First Sentence: Dr. Osborne struggled for balance in the waist-high waters of the roiling Prairie River.
Retired dentist and widower Doc Osborn decides to rekindle his love of fly fishing with the help of fishing instructor, and the town's first female sheriff, “Lew” Ferris. What they don’t expect to find is the body of a well-dressed woman who has had all her dental fillings removed. Enlisting Doc, and his friend Roy, to help, Lew is determined to find the killer.
Houston perfectly describes fly fishing and the nature of those who love it—“No sport, except fly fishing, can take you so close to the heart of the water.”—or the inherent sexism—“Sure, she held a man’s job but still…learning to fish from a woman? He couldn’t get over it.”
The author’s voice brings her characters to life—“Why am I doing this? He had badgered himself as he hurried to keep up. Isn’t a 63-year-old retired dentist entitled to a life of grace and dignity? Dignity was out of the question as he plopped around in his boxy waders...” Each of the characters is introduced in such a way that we have a feel for who they are and their backgrounds. The one rather unfortunate aspect is that the author chose to present the late wife in such a negative fashion. In fact, one has the sense that the author doesn’t seem to like many of her characters.
One rather unusual, yet important, point in the plot is the existence of the telephone party line. Yes, a few do still exist in rural and/or isolated communities. It does add an amusing element to the story. And, on another element, what book focused on fishing would be complete without a recipe for cooking fish?
Good twists add a more serious note to the plot, and one introduces an element very relevant to current affairs.
“Dead Angler” is a very enjoyable read with increasing suspense. The ending is a bit pat, but the story definitely holds one's interest.
DEAD ANGLER (Trad Mys-Paul Osborn/Lewellyn Ferris-WI-Contemp) – Good
Houston, Victoria – 1st in series
Berkeley – April 2000