Review: Bitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael

Posted January 27, 2019 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 18 Comments

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Review: Bitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael
Bitter Roots

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Series: Bitter Root Mysteries #1
Genres: Mystery Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Tule Publishing
Released on April 25, 2017
Pages: 310
Format: Paperback
Source: Giveaway
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The Delight

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.


Review

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.


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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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Mary Kirkland
1 year ago

Sounds like all those characters worked well together in this book. I like a good murder mystery now and again.

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Mary Kirkland

I thought so and it was great continuing with them into the next book and the next mystery. I was glad this author tried her hands at mystery romances. 🙂

Carole @ Carole's Random Life in Books

This was looking really familiar to me so I checked and found that I have it sitting on my Kindle. That is fantastic since this sounds really good even if it took a bit to warm up to some of the characters. Great find!

Sophia Rose
1 year ago

LOL, yep, I do this. I take it as affirmation that I was right in snagging the freebie. 🙂
I was glad this turned out to be a good one. I enjoyed book two even better.

herding cats
1 year ago

Oooo interesting! I have a couple friends that are dispatchers but never seen one in a book. Hmmm I’ll have to add this to the list.

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  herding cats

I think you’d enjoy these. I’ve read through book 2. I’ve read books by a gal who writes SFR, but dispatched for the Phoenix PD and she once in a while will chat about that on her FB page.

herding cats
1 year ago
Reply to  Sophia Rose

I picked it up tonight since it was a freebie. Woo! Yay! I enjoyed the ghostly knight by the way 🙂

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  herding cats

Oh, super, Anna. I knew it was a freebie back in December, but didn’t realize it was a permanent one or I’d have shouted out to everyone. I got the first two in a newsletter giveaway. Now, I need to snag the last book in the trio to finish out the character part of the it all plus I like the cozy mystery part, too.

That is good. I can breathe easier knowing you liked the ghostly knight. It wasn’t a big earth-shattering story, but I liked it so glad you did. Hopefully you’ll like this one, too. 🙂

Nadene
1 year ago

One clicked. Thanks for sharing this, it sounds good. love a good mystery.

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Nadene

So glad you could snag it, Nadene. Hope you enjoy it. This one and the next one were nice small town cozies. I’ll be heading into the last book next. 🙂

Carole rae
1 year ago

Hopefully book 2 is just as good

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Carole rae

Even better! It’s already devoured. 🙂

Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)

It’s good that there was a fully realised mystery in this first book, as well as setting up longer story arcs. I don’t like when the first of a series only feels like an introduction

Sophia Rose
1 year ago

Yes, it did a good job of setting up, but offered strong closure that doesn’t require the reader to keep reading if they want to stop with book one.

Lola
1 year ago

Sounds like an interesting set-up with the three different character and who all have a tie with the mystery. So their personal stories will continue over the course of the series with a new mystery in each book? I can see why it took you some time to warm up to Tiff, but it does sound nice how she gets her act together eventually. Great review!

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Lola

Yes, that is exactly how it works. I just finished the second book. The murder was tied up again, but the personal stories, whew, there was a big twist in those, too.

Reese
Reese
1 year ago

It sounds very interesting, because it seems like there’s a good balance between the mystery and the character arcs and relationships!

Sophia Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Reese

Yes, exactly, Reese. I love it when everything is developed as well as the mystery part of the plot. 🙂