!
Leigh adeptly keeps the action moving at a gallop yet also delves into Bree’s new family life as she is now raising her niece and nephew at Bree’s sister’s farm replete with horses. We see Bree’s relationship with her brother developing, and we get to meet Matt’s parents. Ultimately, the parts of the story specifically about the characters are surprisingly satisfying and fulfilling, and the actual murder mystery is cleverly created and masterfully managed so we really are taken when the twists and turns (in the story, not those on Dead Horse Road) are revealed.
If you enjoy mysteries that keep you guessing and characters who make you smile and animals in need of rescue who get help, you won’t want to miss this series.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Montlake Books, the publisher, for review purposes.