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A DEADLY ROW:
Mystery by the Numbers, Book 1


By Casey Mayes

Berkley, 2010 ($7.99)

ISBN-10: 0-425-23641-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-23641-3

Reviewed by Katherine Petersen

Savannah Stone creates puzzles for a number of newspapers and helps out her husband, Zach, who consults for police departments across the nation. The former chief of police of Charlotte, N.C., Zach received a bullet wound in the chest that forced him to retire, and the two moved to the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains. In this series debut, Savannah and Zach go to Charlotte to help their friend, Grady, the city's mayor who has been receiving death threats. Two murders have already occurred and Savannah and Zach want to find answers before the killer strikes again.

Savannah tags along to watch over her husband because of his health and serve as his assistant, but she doesn't realize it's her math skills that just might save them all. Mayes weaves in a subplot about Savannah's past as well which gives the story more depth.

The premise had a lot of promise, but for me, this story was interesting if unexceptional. It plodded along methodically for the most part except for an action scene at the end that didn't quite fit. While cozy mysteries rarely brim over with action, this one had the bulk of the action in the past. Savannah's detecting consisted of meeting with old friends and Zach analyzed police reports, and the two tried to figure out notes from the killer that kept coming. Perhaps, it's because I'm not in a relationship, but the dialogue seemed more sappy than realistic. I knew too far ahead who the bad guy was as well.

All that said, I still like the premise and will likely give the second book in the series a chance in case it was just my mood. Since every murderer isn't a puzzle master, I'll be curious to see how Savannah's role plays out. I enjoy math and puzzles myself and think they're a good premise for a mystery series. Hopefully, the next in the series will stand out more from the pack.

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