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Frozen Stiff, Mary Logue, Tyrus Books, $14.95.

Frozen Stiff by Mary Logue

Mary Logue has long been one of my favorite writers, and this book is no exception to her streak of terrific writing. She may be one of the more readable authors on the planet. When I pick one up I usually look at the book sadly, thinking: it's too short! Sure enough, I zipped through the newest book in no time flat. If you've followed the series at all, you know that the central character is Deputy Claire Watkins, an exile from the Twin Cities, living in tiny Pepin County, Wisconsin. She lives with pheasant farmer and all around good guy Rich, and her teenage daughter Meg, who isn't too bad for a teenager though her thought processes are definitely of the teenage variety. That's pretty much all you need to know, as the story will pull you right in and keep you reading.

In this outing, the opening scene is of a man enjoying his sauna on a (very) cold New Year's Eve. After his sauna he decides to go out into the snow for a moment, but he gets locked out of his house, and his ex wife finds him in a snow drift the next morning, literally blue. What I love about Logue's books are her great way with character and light hand with prose, while at the same time telling a kick ass story. She's also wonderful with the double back, the red herring, and the use of several threads which all tie together.

One of the other threads involves a teenager who's just given birth in her basement, to the surprise of both herself and her parents. As Logue peels away the layers of the frozen man's story, all the characters seem to intertwine, the problem becoming trying to figure out which is the right thread to follow.

The other main sub stories are Claire's marriage proposal to Rich (she's been putting him off), and Meg's annoyance with a new friend of her boyfriend, Carl, who lures him into playing video games for hours at a time, to the utter exclusion of Meg. She is desperately trying not to be jealous of Carl's new friendship.

The clarity and precision with which Logue tells a story perhaps reveals her other talent, which is writing poetry. The crispness and believability of both her characters and setting are pretty much unmatched at the moment. I'd compare her to another writer I like a good bit, Lee Martin, who also writes about a capable female cop with a rich family life. Lee Martin isn't writing books any more though, and I'm happy that Mary Logue is. I'm only sorry I now have to wait a year for the next installment. (Tip to Mary, however: Lee Martin also wrote terrific books under the name Anne Wingate. Maybe a way to go in the future).

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