Title: Sign Off by P.A. McLinn
Caught Dead in Wyoming Series Book One
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books/BelleBooks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 232 pages
Book Rating: B+
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
The last time anyone in Cottonwood County, Wyoming saw Sheriff’s Deputy Foster Redus, he was bloody, cussing, and driving his pimped-out pickup into the November darkness. A week before Christmas, rancher Thomas David Burrell was arrested for the assault and charged with the deputy’s murder, since neither Redus nor his truck had been seen since the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The prosecutor later set Burrell free due to insufficient evidence, but with the whole county still suspecting him of the crime, his ex-wife refused to let their daughter visit him anymore.
“You’ve got to prove my Daddy didn’t kill anybody,” second grader Tamantha Burrell tells KWMT-TV’s consumer affairs reporter, New York transplant Elizabeth Danniher.
“Now wait a minute . . . ” the startled journalist begins.
“You’re the ‘Helping Out’ lady,” Tamantha insists. “You have to help me.”
Until a few months ago, Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher investigated high crimes and national cases. Now, a messy divorce from her network-TV-exec husband, combined with her no-longer-quite-perky-enough sex appeal, has banished her to Wyoming, where she has to fulfill the remainder of her contract. She handles the “Helping Out” segment at Sherman, Wyoming’s only news station. Her latest assignment:assisting an elderly woman who wants her faulty toaster replaced.
But Tamantha needs her, and so Elizabeth goes back on the crime beat, trying to unravel the mystery of the missing deputy and track down a killer who intends to make sure she doesn’t live to go Live At Five with the scoop.
P. A. McLinn, after spending twenty-plus years as an editor for the Washington Post, now writes full-time.Her books have topped bestseller lists and been translated into more than twenty languages.
Sign Off, the first book in P.A. McLinn’s Caught Dead in Wyoming series, is a fast-paced and intriguing mystery. Unable to resist her curiosity (and Tamantha Burrell), Elizabeth Danniher and sportscaster Mike Paycik look into the disappearance of Deputy Foster Redus. Did he leave under his own volition? Or did Foster meet with foul play? Their investigation exposes corruption, dirty politics and secrets that might just drive a person to kill to keep hidden.
Elizabeth Danniher’s exile in small town Sherman, WY is only a temporary setback following her divorce and the subsequent loss of her network job. Dealing with the petty jealousies of an insecure anchorman and some of her co-workers, Elizabeth is trying to make a success of her “Helping Out” segment. When second grader Tamantha Burrell approaches Elizabeth and asks her to help prove her father’s innocence in Foster’s disappearance, Elizabeth is reluctantly drawn into investigating the unsolved case. The further she delves into the case, the more inconsistencies she uncovers in the original investigation and she easily slips back into full investigative journalist mode. Stonewalled by the police and hindered by interoffice feuds, Elizabeth is determined to uncover the truth surrounding Foster’s untimely disappearance. When Mike Paycik offers her an inside track to information, Elizabeth reluctantly joins forces with the ambitious sportscaster.
Elizabeth is a beautiful developed and engaging protagonist. She is caring and compassionate with an innate sense of justice. Trying to adjust to rural living is not easy and as she navigates uncharted territory, Elizabeth provides a humorous view of the inner workings of a television station, small town life and its politics.
Equally likeable is the charming and resourceful Mike Paycik. Mike is a local man who returned to Sherman after a knee injury ended his football career. His interest in Elizabeth is more than professional (much to her dismay) and I enjoyed the byplay between them as they delve into mystery surrounding the missing deputy.
Deputy Foster Redus is a completely reprehensible character. With motives and suspects quickly piling up, Elizabeth and Mike go round and round in circles trying to figure out who had the most compelling reason to get rid of the despicable deputy.
Sign Off is an entertaining story with a compelling storyline and a wonderful cast of characters. The mystery aspect of the novel is especially well done with many twists and turns and a suspect list a mile long. P.A. McLinn has a fabulous writing style and she brings the small town of Sherman, WY and its inhabitants vibrantly to life. I am eager to see what lies ahead for Elizabeth, Mike, and the other residents I met in this wonderful first installment of the Caught Dead in Wyoming series.
An excellent beginning to a promising new series that I highly recommend.