Genres: Mystery Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Tule Publishing
Released on April 25, 2017
A mystery set in small town Montana sounded just right and I’ve already enjoyed the author’s contemporary small town romances so I was primed and ready for Bitter Roots. It was a nice layered mystery with plenty of personal character back story, whiffs of romance, but a cunning mystery at the heart of things.
Zak Waller is a home town guy who likes to stay under the radar and enjoy the simple things of life while working as the dispatcher and office clerk for the county sheriff’s office. Everything changes when a murdered body of a new girl in town forces him into action.
Tiff came home with her tail tucked between her legs after years of being away working as a big city accountant and swearing she’ll never go home. She has unresolved grief and anger from her brother and dad’s death years ago and her mother falling apart mentally shortly after. But, she needs to start over and she comes home just in time to find one of the family Christmas Tree Farm’s workers has been murdered.
Justin Pittman grew up in Lost Trail and stuck around after university to be a small town lawyer and take care of his dad. His new wife and adopted daughter have him making adjustments especially when the cancer seems to have come back. But, the murdered woman has the whole town in a tizzy and he is caught up in things.
Bitter Roots was an interesting beginning to a new series. I had to adjust quickly to the idea that this was a trilogy of stories that tie together through the personal stories of three people: Zak, Tiff, and Justin who all grew up in the town of Lost Trail. The mystery shares stage with their three personal stories. The mystery finished off in this story, but the rest is ongoing. I had to adjust to this set-up so I knew what to expect. I liked the deeper development this allows for the cast of characters.
So, the personal stories… I liked Zak and Justin right away even if I thought Zak was letting his past hold him back from being something more and I thought Justin’s situation with his wife was leading in a certain direction which it was. I liked the dynamics of friendship between Zak and Tiff and that little bit of excitement starting up for Zak with the hot and determined new deputy.
But with Tiff, it took me a bit to warm up to her. She didn’t do well after her dad and brother died with her angry at the world attitude. She can’t accept the way her mother is, but doesn’t see that she’s not really different in her not so healthy way of handling her grief. She gets snarky and resentful with the Christmas Tree Farm manager from the get go and it takes her a while to do some self-realization and get herself together. Once she did, I liked her and enjoyed what she has started in her love interest.
Now, the mystery wasn’t terribly twisting, but it wasn’t simplistic, either. I liked how it was in the forefront and yet flowed nicely as Zak, Tiff, and Justin worked out their own stories. The clues were there and it was fun to see Zak, in particular, but also Tiff really get into the investigation. The sheriff wants a quick closure and cares more for votes and keeping his supporters happy than doing actual police work. That’s where the new deputy, Nadine Black, a former rodeo star, and Zak end up beings the ones to work the case. The chemistry is good between the pair with the sparks flying now and then.
There were a few side mysteries that were left open that will become more front and center in the following series installments. I had a good time with this one and enjoyed the blend of character stories, their romances and murder mystery in the Montana small town so I’ll definitely be reaching for book two soon.
COYER Winter #22