ANNELISE RYAN – Working Stiff. Kensington, paperback reprint, August 2010. Hardcover edition: September 2009.


   The first few lines may set you back on your heels a little:

    I’m surprised by how much the inside of a dead body smells like the inside of a live one. I expected something a little more tainted, like the difference between freshly ground hamburger and that gray, one-day-away-from-the-Dumpster stuff you get in the discount section at the grocery store.

   No, this isn’t the next take-off on Patricia Cornwell’s line of books, it really is a cozy, as I thought when I opened it to start reading. Telling the story in the first of a new series is Mattie Winston, former nurse and now the new deputy coroner for Sorenson, a smallish town somewhere in Wisconsin. (Not on any map I’ve found.)

   It turns out that Mattie quit her former job when she found her husband, a doctor at the same hospital, having an affair with another nurse. Make that soon to be ex-husband.

   But when that other nurse is found murdered, and the unfaithful Dr. Winston is a chief suspect, it is up to Mattie to put on her sleuthing shoes and see if she can’t clear his name. Complicating matters is that Steve Hurley, the hunky policeman in charge of the case is exactly that, hunky.

   How long does it take before you, the reader, that this a cozy, not a Cornwell look-alike? Not long at all. Soon after that first paragraph above — which tells you something in and of itself — we learn that the coroner’s name is Izzy and he’s five foot tall, while Mattie is something like six (five foot twelve, she says).

   And at the crime scene Mattie loses her panties and kicks them under a chair, she having been called on the case in the middle of night and having neglected to dress as carefully as she might have during the day.

   My opinion, as always is that more than 320 pages is also more than enough to conduct a murder investigation, even one with as many tangents as this (such as getting a fashion makeover from the beautician at a local funeral parlor).

   You’d like to think, though, that there would also be time enough to add a few clues to the puzzle, but no, while entertaining enough in other ways (we are as eager as Hurley is to learn about Mattie’s famous nipple incident, which happened not so long ago in her past), the investigation goes here and there and finally ends about the same time as the book does.

   Coming next, book two in the series: Scared Stiff (September 2010).