Dead Calm (A Mattie Winston Mystery) by Anneliese Ryan

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Dead CalmDead Calm opens with Mattie Winston and her new husband Steve Hurley’s life is anything but calm. As readers of the series know, they are recently married, are in the process of building a larger home, have a two year old and to cap it all off Steve’s teenaged daughter has recently come to live with them. Add to that, Mattie’s office is short handed requiring her to work long hours. Dead Chaos comes closer to describing their life. However, readers who have not read the series before will have no trouble jumping right in. The author uses parts of the first few chapters to give readers a bit of background on their lives.

As Dead Calm opens, Mattie, a death investigator for the medical examiners’ office and her husband, a police detective are called out to the scene of a murder/suicide at the Grizzly Motel, THE place for the rent by the hour crowd. The victims, Craig and Meredith had a professional relationship. Craig and his wife ran a very successful financial planning business. Meredith was a client, though neither were suspected of extramarital affairs. Things start to fall apart with that theory as small discrepancies creep in. The gun was found in Craig’s right hand though he was left handed, was the first “off” thing, but more were to follow. As the investigation progresses, the plot takes some interesting turns crossing paths with Mattie’s ex-husband a surgeon.

Meanwhile at Steve and Mattie’s home site a deformed skeleton has been found with gold fabric material around it. Arnie, one of Mattie’s coworkers, decides the body is an alien and before long the newspaper is on the story complicating Mattie and Steve’s lives even more.

Dead Calm is an interesting combination of the various mystery sub genres. It has “serious” crime investigation with the cases that Mattie and Steve catch and the series could easily succeed on that alone. But along with that are the silly moments such as Arnie and the alien plot line and another involving the new hire in Mattie’s office with a most unusual medical condition making this a bit of a humorous mystery. In addition to both of those, the domestic angle of the books now have taken on a quite a “mommy track” feel. Anyone who has reared a toddler will relate to some of the funnier parts of the book. The result is a little bit of something for nearly every type of reader though serious crime fiction folks may be put off by the aliens and potty training scenes.

Dead Calm is the ninth book in the series. While it is not necessary to read them in order, it would be helpful.

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