Murder and Matrimony

Author: Connie Feddersen

Amanda Hazard is having a very bad day, and it is Commissioner Brown’s fault. If he had just paved the dangerous dirt roads around Vamoose, she wouldn’t be stuck in the storm. She could just kill Brown . . . but unfortunately someone has beat her to the punch.

Hazard does the right thing and calls in the cavalry (in this case her fiancé, the town sheriff, Thorn), but first she does some sleuthing. It looks like Brown met with a bad accident by the side of the road. But Hazard can see the clues, the signs. This was a cleverly staged murder scene, and even though Thorn protests that it is an open and shut case, our CPA turned sleuth won’t let sleeping dogs lie.

In the meantime, the new Commissioner, Sam Harjoe, has arrived in town. He’s already making friends and turning heads, but he only has eyes for Amanda. When Thorn lets his jealousy get out of hand, combined with his ruthless scathing of Amanda’s investigation, the soon-to-be wedding faces jeopardy.

If you’ve made it all the way to Dead in the Mud, which is the fifth in the Amanda Hazard cozy mysteries, you have accepted both the series good and bad points. It’s more of the same here. Amanda sees what others refuse to, following the trail of carefully buried clues to a host of suspects. Amanda is less than polite (and less than subtle) accusing pretty much the entire town, and they all conveniently blurt out the worst of scandals and most onerous of motives. But there can only be one killer.

As Amanda puts herself in predictable danger, her on-again-off-again relationship with Thorn wobbles between teenage sexual tension and even more teenage style arguing. There’s a trip to the beauty salon for gossip and one of Velma’s abominable doos, alongside some nail art (Velma seems to be expanding her offerings), yet Amanda remains drop-dead gorgeous despite the Medusa style.

It’s all very ridiculous, all very laughable and adorable, and somehow just perfect. What can I say? Sometimes a cozy mystery with a side of silliness and some over-the-top couple drama is just what the doctor ordered.

In Dead in the Mud two things are a little different: the actual who in the who-dunnit and the progression of the Hazard/Thorn relationship. I can’t give away the who-dunnit surprise without ruining the book. Suffice it to say that this time there is a clever twist, an added lair of complication that fits nicely. The ultimate ending is very, very unbelievable; but again, welcome to cozy mysteries. Welcome to Vamoose. The ending is satisfying, and that’s what matters.

Then there is the relationship between Amanda and her police chief/farmer beau with the sexy swagger and temperament of a petulant nine-year-old. In Dead in the Mud the author dials up the all-too-satisfying friction. It’s entirely unnecessary but deliciously increases the drama. Let’s just say wedding rings come on and off, fights ensue, and Amanda is left at a literal crossroads in the end. Nice touch. Even though it is ridiculous, I was totally hooked.

If you enjoyed the other offerings in this series, you’ll appreciate Dead in the Mud. Embrace the absurdities and odd coziness of this little nowhere town with its ever-growing pile of murder victims and fashion disasters.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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