Thursday, October 7, 2021

"Striking Range"

Margaret Mizushima writes the award winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Mizushima applied the Page 69 Test to her new mystery, Striking Range, and reported the following:
From page 69:
quickened, and without the shelter of the evergreen forest, it hit her square in the chest. She shivered, not only from the harsh wind but also from the memories of that cruel night.

How the wind had howled! She’d stumbled from that cave, still partially under the influence of a disabling drug, and disappeared into the trees. Equipped with night-vision goggles, John Cobb probably would have been able to find her if it hadn’t been for the forest catching on fire. A blessing in disguise for her; utter destruction for the backside of Redstone Ridge.

The clang from the horses’ shod feet rang out as the trail transitioned from forest floor to patches of granite slab. She remembered being transported up here the last time, slung over a saddle, moving in and out of consciousness, her senses reeling from the tranquilizer that John Cobb had delivered by shooting a large animal dart into her back.

Garrett turned to check on her again, and she pasted on her cop face as she met his gaze. She sensed that he knew how she felt, and he sent her an empathetic look before turning away. She didn’t want him to worry about her, and she vowed she’d keep her emotions under control.

“This is godforsaken land.” Hauck, breaking a silence he had maintained most of the way up, projected his voice from behind. “When did this fire happen again?”

Garrett turned in his seat to answer. “Last May. Not enough time to recover much.”

“There’s a little bit of green coming back,” Mattie said, pointing out the places where grasses and brush had taken hold during the past summer.

Robo trotted ahead as they covered the last bit of rocky ground that led to the area where John Cobb had set up camp. As Mattie approached, she could tell that the pit he’d intended for her was still apparent. Steely anger at the man’s brash stupidity—building a huge fire during a windstorm—filled her with strength.

“This is where the fire originated,” Garrett told Hauck as he rode past the pit a short distance and then reined to a stop. “When we could get back in here after the fire, the cave was searched thoroughly. But not with Robo.”
Page 69 represents the conflict in this story pretty well. John Cobb, a man who once tried to burn Mattie alive, died in prison right before she and cold case detective Jim Hauck had a chance to interview him. Cobb left one clue though. In his cell, they found a book of Colorado hiking trails with a page dog-eared on trails in Timber Creek County. Cobb had marked the trail with X’s sending Mattie and Hauck, along with Mattie’s friend Garrett as a guide, up into the high country to investigate why.

The past and the present collide, however, when their search is interrupted. Mattie is called back to the base of the trailhead to help investigate the discovery of the body of a young woman in a campground filled with elk and deer hunters. Soon Mattie recognizes the dead woman as a pregnant girl she’d met earlier at veterinarian Cole Walker’s clinic. She’s disturbed to realize the girl is no longer pregnant and wonders where her newborn could be.

As the sun sets, a deadly storm descends on the mountains, covering the landscape in a blanket of ice and snow while Mattie and Robo search for the dead girl’s infant. The body count rises as the investigation unfolds, making the investigative team of Timber Creek County Sheriff’s Department even more desperate to solve the case in hopes that the killer can lead them to the missing baby.

Striking Range is seventh in the Timber Creek K-9 series, but the mystery in this book stands alone. In a starred review, Library Journal had this to say about this episode: “The tension and drama of this series installment will satisfy fans of K-9 partners and solid police procedurals." I invite you to join Mattie, Robo, and Cole in this adventure set in the chilling mountains of Colorado.
Visit Margaret Mizushima's website, Twitter perch, and Facebook and Instagram pages.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah.

The Page 69 Test: Burning Ridge.

The Page 69 Test: Tracking Game.

The Page 69 Test: Hanging Falls.

Q&A with Margaret Mizushima.

--Marshal Zeringue