Book Review: Stiff Penalty by Annelise Ryan

Title: Stiff Penalty (A Mattie Winston Mystery)
Author: Annelise Ryan
Published: 24 February 2015
Publisher:  Kensington Publishing



Deputy coroner Mattie Winston knows a thing or two about dead bodies. That’s why she’s on the case of Derrick Ames, a high school math teacher stabbed to death with a barbecue fork straight to the heart. Sure, she’s turned up some motives and a few suspects, but nothing adds up. Especially when the evidence points to Ames’s teenage son. Newly pregnant Mattie can’t believe it, even as her own long-estranged father may be following her. But one thing’s certain, she’d better start figuring things out fast, or a deadly perpetrator could be subtracting two more victims from the population of Sorenson, Wisconsin. . .


Thanks to Kensington and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Cover Story in return for an honest review. 

Mattie Winston is back in her sixth mystery, Stiff Penalty. The ME’s assistant is pregnant, temperamental and back of the trail of a murderer.

In general, I liked the characters. Mattie Winston is, for the most part, intelligent, level headed and a keen investigator. Unfortuantely, when speaking with her therapist, she comes across as quite flaky and temperamental. She is supported by her surrogate family, Izzy and Dom, detective Bob Richmond??. and her love interest, Hurley, all of whom are likeable characters, particularly Detective Richmond.

The plot involves two mysteries. First, we have the case of Derrick Ames, a math teacher who has been stabbed to death with a barbeque fork. All evidence points to Ames’ teenage son, Jacob, but Mattie has her doubts. The question is are those doubts reasonable or is it just her maternal instincts kicking in? Secondly, we get involved in Mattie’s own situation in which she is being stalked and receiving mysterious silent telephone calls.

The main gripe I have is with the fact that the story is largely told via Mattie’s own recounting of the events to her therapist. This forces Mattie’s feelings to the forefront and highlights her insecurities which, in my opinion, slightly gets in the way of the mystery.  We get a lot of storytelling throughout and it is only really in the last section of the book that things get interesting.

As with the earlier books in the series, this is a light-hearted and fun mystery with plenty of humour and intrigue, however there are some niggles which did affect my overall enjoyment of the story.

If you enjoy this story or earlier books in the Mattie Winston series, check out

Rating: 3 out of 5

About the Author

Annelise Ryan is the pseudonym for the author of three suspense novels. She has written more than 200 published articles, worked as a book reviewer for Barnes & Noble, and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She is an RN whose past work experience has included everything from birth (obstetrics) to death (hospice). She currently works in an ER and enjoys a number of side hobbies, including competitive Scrabble, stained glass, scuba diving, and gardening.

post signature

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s