Most people expect a little faux horror during Halloween. But blending all the fake blood and skeletons with an actual corpse is a little too macabre for the folks of Sorensen, Wisconsin who are shocked after some trick-or-treaters happen upon the dead body of a young woman--murdered. Shannon Tolliver, a waitress and part-time model, is the unlucky victim having been shot in the chest with a .38 caliber handgun leading the county's homicide unit to tab her estranged husband Erik as suspect numero uno. But Sorensen's deputy coroner Mattie Winston isn't so sure. Having known the couple personally, Mattie knows that Erik loved his wife despite their recent marital problems--recent arguments (some of them public) leading to a separation and Shannon starting with a new boyfriend--and could never be driven to such a violent act even if he does, coincidentally, own a licensed .38 caliber handgun.
The task of helping clear Erik won't be easy. For Mattie to help out with the case, she'll have to tax the utmost of her admirable forensic pathology skills and limited ballistics experience to even have a chance at getting Erik's name off the prime suspect list. And she'll have to do some snooping around on her own to come up with some clues on who the real culprit might be. Clearing one man and bringing another to justice seems a task, but it's a little less daunting knowing that she gets to work in close proximity with hunky homicide detective Steve Hurley, the very man she'll have to convince that he's wrong. Hurley, the man who originally took Erik into custody, is not only dashingly handsome, he's a good detective and Mattie now has it doubly hard as she finds herself falling for him at the same time she's trying to outwit him.
Ryan has a knack for pairing humor and crime. An RN herself, she's familiar with more than just writing and goes toe-to-toe with more hardcore forensic/police procedural authors, not shy about getting her heroine Mattie Winston's hands dirty when it comes to uncovering evidence and catching the villain. Many hard-boiled crime novels and police procedurals tend to have an edge of menace about them: the world is a no-nonsense place where violent crime and frivolous elements (à la romantic comedy) just don't mix well. But the author doesn't seem to have a problem characterizing her funny, likeable protagonist who can have a laugh at herself (some have compared Mattie Winston to Stephanie Plum) and not hesitate to wade wrist-deep into the blood and guts--literally, she's a coroner--of the crime. This is Ryan's third book in the series. (MYS RYAN)