“Dead Insider” by Victoria Houston / Friday, May 17, 2013 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is Dead Insider by Victoria Houston

There is so much to like about Victoria Houston’s new novel, “Dead Insider,” I almost don’t know where to begin.

Plot-wise, it is what I might call a suspenseful cozy, or maybe a rural mystery, or a light mystery:  It takes place in a remote area where the ones who solve the case are the locals with some non-law enforcement personnel recruited to handle certain duties (all overseen by a chief of police, however).  No serious violence is written about directly, all found second-hand, though the crimes are a bit grisly even if second-hand.  The main characters are not in that much danger, though we are constantly wondering what will happen next.  And there are, of course, suspects you hope are not, but have every reason to believe are red-handed guilty.

Here’s where the novel jumps its competition:  It’s one of the most well-plotted and character-nuanced rural mysteries I have ever read.  In fact, its one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read, period.  I was blown away.  Everything about it is plausible and the plot develops so subtlety you don’t realize Houston is only reeling you in.  Those who usually don’t like cozies or non-law enforcement populated mysteries should stop immediately and read the first 10 pages of “Dead Insider.”  That’s all it will take.  Ten pages.  Like a fish on the line, they will be hooked.

The plot involves the death of a prominent local woman running in her father’s footsteps for the U.S. Senate.  She is brutally murdered.  Jurisdiction falls under the local police department, which – because it is a remote fishing area – is understaffed.  A local dentist routinely fills in when the coroner is unavailable, which he isn’t at the time of the crime.  Friends and family associated with the Loon Lake Chief of Police are brought in to fill certain duties.  In effect, the police do the police work, but they rely on a small group of seasonal help (for lack of a better word) when crimes do occur in an area where crimes rarely, if ever, occur.  These few hold down the fort until other authorities – if need be – have a chance to get there.  Having spent much time in rural areas such as this, all of this is as plausible as it can get.

It is the interconnection of all the characters in this small fishing community in Wisconsin that makes it work.  Author Houston has assembled the perfect cast for solving just about any crime that could be committed in this village.  The Loon Lake Fishing Mystery Series rivals anything I’ve seen come out of Cabot Cove.  I love the portrayal of the autumn relationship of Osborne and Ferris and the sensitively handled comparison between their relationship and Osborne’s past marriage.  Being a Southerner, I could also not help but be attracted at the dichotomy between the political elite and the folks they are supposed to represent.

“Dead Insider” is the only book I’ve read in the Loon Lake Fishing Mystery Series and I’m a fan.  For 206 pages, I missed Wisconsin.  I’m hoping sometime if Victoria Houston is as good a fly-fisherman as she is an author should the Killer Nashville gang ever make it to the proverbial Loon Lake that she’ll loan us a pair of waders and take us up one of those beautiful rivers she writes about.  Just reading “Dead Insider,” I heard the loons calling and found myself perusing Travelocity.

– Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker and founder of Killer Nashville. Stafford’s latest projects are the documentary “One of the Miracles” and the music CD “XO”.

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Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!