Title: Bitter Roots by C. J. Carmichael
Bitter Root Mysteries Book One
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 206 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Bitter Roots (Book 1 of Bitter Root Mysteries)
Dispatcher Zak Waller prefers working behind the scenes in the Sheriff’s Office of Lost Trail, Montana, but when a newcomer to the sparely populated town is brutally murdered—and the Sheriff is quick to pin the death on an unknown outsider—Zak starts his own private sleuthing.
On the surface Lost Trail is a picture-perfect western town, offering a simple way of life revolving around the local ranches and ski hill, but Zak knows the truth behind the façade. When his old school friend Tiff Masterson, whose family owns a local Christmas tree farm, moves back to town, the two of them join forces to get to the truth about the murder.
Bitter Roots is the first of three Bitter Root Mysteries.
The first installment in C. J. Carmichael’s Bitter Root Mysteries series, Bitter Roots is a fast-paced and engaging mystery.
The day after Halloween is always a busy day for vandalism reports in the Sheriff’s office. Zak Waller is not anticipating any kind of serious crime reports, so the discovery of the body of a young woman who has apparently been beaten to death is quite shocking. Even more disconcerting is the identity of the victim: twenty-two year old Riley Concurran, a young lady whom Zak knows in passing. Since she is a newcomer to the rural community of Lost Trail, MT, local Sheriff Archie Ford is certain her murderer is someone from her old life. Although Zak is content with his behind the scenes job as the dispatcher, he is frustrated by Ford’s rush to judgment so he embarks on a bit of surreptitious sleuthing. When he uncovers some startling evidence, he turns the information over to Deputy Nadine Black to look into.
On the same day Riley’s body is found, Zak is surprised to learn his old friend Tiffany “Tiff” Masterson has returned to town. Tiff left for college then moved to Seattle where she is an up and comer at an accounting firm. Unbeknownst to her friends and family, her life has undergone some upheaval and she is planning to move back to her family’s Christmas tree farm. Hoping to open her own accounting business, Tiff is unhappy to discover her mom and Aunt Marsha have hired Kenny Bombard as the new manager of the family’s business. Her first encounter with Kenny rubs her the wrong way and she grows even more suspicious of him in the coming days.
Several of Lost Trial’s residents are in the midst of personal dramas of their own and curious minds will certainly wonder whether or not these issues have any bearing on the recent murder. Zak and Tiff’s friend, Derrick Sparks and his wife Aubrey are new parents of an adopted baby boy and Tiff is shocked by the changes in her old friend. Local attorney Justin Pittman is recently married and he is very concerned about his new wife’s puzzling behavior. Tiff wonders if there is any significance to an overheard conversation between her aunt and the local doctor. Will the ongoing investigation into Riley’s murder reveal any connection to any of these well-known and respected citizens?
With plenty of twists and turns, a perplexing murder and intriguing characters, Bitter Roots is an engrossing mystery. C. J. Carmichael brilliantly keeps the killer’s identity concealed as Zak pieces together the truth about what happened to Riley. While Riley’s murder is solved, not all of the story arcs are completely wrapped up by the novel’s end. These lingering questions will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next installment in the Bitter Root Mysteries series.