The fifth novel in the Bree Taggert series by Melinda Leigh, “Dead Against Her,” is just as riveting and touching as the first ones. They feature Bree Taggert, a tough female sheriff in a rural upstate New York community who was born in the county to an abusive father. She became a detective, and, when her sister was murdered, returned to her roots to raise her sister’s children with the help of her now retired former partner.
In this novel, a double murder is only the beginning of Taggert’s troubles. A former deputy who hated Taggert is found murdered along with his mother at his mother’s farm. Shortly thereafter, deep fake videos and pornographic photos appear that have been photoshopped to include Taggert’s face with the aim of discrediting her. Local media has a field day expressing their faux shock that the sheriff was in such photos, completely ignoring her protestations that they were fake and not bothering to check for evidence that the images were photoshopped. During the course of the investigation, evidence links the murder victim and some of the suspects to a local militia group. Not uncommon in such pseudo-military groups is a propensity for violence and extreme misogyny.
Reading the books in this series is wonderful on many levels. The murder mystery is always well done and thrilling; there’s always lots of action; the characters are well developed and authentically imperfect. But Leigh brings in real issues that real women face in these sometimes-trying times. Other women in positions of authority understand what Bree Taggert faces as she encounters deputies who work for her but hate working for a woman; who try to undermine her authority; and who leak information that is to her detriment. Other women have also been the subject of deep-fake videos and received hate letters and emails with pornographic images and horrifying threats. And we also see how biased some media can be in reporting such issues, choosing to share information without subjecting it to verification as to its authenticity.
While this book does work as a stand alone novel and can be read apart from the whole series, there is much character development that goes on in the series as a whole. Readers opting not to read all the books are missing out on seeing how clever Leigh’s writing is as she develops Taggert’s relationships with her niece and nephew; with Matt, a former deputy who now consults with the sheriff’s office along with his K-9, Brody; and with her deputies. Dog lovers will love Brody, the K-9, and Ladybug, Taggert’s rescue dog (who is IRL Leigh’s own family dog adopted from a rescue). In short, “Dead Against Her” is a novel that fulfills readers’ expectations on multiple levels: it’s exciting, emotional, and intellectually thoughtful.
Please note: This review first appeared in Bookreporter.com.