In Dead Spider, the 17th installment in Victoria Houston’s Loon Lake mystery series, Charles Pfeiffer, the wealthiest man in town is murdered. It’s up to police chief Lewellyn Ferris and her deputy coroner Paul Osborne to find his killer. Dead Spider is a standalone story, and Houston briefly tells you anything you need to know about the characters in the first few pages so you don’t need to read any of the other books in the series before picking this one up.
A fast moving story, Dead Spider is a good beach read. It’s a light, airy page turner with a well-crafted mystery. The book relies on some mystery tropes (the murdered man has a bitchy daughter-in-law and a gold-digging wife, for example), but colored with Houston’s charming cast of small town characters, and the active fly fishing economy, it feels fresh. Loon Lake is based on the small Wisconsin town where Houston grew up, and you can tell she has a deep love for the area.
It’s also interesting to see small town politics at play in the novel. Houston has clearly done her research about how small police departments function: for every expert they want to bring on board for analysis, they have to think about funding. Since the person who died is a big shot, the governor allocated extra money to find his killer, which is very exciting for Chief Ferris.
Another thing that was nice to see: Osborne and Ferris are dating, but their relationship is low-key in the book. It’s mentioned a few times, but they remain totally professional towards each other while working, and their romantic relationship is just an aspect of their characters, not a huge subplot. It’s nice to see a female-led book where the focus is on her solving crimes, not romantic entanglements.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.