Genres: Mystery Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Tule Publishing
Released on October 2, 2018
I started this series earlier this year and meant to go right into this one after the stunning events revealed at the end of book two. But, alas… However, here we are and I was ready to go back to Bitter Root for more of Zak, Tiff, and Justin’s stories as they all face new troubles, romance, and yet another murder in their small Montana town that is darker than they ever imagined.
Bitter End is book three in the Bitter Roots mysteries series. It follows the lives of three friends and each one builds on the last with strong connections even if there is a new mystery introduced in each.
I don’t want to give away the big reveals that came at the end of the last book so I’m going to be vague on some poignant details and focus on others like Tiff fearing that Kenny plans to leave her and the Christmas Tree Farm behind to get back to his adventurous life, that Zak has made deputy with a new relationship with his fellow deputy Nadine while looking at the growing desire to run for sheriff to replace lazy Sheriff Ford, and that Justin is facing the possibility of not surviving this latest round of cancer and worries about his little girl and now has the added worry that her mother is back in town threatening to take her from Justin.
Then Willow is murdered. Her boyfriend Paul is the sheriff’s pick for the crime, but Zak can’t help seeing that Justin has the stronger motive since Willow was planning to take Geneva away. And, what of Willow’s past? Is there someone else who might have a hidden motive? Zak knows he’s treading on dangerous ground with Tiff and most of the town by investigating Justin, but he needs to follow where the fact trail takes him.
This one was a situation I was dreading from book one when Willow left Geneva with Justin and went back to Paul. I just knew we hadn’t seen the last of her especially after Geneva really settled into having Justin as a dad, a grandpa, and she and Justin getting close to her child care worker, warm-hearted Debbie-Ann. They were so happy becoming a family and Justin finding a woman who was willing to stick by him through his illness and didn’t run off when he gently did the ‘let’s be friends since I might be dying of cancer’ speech. I’m glad it didn’t get too angsty and mostly because the murder came early in the book. Willow was one of those victims where, no, I didn’t think she deserved to die, but I couldn’t help joining everyone else in being relieved that she was gone.
I’ve come a long way when it came to Tif. I didn’t like her much in the first book, but she grew on me and I was totally cheering for her in this one as she worried over Kenny’s hot-cold behavior and the secret she knew he was keeping (incidentally, I wanted to kick Kenny in the britches for how he handled all that), but then she set that aside to be there for Justin and Geneva and grow her relationship with her mom.
I really respected Zak for finally stepping up and not letting his past define him- for not being content to work from the background because he was willing to be average and outside people’s notice. He confronts the sheriff and a senior deputy about the problems in the department and gives the sheriff a chance to clean it up before running against him. He finally approached Nadene about his feelings for her to see if she might want something more than a casual flirtation, too. But the biggie? He did the hard thing and investigated the case impartially even if it meant suspecting a close friend and alienating his other friends.
Like the earlier books, the author dug into the secrets of this small community and revealed some more whopping bits. Some led to the murder solution which I worked out once all the clues were laid out. I’d fingered this one early on with just a few surprises that were filled in. I didn’t want to be right just like in the second book.
That’s the thing about this series, it manages to do what most cozy or ‘light’ mysteries rarely do with me which is draw me into a personal connection with the characters. Not to say it runs super deep, but more so than usually is the case for me. I’ve enjoyed having the three friend’s perspectives and getting to know several people in the community even the less than stellar ones. This book wrapped up quite a few loose ends, but it also left things in a place where the series could continue on. In truth, I’m hoping it does continue because a couple of the threads left dangling are curiosity pieces for me.
All in all, I loved this one and have loved the whole series. It’s an engaging small town cozy mystery series that focuses on the characters as much as the mystery. I can definitely recommend this one to other cozy or ‘light’ mystery fans.
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