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This warm and friendly series which takes place in Loon Lake, Wisconsin, has so much going for it, it's hard to know where to begin. Those who love to fish, either "dancing the fly" or musky fishing, will certainly have fun reading this very good mystery with lots of Wisconsin atmosphere. While it is not necessary to be much of a fisherman to like this series, the enthusiasm for fishing is infectious. It seems, however, to be more an expression of taking some pleasure in the living of life than anything else. It is not a gimmick and does not distract from the very good mystery, as is the case in many of the series now making the rounds. It does, in fact, add to the pleasure of reading this marvelous and fun to read book.
Loon Lake is the kind of town where the local MacDonalds isn't just a place to meet in the morning for coffee, but a clearing house for the latest Loon Lake gossip. On any given morning, it's where you can usually find retired dentist Paul Osborne, known simply as "Doc." Loon Lake is a town small enough where people usually know each other's business. It has a Cabot Cove kind of feel to it. Almost everyone who lives there is right where they want to be.
The colorful and sometimes shady Ray Pradt might be there also. He is the best fly-fisherman around, and a good friend to Doc. It is a friendship you will learn much about over the course of reading this book, and it will add depth to the mystery. There is also a real charm to Doc's feelings for the town's female sheriff, Lewellyn Ferris, known to all simply as Lew. Doc is a musky man, but takes Lew up on her offer to reacquaint him with the joys of fly fishing. When they discover the body of a woman named Meredith, Lew will deputize the Doc for his forensic skills.
The mystery is very good and the characters excellent. Doc's old friends and acquaintences, who become suspects as some tangled and twisted relationships are uncovered, are fleshed out enough to lend a little depth to this mystery. There is even a little danger and a dash of unexpected violence that, while not graphic, adds a serious dimension to the mystery portion. Someone you were sure would be a recurring character in the series will not make it. There will be a sad but exciting ending to the mystery portion of "Dead Angler." The epilog, as our friends enjoy some burgers smothered under big slabs of Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese while they discuss the past few day's events, make this series top-notch.
One of the reasons I loved this book is the atmosphere. Loon Lake, Wisconsin, has a warm and inviting feel. It's a place you'd like to visit and maybe stay a couple of weeks. You really get a sense of the rugged beauty of the woods and lakes of Wisconsin, and wish you too could smell the sweet scent of wildflowers growing in the Northwoods. If you love to fish, you'll probably long to cast on the waters of Loon Lake late one night to see what's biting.
The characters are another reason I love this book. They are likable because they seem real. By the end of this book, they'll seem like old pals you want to visit as often as you can. Doc's affection for Lew and his growing jealousy over her sometimes fishing partner, Ralph, has a real charm to it. It's a big deal when he finally gets up the courage to ask her to share in his weed beds and go musky fishing with him. There is a lot of stuff like that here and it is one of the things that separates this from others in the mystery theme genre.
You'll learn a lot about both Doc and Ray Pradt here in the first book in the series. Ray will seem a little "out there" when you first meet him in this mystery, but by the end you'll know why he's Doc's best friend. You'll also know that Doc is a real person. Author Victoria Houston has given him two grown daughters, one of whom will be in the midst of leaving a troubled marriage. Doc will understand what Mallory is going through but not have any answers. He did not have a good marriage with the mother of his two daughters, as she was really not a very nice woman.
Mallory's confusion will turn the tide on years of unknowing neglect on Doc's part, and he will begin to build a better relationship with his youngest daughter, who has been well-off but unhappy for a long time. Maybe as unhappy as Doc was before Ray pulled him out of the bottle when Mallory's mother died. He does, of course, get a little push in the right direction from his pal, Ray Pradt. Ray handles all this while helming the Loon Lake Pro-Am Walleye Open and getting his 15 minutes of fame on ESPN.
This is a terrific mystery series with great atmosphere and people who are good to know. They aren't perfect, and are easy to like for that very reason. You'll like this Northwood's cuisine a lot. It has the flavor of Ray Pradt's blue gills dipped in seasoned flour and fried to perfection. Don't miss a tasty moment!