Haunting Pasts (Mabel Davison #3), by Trevor Wiltzen

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Trevor Wiltzen for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After I discovered local author Trevor Wiltzen and his writing not too long ago, I was hooked. When WIltzen offered me an ARC of the latest in the Mabel Davison series, I could not agree fast enough. The series takes Mabel, a diner waitress and motel owner, out of her comfort zone and turns her into an amateur sleuth and private investigator. Her sole focus has been to discover the whereabouts of a number of missing girls around her part of Washington State. Add to it the fact that it’s 1987, away from a great deal of the tech seen in more modern thrillers I read, and the story takes on new dimensions that I cannot help but love. Wiltzen has a great following and I am pleased to be one of them, as this novel adds more tension, excitement, and mystery to a really great series.

Mabel Davison has a great deal on her plate, both literally and figuratively. Running a motel and diner in her small Washington State community, Mabel has been pulled into the middle of an investigation to find a number of missing girls. The case has gone cold but Mabel is not letting the local authorities deter her from getting to the root of the mystery. Juggling three kids at home and a husband who’s recently returned to her life, Mabel has little time to stop and think.

She’s keen to keep looking for the two remaining missing girls who have yet to be accounted for. This leads Mabel to the local jail, where one of the gang members she helped put away on another crime is willing to share a little intel. While there is a great deal of bravado and likely some lies, there’s a truth buried in there that Mabel cannot discount, leading her to open new pathways in hopes of locating these girls.

Scouring over the details, Mabel discovers that the man who could be behind this is not only a potential serial killer, but could also be someone she knew from her past. As Mabel tries to keep her family safe, she refuses to stand down, no matter the threat, in hopes of putting the final pieces together and solving a case many thought too inconsequential. These girls are out there, in some form, as is the man said to have been involved. Mabel will have to tread carefully, as she points the finger at someone and gathers evidence to convince the police to act.

Trevor Wiltzen is one of those authors who has a good thing going, but modesty keeps him from wanting to shout from the rooftops. I am not afraid to do that for him, as this series is a great collection and keeps readers on their toes throughout. Mabel Davison, like Wiltzen, just wants to get the job done, but deserves some praise for her dedication. She fits in nicely with the strong narrative and reveals much about herself as the story advances. A few plot twists emerge and keep the reader guessing where things are headed. Perhaps the best part of the story for me is the pre-tech boom sleuthing that takes place, where rotary telephones and microfiche are the dazzling items of the day. Wiltzen has a winner here and I hope others will take the time to read this series, if only to learn more about Mabel and those around her.

Kudos, Mr. Wiltzen, for keeping the series strong and providing readers with something amazing.

Monsters in the Room: The Boys’ Adventure (Mabel Davison #2.5), by Trevor Wiltzen

Eight stars

Having discovered the writing of Trevor Wiltzen not too long ago, I was happy to read and support this local author. Wiltzen has been working hard on his Mabel Davison series, which takes a diner waitress and thrusts her into the role of an amateur sleuth. While Mabel has been trying to locate a number of missing girls, this story is a slight change of pace, turning to her two sons and an adventure they have one March afternoon. All the same, Wiltzen pulls the reader in with this short story, chilling everyone by the end, when much is revealed.

Fred and Hector enjoy Saturday mornings, with cereal and being able to laze around in their pjs. With their mother, Mabel, busy working at the diner, the responsibility falls to their cousin, Kerry, to watch over them. However, the night before, Kerry made secret plans to go see a boy at the local grocer’s, forcing Fred and Hector to put themselves to bed. With Kerry still gone, the boys decide to go look for her, sure that she’s close by and wanting to ensure their mom does not know anything’s amiss. When the boys head out, they are confronted with some trouble of their own as they begin the search. Things take an interesting turn and by the time there make it home, a new concern is on the horizon and Mabel Davison is smack in the middle of trying to solve it. Trevor Wiltzen does well to tease the reader in this piece, which is sure to connect well with the other books in the series.

While Trevor Wiltzen has not published a great deal yet, what he has produced is well worth a read. He’s got a great style and builds things up well with impactful writing that builds with each passing page, A strong narrative and decent characters keep the reader wanting to learn a little more. As with his full-length novels, this short story grips the reader and keeps them guessing throughout. With another novel on the horizon, one can hope that there will be some resolution, as this piece ended with quite the cliffhanger.

Kudos, Mr. Wiltzen, for another great piece that makes me want to read more!

Missed Me (Mabel Davison #2), by Trevor Wiltzen

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Trevor WIltzen for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After I enjoyed his debut novel so much, it was a pleasure to hear from Trevor Wiltzen, asking that I read and review the second in the Mabel Davison series. Wiltzen brings his unique private investigator back for another case, using the plot of the previous novel to build on another chilling crime. Mabel Davison has her hands full with work, though she cannot deny loving the sleuthing she’s been able to do. It seems to come together nicely, as Wiltzen crafts another sensational story around her work and the small community of Blue River, Washington. Mabel is pushed to the brink in this piece, taking the reader on a harrowing journey to keep her family away from a cruel individual. There will be repercussions, perhaps permanent ones!

Mabel Davison has made a home in Blue River, Washington, where she raises her two sons and niece. It’s 1987 and the community is tight-knit, relying on Mabel’s diner to spread local gossip. However, after inadvertently getting into the private investigator business a while back, Mabel is back at it, helping a down and out single mom with her drug-addicted teenage daughter. Some say the girl ran off to live amongst her drug dealer and his white supremacist soldiers, but Mabel’s being asked to look into what could be an abduction.

Juggling work and this sleuthing on the side, Mabel seeks to penetrate deeper into the criminal underbelly of the region, where raves are thrown and young girls are lured into a life of illicit activity. What Mabel discovers shocks her, though she is not able to keep it on the down-low and is warned to stay away. As the investigation gets more intense, Mabel’s niece, Kerry, tries to take matters into her own hands. This could prove dire, as Mabel’s greatest weakness is revealed, her family!

While I cannot precisely put my finger on it, there’s something about Trevor Wiltzen’s writing that has me wanting to keep reading. It could be the ease with which he writes a gripping crime thriller in ‘pre-tech’ days, forcing the story to rely on grit, rather than apps and text messages. It might also be that he has a wonderful way of developing characters that complement the plot so well, or even the bucolic depiction of rural Washington that makes the story all the more relatable to the reader who prefers life away from traffic chaos. Whatever it might be, Wiltzen pours it all into his work and develops something well worth the reader’s time.

I often find myself trying to picture characters in my mind as I read, seeing how the author portrays them in the narrative. Wiltzen does a fabulous job with Mabel, leaving me to see the sweat on her brow and the glow of her smile. There is also an easy means of visualizing the less than noble men who make up the criminal element throughout the story. Wiltzen presents a handful of supporting characters who add depth and intrigue to the piece, some of whom are back from the debut novel, while others are new faces with personalities to match. Wiltzen makes them easily likeable or despised depending on the reader’s inclination.

While I do enjoy novels that take me deep into a case, there are times when something a little easier to digest is also wonderful. Wiltzen’s writing is easy to follow and his storytelling makes it a quick read. The flow is such that there’s no issue with devouring the novel in a sitting or two, depending on how much time the reader has to dedicate. The narrative flows well, with a plot that keeps things moving until the climactic ending, which the reader will not want to gloss over. Wiltzen tends not to focus on too much frivolous storytelling, keeping the thriller on a single plot track. I cannot wait to see what’s next for Mabel and how the fallout of this novel will tie into the next. I’ll need to use my patience, something I find difficult when I discover an author that I thoroughly enjoy.

Kudos, Mr. Wiltzen, for showcasing your abilities yet again. Nice to know that there are some who write with passion and yet remain humble.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Heart of a Runaway Girl (Mabel Davison #1), by Trevor Wiltzen

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Trevor Wiltzen for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Approached by the author to review his debut novel, I was intrigued with what appeared to be a captivating dust jacket blurb in Heart of a Runaway Girl. Trevor Wiltzen takes readers back to a small Washington town in the 1980s, where drugs and white supremacy are running rampant. When a murder takes place, the easiest person to name becomes the sole suspect, though this does not sit well with Mabel Davison. She’s determined to get to the bottom of what happened and sacrifice it all for an innocent man.

Blue River is nestled in the heart of Washington State, but is by no means tranquil. A hotbed of drugs and racism in 1986, it’s surely nowhere one would want to raise their children. However, Mabel Davison is doing her best as a single parent. Her local diner and motel serve the locals well, allowing Mabel to get a sense of the town’s pulse.

While waitressing one evening, Mabel notices a young couple at a back table; a white girl and her black boyfriend. They appear to be arguing, though Mabel presumes it’s just one of those teenage squabbles and lets them be. When news breaks hours later that young Karen Thompson was found raped and murdered at the local mill, all eyes turn toward her boyfriend, Winston Washington. It seems to make sense that a black man who commit such a heinous act, so he is rounded up by the local sheriff. When a group of local white supremacists learns of the arrest, they try to bring about their own form of justice, stopped only when Mabel gets involved and calls the state police.

Something in her gut tells Mabel that Winston is innocent, though she has no concrete proof. She pushes ahead to learn as much as she can about both Karen and Winston, while dodging the pressure of others to let the wheels of justice turn. Mabel begins asking the tough questions and starts investigating on her own, only to discover a potential list of suspects that no one wants to name.

While she is able to convince Winston’s attorney not to accept the guilt that his client is professing to put things to sleep, Mabel knows that she is entering dangerous territory. She unearths much of the local drug trade and offends many men in positions of power, all to help Winston. This could surely have dire results, but Mabel Davison is nothing if not compassionate.

Juggling her work, her home life, and the constant threats that come with asking too many questions, Mabel finds that she may be the only one who really seeks to advocate for Winston’s innocence, while also shining a light on the real killer who treated Karen Thompson so poorly. Mabel’s prepared to sacrifice it all and she may have that chance, if she makes a single wrong move!

While this may be Trevor Wiltzen’s debut novel, it sure doesn’t read like it. There is depth and an addictive plot that will keep the reader hooked as they try to push through to see who the real killer is in what is being called the first in a new series.

Mabel Davison comes across as a woman who has such a big heart and is willing to help anyone in need. Known to many around town, she seeks to ensure that everyone is heard and that truth sees the light of day, even if it is not always what people want to hear. A single mother, she has her own demons from the past, but is doing all that she can to raise two boys and a niece. Sheer determination to do what is right makes her the best amateur investigator, not taking herself too seriously while not dismissing the importance of the mission at hand.

Wiltzen provides a handful of strong characters who help make the novel as alluring as it is. Coming from many walks of life, these men and women add flavour to an already intriguing story and help depict Washington State in the mid-80s effectively. I found myself wanting to know more about many who grace the pages of this book, making the fact that there may be a series in the works all the more exciting.

The premise of the book may sound a little odd—local waitress seeks to become private investigator to help a patron—but it works! Wiltzen develops his story and characters in such a way that the story flows well and keeps the rewarded guessing. With short chapters, the reader is propelled to keep reading (as I did) well into the evening to discover the truth that Blue River residents do not want known. The writing is strong, the ideas clear, and the narrative crisp, making this the perfect debut to captivate the attention of the curious reader. I’ve already signed up to receive more information about future publications and I suspect others will follow suit once they get their hands on this one!

Kudos, Mr. Wiltzen, for this wonderful introduction to your work. Glad to see a fellow Albertan out there making a name for himself. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for Mabel and your fans!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons