Dead Against Her
Retribution is one of my favorite concepts. It’s strange, really, because I also believe in unlimited second chances. But retribution, when warranted, offers such a satisfying plotline. And in Melinda Leigh’s fifth Bree Taggert book, Dead Against Her, the retribution is bone chilling.
The first chapter opens during a double homicide and is told in first person from the perspective of the killer. There’s an intimacy hovering in the air as we experience the intention of the killer, who is absorbing the terror and inevitability of the victim, all while conveying the sense of being pushed to the limit emotionally. As a storytelling device, it’s very effective, particularly when the only time this first person PoV is used is by the killer.
Sheriff Bree Taggert is first on the scene of the double homicide, and we learn one of the two victims is Eugene Oscar, a former deputy she forced out of the sheriff’s office after he was exposed as corrupt. The two murders are grisly, and both Oscar and an older woman, Ms. Brown, were killed by a single shot to the forehead. Eugene, however, also has a few extra shots to crucial joints that indicate the killer had a motivation other than just death. She calls in criminal investigator and consultant Matt Flynn, a former sheriff’s department investigator and K-9 handler … and also her boyfriend. Matt is calm and capable, and confident that Bree is not the killer. It’s a good thing he’s so confident, though, because what ensues is a witch-hunt that pits Sherriff Taggert as prime suspect in the murders.
I love that the main character in this series is a woman, the sheriff of a small town in upstate New York. Did you know that sheriffs don’t have to be law enforcement officers? They’re elected, and in some places serve as figureheads. So in a small community with Boys’ Club tendencies, Bree’s position represents more accomplishment than career advancement through attrition. She’s the Queen badass, and her investigative skills and bravery are to be lauded. And I love that the man Bree loves heralds her as his professional and emotional equal. That he doesn’t try to step in and save the day; rather he stands alongside her to help solve the case. Trust, dependability, loyalty – these are elements that are important in all aspects of life and healthy relationships. It’s clear that Bree and Matt draw strength from one another.
Leigh has a knack for writing a smart police procedural. The characters are well-developed and intelligent, the dialogue is natural and easy to follow, and the descriptions are vivid and easy to visualize. She peppers in details about Bree’s life and experiences at keen intervals, providing a glimpse into the mind of a worthy law officer. She focuses on the flies in the house that herald decomposition, the sounds of floorboards creaking when she walks, and the blood that’s already dried. That violence leaves a mark, one that Bree is keenly aware of as Sheriff. I felt everything she described. But I wanted … more.
I typically steer clear of long running series because I don’t like the same set of characters swooping in to save the day, and I find a large cast of characters to be a distracting speedbump. Since I’m a sucker for romantic suspense, I’m always looking for more of my favorite genre. The series label is what initially kept me from delving into Leigh’s Bree Taggert series, and I am remiss in, well, missing out on Bree Taggert’s plight. So far. But what I discovered in Dead Against Her is a great suspense with a light side of romance. It works as a standalone because the story itself is compelling – I just wish the romance between Bree and Matt was a little more prominent.