Standing Dead

Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

ISBN 9781639102440

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Deputy Mattie Cobb and her sister, Julia, travel to Mexico to visit their mother, but when they arrive, they discover that she and her husband have vanished without a trace. Back in Timber Creek, Mattie finds a chilling note on her front door telling her to look for “him” among the standing dead up in the high country.

The sheriff’s department springs into action and sends a team to the mountains, where Mattie’s K-9 partner, Robo, makes a grisly discovery—a body tied to a dead pine tree. Mattie is shocked when she realizes she knows the dead man. And then another note arrives, warning that Mattie’s mother is in desperate straits. In a last-ditch gambit, Mattie must go deep undercover into a killer’s lair to save her mother—or die trying. (From Goodreads)


This is an incredible novel for those who appreciate mystery, K-9s and their handlers, and romance! I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the grim nature of the crimes. The author describes the primary characters so well that I felt I had known them for a long time. The Colorado setting, including the ghost town, felt as if it I was there. I appreciated the author’s descriptions, including characteristics unique to K-9s such as Robo and things Mattie had to learn to be an effective handler and partner. It might be helpful to read a couple of the earlier books in the series, but I could keep up with concise backstories even though I haven’t yet read the last couple.

Mattie and her sister, Julia, went to Mexico to visit their mother. Due to events in their early childhood, Mattie had just found her mother, Ramona, a few months ago. She also learned she had a sister and met Julia and their grandmother. Their father, a border patrol agent, had been murdered thirty years ago. Mattie, her mother, and her brother Willie were kidnapped after witnessing it. Only six when rescued and put in foster care, Mattie didn’t even know her real last name until recently.

When Mattie and Julia arrived at Ramona’s house, an elderly lady was living there until Ramona and her husband Juan returned. Her mother was terrified of being found by the people who killed their father and didn’t want anyone to know where she was. With Ramona and Juan missing, she was afraid she had somehow led the “bad people” to their home.

The sisters hoped the new cold case detective at the San Diego police department would re-open their father’s case. Since the only two men Mattie remembered died in prison, one recently, they hoped it would be safe for their mother to give any information she remembered to the detective. Instead, Mattie and Julia saw the detective alone. 

When Mattie returned home, a note was left at her home that “he” would be found in the high country among standing dead. Standing dead are trees that have been killed from infestations of certain beetles and are left there. After racing to the nearby campground with Robo, Sheriff McCoy, Deputy Brody, Robo led Mattie to a body tied to a dead tree. Stuffed in his pocket is anothr note for Mattie. Her mother is being held and won’t survive much longer. The notes are signed by “a friend of your father’s”.

Cole, a veterinarian and Mattie’s fiancé, is on an emergency call to a campground near the high country to meet a man with sick horses. One is down, the other struggling to stay up. They have been poisoned by a substance that Cole guessed at based on the symptoms and treated them. He went to the campground where the sheriff’s department, with Mattie, are to get samples from the water tank. They must track the source of the water as many hunters are in the area. The next day, Mattie’s sister Julia in California is kidnapped. Mattie has no idea who else was involved with her father’s murder; her mother refused to tell her. Cole and his daughters are threatened next.

Mattie’s life is like an onion, with a bit more of her past revealed in each novel. The trauma suffered between ages two and six years old has caused her no end of trouble. The crimes against her father, mother, brother, and herself were many, and she doesn’t remember most of them. Cole loves her too much to be frightened away. They, and all the regular characters, are very well defined; their words and actions make them people I would like to know. My favorites are Mattie, Robo, Sheriff McCoy, Cole, and Rainbow.

This was an incredibly tense novel in which most of the events are personal to Mattie and, by extension, Cole and those closest to her in the sheriff’s department. It kept me between curiosity/ guessing and breathtaking suspense. I had little suspect lists everywhere but was shocked to find the truth. All loose ends were tied up, and hopefully there are no more bad guys left from that period of her life who will show up! I highly recommend this, and the earlier novels of this series!