Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

4.8 12
by Margaret Mizushima
     
 

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NOMINATED FOR RT BOOK REVIEW'S REVIEWER'S CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST FIRST MYSTERY

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a

Overview


NOMINATED FOR RT BOOK REVIEW'S REVIEWER'S CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST FIRST MYSTERY

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole's daughter, who knows more than she's saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn’t careful, she and Robo could be next. Suspenseful and smart, Killing Trail is an explosive debut that will have readers clamoring for more Mattie and Robo for years to come.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/05/2015
Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb of the Timber Creek, Colo., Sheriff's Office, the winning heroine of Mizushima's strong debut, has found a calling as the handler of Robo, a German shepherd who's her new police service dog. Robo's discovery of the body of a teenage girl in the mountains outside of Timber Creek leads Mattie to a criminal operation that uses dogs as drug mules. Along the way, the brisk plot delves into the false security of small towns that seem isolated from crime and the grief that permeates the lives of family and friends after a senseless murder. Mattie proves to be a perceptive investigator, and her attraction to a handsome, newly divorced veterinarian is mutual. Mizushima enhances her story with a realistic view of how a K-9 team works, treating Robo as an important character, but never stooping to anthropomorphism. And it's impossible not to fall in love with Robo. Agent: Terrie Wolf, AKA Literary Management. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

Nominated for RT Book Review's Reviewer's Choice Award for Best First Mystery

"Debut author Mizushima’s classic police procedural adds a fresh angle involving the work of K–9s. The appealing Robo knows what he’s doing, he just needs to train Mattie to trust him. Sue Henry fans will love."
--Library Journal starred review, Debut of the Month

"The interactions between Mattie and Robo will tug the heartstrings of every dog lover... Mizushima’s debut reflects both her skill as a suspense writer and her respect for animals. The shocking conclusion will stay with readers while they wait for the next story in the series. Pair this with Robert Crais' Suspect (2013)"
--Booklist starred review

"Winning heroine...strong debut...a realistic view of how a K-9 team works, treating Robo as an important character, but never stooping to anthropomorphism. And it's impossible not to fall in love with Robo."
--Publishers Weekly starred review

"This series kickoff...reveals just enough about ancillary characters to suggest untapped opportunities while fleshing out solid backgrounds to make a cozy cozy."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Mizushima does an excellent job of developing [Mattie and Robo] as characters, allowing readers to feel a personal connection to them both. Overall a great debut for an up-and-coming mystery writer."
--RT Book Reviews, Top Pick

"Readers who love animals and the outdoors will particularly enjoy what is a good read."
--Mystery Scene

"A deftly crafted mystery that is all the more impressive considering that Killing Trail is author Margaret Mizushima's debut... Solidly entertaining from beginning to end."
--Midwest Book Review

"Fascinating detail about the psyche and handling of K-9 police dogs...and the loving interaction between Robo and Mattie...are more than enough to carry the book and entice me to read more in the series."
--Deadly Pleasures

"Mizushima’s characters are extremely compelling, and she ably draws the reader into the life of each one. Readers will quickly become invested...and many will be eagerly reading each and every installment."
--The Washington Park Profile

"Margaret Mizushima's Killing Trail introduces a fine new crime-fighting team, Mattie Lu Cobb and her partner, Robo, who happens to be a dog. They're put to the test in Timber Creek, a small town in Colorado, and the result is a satisfying mystery with a couple of cops you're going to be glad to meet. Check it out."
--Bill Crider, Anthony Award Winner and author of Between the Living and the Dead

“Compelling characters, both human and canine, make Killing Trail a standout first novel. Officer Mattie Cobb battles external danger and her own troubled past as she and her K-9 partner race to catch a killer. Mattie is both caring and relentless, and everyone should have a partner like Robo.”
--Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of If Anything Should Happen and Goodbye Forever

Killing Trail is a well-crafted mystery with heart-pounding action and strong, three dimensional characters. Read the first chapter, then try to walk away. Killing Trail draws you in and doesn't let go.”
--David Thurlo, co-author of the critically acclaimed Ella Clah, Copper Canyon, and Charlie Henry mysteries

“No scent is too fine and no clue too subtle for the sharp cop combo of Mattie Cobb and the unforgettable K-9 Robo. The liars and schemers of Timber Creek don’t stand a chance against this tight, determined duo. With plenty of outdoor action, comparing Margaret Mizushima to Nevada Barr and C.J. Box is apt--and on the nose.”
--Mark Stevens, author of the award-winning Trapline and Lake of Fire

“A terrific debut with a refreshing detective duo--Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb and Robo, her K-9 partner! Margaret Mizushima has crafted a compelling and savvy mystery that explores the big secrets in a small western town. I was cheering on Mattie and Robo every step of the way.”
--Margaret Coel, author of The Man Who Fell from the Sky

Library Journal
★ 12/01/2015
Mattie Cobb has returned to her Colorado hometown of Timber Creek as a fully certified K-9 handler, along with her partner Robo, a Russian-bred German shepherd. Called out to investigate suspicious activity, the duo uncover the corpse of a popular teenage girl, accompanied by her wounded Bernese mountain dog, Belle. Cole Walker, the local veterinarian (and single dad), is asked to take care of Belle. Soon it is clear that his own daughter may know more about the case than she is letting on. Meanwhile, Mattie, Robo, and the Timber Creek PD are trying to get a handle on the drug traffic moving through town. Could those strange people out at the new health spa be involved? VERDICT Debut author Mizushima's classic police procedural adds a fresh angle involving the work of K-9s. The appealing Robo knows what he's doing, he just needs to train Mattie to trust him. Sue Henry fans will love.
Kirkus Reviews
2015-09-23
An officer must learn to trust her K-9 partner when their small town is plagued by a shocking crime. Even though she's not the kind of woman to get close to others, especially not males, Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb likes everything about her newest partner. Maybe it's their intense three months of training together or the fact that she beat out Chief Deputy Ken Brody for the chance to work with him, but the fact that Robo's a 90-pound drug-sniffing dog might be what makes him the best partner she's ever had. Mattie's proud to be part of the first K-9 unit in Timber Creek, an honor that's a far cry from her humble roots. On her first trip out with Robo, she plans to introduce him at the local school when the two are diverted by a call about a disturbing discovery in the woods. Nobody likes pools of blood, but Mattie's glad for the chance to prove her skills to the rest of the department. In their training, Mattie had trouble learning to trust Robo; she knows she has to follow his nose, not her ideas about what might have happened. In the woods, Robo leads Mattie to another dog. Deputy Brody laughs that all Robo's done is found a friend, but the other dog turns out to be guarding a shallow grave and may have more secrets to share. Local vet Cole Walker identifies the dog as Belle, a dog that belongs to one of his daughter's school friends. Relying on her partner and her own investigative skills, Mattie tries to understand who would want to kill Belle's owner and how the murder may be connected to rumors of local drug smuggling or worse. This series kickoff, the solo debut for Mizushima (Crossing Colfax: Short Stories by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, 2014), reveals just enough about ancillary characters to suggest untapped opportunities while fleshing out solid backgrounds to make a cozy cozy.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781629534862
Publisher:
Crooked Lane Books
Publication date:
12/15/2015
Series:
Timber Creek K-9 Series , #1
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
51,773
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


CHAPTER 1

Friday, Late August

Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb liked her new partner. In fact, she was quite taken with him. She enjoyed being with him, some­thing she’d found lacking with previous partners, and they seemed compatible. She hoped she could learn to trust him.

She wondered what trust would feel like.

Pulling her cruiser up to a stop sign, Mattie stole a quick glance. Born in Russia, he was a handsome guy: straight black hair, intense brown eyes, and white teeth that flashed when he grinned. Large and muscular, strong and rugged, he was the only one in the department who could outrun her in a cross-country foot race.

In addition to all that, he could sniff out a missing person.

He was Timber Creek County’s new police service dog, a German shepherd named Robo. Together, Mattie and Robo made up the first K-9 unit ever mobilized in the small town of Timber Creek, Colorado.

Mattie turned right onto Main Street and accelerated, heading toward the town’s only high school. Timber Creek High sat at the end of the nine blocks that made up Main, its backside nestled against the edge of a hogback called Smok­ers’ Hill by students past and present. She was supposed to meet with Sheriff McCoy and John Brennaman, the school principal, to discuss setting up a K-9 inspection program for the school.

Thinking about the meeting stirred up a swirl of dread that churned in her gut. Her meetings with Mr. Brennaman dur­ing her junior year of high school had been decidedly unpleas­ant. Would he remember her?

She resisted checking her appearance in the rearview mir­ror. Usually, she didn’t care much about her looks. Her skin, hair, and eyes could be summed up with brown, brown, and brown. And usually, she didn’t care that her square chin made her look stubborn and belligerent. Both were true. Today she’d taken time to style her short, wispy hair so that it soft­ened her features somewhat, and she hoped to send a message to Mr. Brennaman that she’d grown up and was now a differ­ent person.

She looked over at Robo. He panted and yawned, his tongue forming a pink curl.

“Whatcha think about how we look?”

Deepening his yawn, Robo’s throat squeaked.

“Yeah, I agree. Who cares?”

As she drove, Mattie scanned the streets and sidewalk out of habit. She cruised slowly past Crane’s Market, its stucco walls the color of Pepto-Bismol.

“So Robo, you’re going to school, huh?”

Facing front with his ears pricked, Robo stood on the gray-carpeted platform that replaced the back seat of the Ford Taurus. He looked much more excited than Mattie wouldever be about school. But that was Robo. He was one of those dogs that K-9 officers referred to as a high-drive alpha male. It didn’t take much to get him excited.

She couldn’t believe how her life had changed. When drug traffic in the national forest had threatened Timber Creek, local merchants and ranchers had purchased a patrol dog for the sheriff’s department. And Mattie had won the assignment of being Robo’s handler by beating her colleagues in a cross-country endurance test. The twelve weeks she’d spent at K-9 Academy were among the best weeks of her life. She’d loved everything about it--learning how to work with and care for the dogs, mixing with the other handlers, learning from the trainers.

Static erupted from the cruiser’s radio, followed by the dis­patcher’s voice: “K-9 one, copy.”

Mattie noted her position. She was approaching the Water Hole Bar and Grill. She picked up the transmitter and pressed it on. “Fifth Street and Main. Go ahead.”

Rainbow Anderson, the daughter of two hippies who’d settled in Timber Creek sometime during the sixties and the county’s improbable dispatcher, responded. “K-9 one, we need you to respond to a ten-eighty-eight in progress. well...it’s not in progress this very minute, but...well, I guess you would call this a ten-eighty-eight that already happened. Over.”

“What suspicious activity? Where? Just say it, Rainbow.”

“Up Ute Canyon road about ten miles. A forest ranger called in a request to investigate suspicious activity and a blood spill.”

A blood spill? Hunting out of season? “I’m en route to Timber Creek High School to meet with Sheriff McCoy. What’s my priority?”

“Oh, the meeting’s canceled. Sorry I didn’t call you, but I didn’t know you were going, too. Sheriff McCoy is heading up the canyon now.”

“Okay.”

“Go, code two, up Ute Canyon Road. Ten miles from Ute Canyon turnoff, look for a two-track that veers left and leads to an old hunting cabin.”

Mattie signaled a right turn so she could head for the high­way. The sheriff obviously thought this could be something important.

“Copy. Show me en route to Ute Canyon. Over.”

Code two meant normal response without emergency lights and siren, but she quickly brought the cruiser up to speed. Sheriff McCoy might want her to search for evidence. If so, the sooner she got there, the better, before any of her fel­low deputies could unwittingly contaminate the crime scene.

The dread she’d been feeling all morning changed to excitement. This would be her first K-9 assignment since the academy, and she couldn’t wait to get started.

Robo huffed a quick bark. In the rearview mirror, Mat­tie saw him wag his tail and shift from side to side on his front paws.

He must have caught hold of my mood.

“You know you’re going to work, don’t you?”

Robo whined, licked the air, and stared out the windshield. At the academy, he’d outperformed all the other dogs. The few times he’d screwed up, it had been her fault, doing things like not paying close enough attention to his body language or not trusting his instincts. It seemed like she needed training more than Robo. Nervousness tightened her shoulders. The others would be watching. That put pressure on a dog--not to mention the handler--and it could be distracting.

The cruiser ate up the miles, and they reached the turnoff to Ute Canyon Road in no time. Leaving the smooth highway behind, she turned onto a hard-packed dirt road covered with loose gravel. It led upward into a canyon that cut through the mountains. She slowed for sharp curves, holding the steering wheel steady as the cruiser rattled over rough areas ribbed with washboard.

Willow and mountain juniper gave way to forests of tow­ering pine: ponderosa with their sweeping boughs and great stands of stately lodgepole. She rolled down the front windows so she could take in the soothing forest scent to help settle her nerves.

Robo pushed forward to sniff, thrusting his nose through the heavy wire mesh that separated his compartment from the rest of the vehicle. He bobbed his head, obviously getting a nose full. She could tell from the satisfied look on his face that Robo enjoyed the scent of the forest as much as she did.

Mattie kept checking the odometer while Ute Canyon climbed ever upward. Five miles into the canyon, huge pot­holes threatened to swallow a wheel entirely. She steered around them, keeping to the middle of the road when she could. Leaving the canyon floor, the road clung to the side of the mountain and rose toward the peaks. Its edge, where there was rarely any guardrail, dropped off in a fifty-foot plunge.

By the time the odometer indicated she’d driven nine miles from the turnoff, the road narrowed to little more than one lane. She started up a steep rise, keeping watch for a two-track road that would veer off to the left. She hoped she hadn’t missed it.

At the top of the rise, she could see dense evergreen forest that stretched for miles and miles in an undulating mountain panorama. A hundred yards farther, she spotted the two-track winding away through the trees.

“There it is, Robo. I think we’ve found it.”

Robo waved his tail but kept his eyes on the view outside the windshield.

Mattie slowed to creep forward as she directed the cruiser off the road and down into the ditch to access the two-track. When the roadbed scraped the bottom of the car, they lurched sideways, sending Robo skidding across his platform, though he remained on his feet.

“Sorry about that.”

Again, Robo went to the window and sniffed.

After a couple minutes of rough driving, Mattie spotted the sheriff’s Jeep and another cruiser parked in front of an old cabin. She’d found the right place. Slowly, she bumped over the rocks in the track and pulled up beside the Jeep.

Sheriff McCoy stepped out of the cabin onto a plank porch, followed by a woman wearing a forest ranger’s uni­form. Abraham McCoy was a big man, built solid as a tree trunk, with massive shoulders and a thick neck. He had skin the color of a Hershey bar, dark walnut eyes, and a bushy black mustache. He’d grown up in Timber Creek and attended the town high school, just like Mattie, but about fifteen years ahead of her.

Rumor had it that McCoy could have gone to any number of universities on a football scholarship, but he’d chosen to commute to a local junior college instead so he could help his mother care for his ailing father and younger siblings. He’d been a deputy for years before the county electorate voted him in as sheriff.

The first time Mattie met McCoy, she’d been a six-year-old kid, scared to death. Her world and family had just been shattered. He was a young deputy. She could still remember the sad look on his face as he picked her up and carried herto his patrol car. For a moment, she’d felt safe, enfolded in his arms against his solid chest. For one moment.

She switched off the cruiser’s engine. Getting out of the vehicle, she told Robo, “You’re going to wait here.”

He protested with a short yip.

In return, Mattie gave him a look that apparently quelled any further urges to kick up a fuss. She walked toward McCoy, meeting him halfway between her car and the cabin.

He introduced the ranger. “This is Sandy Benson of the US Forest Service. She called us up here.”

Benson gave Mattie a firm handshake. She was a strongly built woman, muscular, a little taller than Mattie’s average height. A broad-brimmed ranger’s hat sheltered her auburn hair and fair skin. Her hazel eyes held a look of concern.

“I was telling the sheriff that I saw a pickup truck and dog trailer up here last week. I stopped to talk to the guy, and he said he was doing some search and rescue training with his dogs. Seemed different, him being up here alone. Usually people train in groups. But he didn’t seem to be breaking any laws, so I left him to it. When I passed by here this morning, I noticed the same rig.”

McCoy added a detail. “You say that was about eight fif­teen this morning.”

Benson nodded. “I went up old Flowers Trail to clear some deadfall. About an hour later, I heard a shot coming from this direction. I started down the trail to check it out. On my way, I heard another shot. By the time I got back here, the rig was gone. I decided to take a look and found a large blood stain on the porch.” She shrugged, spreading a hand out front. “I had no idea what to think, but with the narcotics problems we’ve been having around here lately, I thought I’d better call you guys.”

Meet the Author


Margaret Mizushima balances writing with assisting her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Her short story “Hayhook” was published in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2014 anthology, Crossing Colfax. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in Colorado where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

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Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it in one day, excellent, can't wait for more.
Anonymous 14 days ago
This first in the series book was excellent. I liked that her chapters were short and not 3 grueling pages of descriptions. Her work was sharp on target and her story moved at a moderate pace and held my interest to the end. I enjoyed all the information about dogs and handlers. These dogs and folk really do not get the appreciation they deserve. This lady did a good job and made it interesting to learn. Can hardly wait for the 3rd on in the series
Anonymous 14 days ago
Enjoyed learning about K-9 dogs and training them. Story line was well written.
Anonymous 20 days ago
Intriguing story of deputy mattie & robo, her k-9 partner. Loved the intelligent, brave, tough women ( mattie & stella). They have baggage but they'll do what's right. Action, suspense, mystery, & a wonderful, handsome, divorced veteranarian!
Anonymous 23 days ago
I so enjoyed reading this book and liked the characters, especially Robo. Can't wait to read the next in series which, to date, isn't out yet.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Anonymous 29 days ago
Great book. Hope to read more of her work.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Loved it can't wait for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down and can't wait till the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book , really enjoyed it , can't wait to read more by this author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome read hoping for more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Can't wait for the next story with Mattie and Robo.