Apr 18, 2016

Seven days in the book world with Scott Graham

Scott Graham is the National Outdoor Book Award-winning author of the National Park Mystery Series for Torrey House Press (

Here is Scott's week in his own words.

Like most writers I know, I keep a pile of books around my house and spend my evenings working through as many as I can. As a longtime author of nonfiction turned mystery author, I mostly read mysteries these days, with great pleasure, generally at least one a week.

I’ve found reading mysteries with the eye of a reviewer helps me focus on what’s working, or not, with my own work. As an example, here’s a review of Margaret Mizushima’s excellent recent debut, Killing Trail, I wrote for the monthly Prose & Cons review column I write with Chuck Greaves, whose mighty fine Tom & Lucky and George and Cokey Flo was a Wall Street Journal Top 15 Book of the Year for 2015.


Killing It

Mystery lovers in the West who love dogs—or dog lovers who also love mysteries set close to home—have reason to cheer.

With Killing Trail, Margaret Mizushima has launched a fine, Rocky Mountain-based mystery series featuring kind-hearted, small-town cop Mattie Lu Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo.

Canine aficionados will be happy to hear Mizushima devotes plenty of ink to the dog star of her series.

In her Timber Creek K-9 Series debut, Mizushima calls on Robo to play critical roles in every step of the investigation into the murder of a teenager high in the Rockies. Robo locates the buried body of the victim, sniffs out drugs, comforts frightened children, protects Cobb from harm, tracks suspects as directed by Cobb, and points out others of his own volition with growls and bared teeth.

Robo even plays the part of potential murder victim—a role generally reserved for whodunnit sleuths at the point in mysteries when sleuths get too close to their prime suspects. In the case of Killing Trail, when the unknown murderer grows frustrated by Robo’s uncanny tracking abilities and throws tainted meat over the fence into Cobb’s back yard, Robo wisely turns up his finely tuned nose at it.

Mizushima, the wife of a veterinarian and an obvious animal lover, describes in absorbing detail the involved process by which Cobb trains, readies and works with Robo. The author makes clear, for example, the differences between K-9 searches aimed at finding hidden contraband and those tracking humans.

Though the book is her first, Mizushima understands the expectations of her mystery-reader audience. While Robo is an example of canine, and K-9, perfection, Mizushima’s human protagonist, Cobb, is flawed in all the right ways. As the insecure young adult of a foster-home upbringing, Cobb in Mizushima’s assured hands is tentative professionally and uncertain in the ways of love, endearing herself to readers from page one.

As Killing Trail progresses, readers easily find themselves rooting for Cobb and Robo as they work their way through numerous suspects—in Cobb’s case, with street smarts, logic, and not a small amount of compassion for the shortcomings of her fellow small-mountain-town citizens, and in Robo’s case, with a nose that knows no bounds.

Mizushima has finished the second installment in her series, Stalking Ground, which will be released later this year. Assuming Cobb and Robo remain at the top of their respective games, look for Mizushima’s sophomore effort to be another winner.

Scott's week in a nutshell

Killing Trail 2015

Yellowstone Standoff  comes out in June

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