Hutch knows his wife, Deputy Tempe Crabtree, all too well because she absolutely will not stop until she finds out everything she needs to know to keep the people of Bear Creek safe. And this is a good thing for readers of author Marilyn Meredith’s charming series, as Tempe makes her return for an action-packed eleventh outing in the series’ newest entry, Bears With Us.
Located in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada, the small community of Bear Creek finds itself dealing with a handful of its namesake, as hungry bears preparing for hibernation begin showing up in apple orchards, garbage bins and, startlingly, snout-deep in a carton of Rocky Road ice cream in one unfortunate family’s kitchen. Unable by law to shoot the bears unless they present an immediate threat to life, Tempe finds herself coming up with creative ways to run the hungry critters off.
Even if bears were the only thing Tempe had to deal with she’d still have her hands full, but Meredith has provided Tempe with a plate overflowing with situations all requiring her immediate attention: the decline of a former town pillar into dementia, necessitating tracking her down repeatedly when she keeps wandering off; an amazingly self-important and obnoxious mother who expects Tempe to intervene and keep the “wrong sort” of boy away from her teenage daughter, and who threatens to make formal complaints of misconduct against her if she doesn’t; the suicide of a teenager and his family’s strangely cold reaction to it… yes, Tempe more than has her hands full.
Author Marilyn Meredith does a wonderful job with the Tempe Crabtree series, mixing aspects of the mystery, police procedural, and cozy genres together in a very satisfying blend. Cozy-like in that there is little “onscreen” violence and no profanity, Bears With Us still manages to maintain a healthy edge of tension and menace as Tempe delves into the circumstances surrounding the teenager’s suicide and his family’s subsequent defensive and secretive behavior. The discovery of a shallow grave in the woods on the outskirts of town adds to the plot, as Tempe first has to discover who it is, then how they got there.
As in previous entries in the series, Meredith uses the somewhat unusual combination of Tempe’s position as a police officer and her husband’s as a pastor to both create tension as well as to explore the differing approaches that can be taken to solving the same problem. Tempe’s Native American heritage also plays a role, adding a nice, and educational, layer to the story.
Readers familiar with the series will find this to be one of the more enjoyable and involved outings for Tempe yet. But it’s not necessary to read the series in order, so if you’re just finding out about the series why don’t you Bear With Us and visit Bear Creek? You’ll be glad you did.
Bears With Us is available from Mundania Press (ISBN: 978-1606592649).