The Dead of Winter
A Piper Blackwell Mystery
By Jean Rabe
Cover design by Ryan Doan
Trade paperback, 208 pages, $15.99
set in Southern Indiana
Piper Blackwell didn’t expect her first day on the job as Spencer County Sheriff to include a murder. But on New Year’s Day, there’s no denying that Conrad Delaney’s frozen body holding a cup of ice cold coffee on his black sleigh is anything less than arranged.
When the investigation begins, Sheriff Blackwell finds herself working alongside her opponent in the election, Oren Rosenberg. Oren, who worked for Piper’s father, the former sheriff, believes that Piper is far too young and inexperienced to do her job effectively. That he should be the sheriff. He lets her know it through his attitude. Piper does have experience. She served in the Middle East. Just not the experience of a police officer.
So what do they know as they stand at the scene of the crime? They know Conrad’s body was found by a neighbor who was going to invite him to their New Year’s party. Their guests are present and disturbing the evidence, though none of them seem to care. Oren knows that the dead man was 65 years old and that his wife is also dead. Because of the red spots in his eyes, he’s been strangled. Next comes gathering of names, addresses from the party guests, the usual autopsy, and that would have led directly to finding the suspects. Problem is the killing didn’t stop there and the dead just keep popping up. A few of them wouldn’t have hurt a flea.
The question is do they have something in common or are these random killings? Logically, in a small town like this, there’s reason to believe all the victims knew each other. But who would want them dead?
The Dead of Winter demanded my attention. The author had the guts to put a woman in the position of sheriff and not a tall, fitness obsessed, totally sure of herself type of woman. Piper is a short, petite, intelligent, get-the-job-done-at-any-cost, sheriff. Not only is she up against a ruthless killer who doesn’t give a damn about another human being, she’s up against gender discrimination. It’s a race to find the killer who seems to be leaving a trail of bodies. Equally disturbing is his presentation and what he uses to define he’s the killer. The descriptions of setting and the actions of the characters make it almost like watching a movie. Which would make Rabe a skilled director. The only negative aspect of the book was the men working with her spent so much time trying to make her fail, that it was more of a race to beat her in solving the crime, then actually solving it as a team.
Four Christmas cards out of five
December 30, 2016