I have to admit that I’m a geek. But you probably already knew that by now. I tend to really enjoy dense, non-fiction books centered around the business and self-help genre. So, when I was contacted by Kate Dyer-Seeley for a review of her latest book, First Degree Mudder I turned the opportunity over to our Ambassador Team. Ardeen volunteered to read the book and provide her feedback. Now I have to admit, this is one fiction book that I just might be talked into reading…maybe. I’ll let Ardeen take it away…


Reading a new author, especially in a genre that you wouldn’t normally select, is sort of the blind date of the literary world.

Reading a new author in a not-usual genre that’s the newest book in a continuing series… well, that is a whole other story.

That’s like going with someone you hardly know to meet a group of their good friends.

It could be super awkward, one of those evenings where you are not quite in on the jokes, where you are one step behind in the conversations, and where you can’t wait to be done, because you were never really quite part of the party in the first place.

Or, the group of friends could scoop you right up and make you part of the night, unobtrusively explain any inside jokes, and invite you to go out again.

I was curious, when I volunteered to review First Degree Mudder for HLAW, which way it would go. I was excited to read it – it’s set in Portland, and I live just north of the Canadian border, so the Pacific Northwest / Cascadia setting is my backyard.

The main character, Meg, was described a review of a previous book as “sometimes bumbling”. Not the most flattering description, but let’s be honest here. For all the time I spend recreating outdoors, I still feel pretty bumbly a lot of the time. I was liking Meg already, and I hadn’t even opened the book yet.

Good news. Meg is one of those characters who sweeps you up into her world and takes you along, explaining little things along the way so you catch what’s going on.

Meg Reed is a pink-loving, craft beer drinking, not-so-very outdoorsy girl who has taken a job writing for Northwest Extreme magazine. This is the fourth book in the series, and her assignments for the magazine have already taken her climbing, skiing, and windsurfing.

While trying at the last minute to come up with a story to pitch for an upcoming issue, she spots an ad for a mud run preparation group, and signs herself up for the Mud, Sweat, and Beers Mud Run, as part of the Mind Over Mudder training team. Her teammates are an eclectic group, the training is

Her teammates are an eclectic group, the training is grueling, she gets mud in places where no one should have mud, and then… her drill sergeant trainer turns up dead.

Meg’s curious reporter-nature immediately has her searching for suspects and motives, and she’s getting pretty familiar with the murder investigation routine.

The story is also woven with details about the other murder that is constantly in Meg’s thoughts – her father was killed while investigating the growing meth problem in Oregon. A lot of the characters are tied to Meg’s dad in one way or

A lot of the characters are tied to Meg’s dad in one way or another, and as the plot and subplots move along her awareness of exactly how they are all involved increases. Meg doesn’t really do a whole lot of active sleuthing, but she does a lot of wondering, and often wonders her way down the right track. So this is in no way a detective novel, it's more bits of questioning and

So this is in no way a detective novel, it’s more bits of questioning and hypothesizing that lead Meg to the answers she finds.

The best thing about First Degree Mudder is that now I feel like I have been to Portland.

Meg’s descriptions of what she is seeing and where she is going are so clear and evocative that when she approaches the Vancouver Barracks, where her training is taking place, you are there with her, one hundred percent, identifying the plants in the historic gardens and feeling the dew on the grass.

There is a whole mini-history lesson in here as well. Meg does a lot of research for her

Meg does a lot of research for her article and it is presented in a conversational way, not like a lecture or “this is the paragraph where I tell you the history of the area.”

The last pages of the book contain Meg’s First Degree Mudder Scenic Tour, which you can follow around Portland, seeing the sights of the story.

And then there’s the food. Let’s not even talk about the food, because I got seriously hungry reading this book.

Meg spends a lot of time meeting friends at pubs, and the descriptions of the food and craft beers are fantastic.

I really enjoyed this book. It probably helps that I share Portlanders’ love of good coffee, craft beers, and the outdoors, and Meg’s love of pink. But it was a good read besides all that.

Kate Dyer-Seeley filled in enough info from the previous books that a reader is not lost, but fed in just enough new developments to make you want to read the next one, too.

I did find the words “bestie” and “hipster” to be a bit overused – characters and situations are so richly described that it seemed a bit redundant to use a label. And there was a point about two-thirds through where the pace of the story slowed quite a bit and got a little bogged down, and then everything came together very suddenly. But as I turned the last page, I was left

But as I turned the last page, I was left wondering what part of Oregon Meg’s next adventure will take her to, and very eager to go along with her!


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