MYSTERY

The Royal Wulff

The Royal Wulff Murders. Viking. Feb. 2012. c.332p. ISBN 9780670023264. $26.95. M
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It's all about the trout. When sultry singer Velvet Lafayette hires Montana PI Sean Stranahan to fish—and find the exact spot her late father went fly-fishing a year earlier—Sean wants to believe her. But the real story involves her brother's recent drowning death, deemed suspicious by local law enforcement. Sheriff Martha Ettinger fishes also, and she knows that a key clue is a particular type of fly, the Royal Wulff. The second clue is whirling disease, a parasitic malady that has decimated the local trout population. When Sam, a fishing guide, is shot, Sean knows the killer is panicking about possible witnesses. If Sean or Martha can figure out why fishing is bringing out the hunting instincts, they will be closing in on the perpetrator.
VERDICT McCafferty's superb outdoor writing (not surprising for an editor at Field & Stream magazine) feels like an academic mystery thanks to a complex research topic that sometimes dilutes the mystery plot. Recommend this debut to lovers of environmentally themed mysteries by such authors as C.J. Box, but don't forget Victoria Houston's fly-fishing Wisconsin sheriff ("Loon Lake Fishing Mysteries"), if readers want to continue along that vein.

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