Book Review – Dead in the Water

By Annelise Ryan

The 8th Mattie Winston Mystery


March 2017


I read a trade paperback ARC

Formats Available: kindle, hardcover, mass market paperback, audio CD.

Mattie Winston plays an important role in determining the cause of death. As a medico-legal death investigator, she gathers evidence for the medical examiner’s office. At times, she testifies in a Wisconsin court room. Even a well-prepared witness can stumble during questioning, but Mattie has courage and experience and is confident she can do what needs to be done to see that justice is served.

No sooner does she finish testifying for one murder case, is she assigned to another. This one is for a young woman studying to be a nurse. There are no visible clues as to the cause of her death according to Mattie as she examines the scene of the crime and takes pictures for the investigation.

Shortly after, the police are notified that one of Mattie’s co-workers hasn’t returned from a day outing with his girlfriend in his boat. Twisted fate strikes when Mattie and her fiancé, Detective Steve Hurley, are informed through separate phone calls, that a body has been found trapped up against a damn downtown. No sooner do they arrive at the site does Mattie volunteer to help Sorensen Police Department retrieve the body. According to witnesses, it has been drifting down river. Imagine the horror when she sees Hal’s lifeless body underwater with a deep gash on the side of his neck and a defensive wound on his hand. After informing Dennis, who dove with her, and Hurley on land, they take a short drive to where Hal’s boat is located. At this scene is Greta Zorski, from the local sheriff’s office, and her men, who were headed to the boat as they pulled up. Knowing there’s more to the story then the police have stated, local reporter Alison Miller arrives at the scene. Since she’s helped Mattie with another case, she is allowed nearby, but is not to interfere or speak of the case until given permission. Greta takes Hurley and Mattie to the boat so she can record evidence. Mattie informs them that she believes two people were on the boat. Immediately, Zorski thinks Tina, Hal’s girlfriend, may have killed him. Mattie doesn’t believe that’s what happened so she suits up. Unfortunately, in the green water, they find Tina’s body. Caught in the state of deep sadness for the couple, Mattie collects evidence, snaps pictures, and then rises to the surface.

With both bodies now recovered, Hurley suggests that Mattie look into the cases that Hal was working on. There might be a connection. With the help of Allison, who can question neighbors and snoop around, they can acquire clues the police and Mattie are not aware of.

Dead in the Water was well written. Several things made this book a super read: the protagonist is a nurse turned coroner with a knowledge of medicine and anatomy that added more detail. She was a no-nonsense character who tells it like it is. Some of the best scenes are with Mattie and Hurley trying to eat, care for their young son, interact with their landlord and his husband, his mother, and the men’s daughter. In addition, they were dealing with a number of murders, not just one. That takes a lot of creative juggling. When the reader gets to the actual person(s) responsible they will have no problem believing it. This is a subject that demands some heavy-duty research and awareness. Looking forward to reading the next Mattie Winston Mystery. And, thank you, Annelise for making Mattie realistic.

Five out of five morgue toe tags

Denise Fleischer


May 21, 2017