Finally! The cozy conclusion that I've been waiting for in this series. Not that this is the end, but Stiff Competition finally delivered some much needed balm to the anxiety riddled characters (and readers).
Amazingly, Mattie Winston's new mom status seems to have just the right effect on her. While her self-confidence issues are still hoovering, her newborn son takes center stage in her worries (as he should) and the effect is that he really mellows out her poor decision making that drives me up the wall. For the most part. She still does have her signature Mattie gaff moment, but it isn't as painful as say, gambling away $10k. I wasn't sure that she was going to pull out of her funk of the last several books until halfway through when Hurley leaves the scene for awhile. Ironically, I think not having to include him in every scene allowed author Ryan to sort out their written relationship. It's like every time the dialogue had to be written, Ryan was taking some kind of sick satisfaction in ensuring that their words would make Hurley and Mattie's relationship circle the drain a little faster. I don't get it, personally, but the relief was real when the situation at hand sorted itself out.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed the personal drama more than the mystery in this one. The whodunit was lack-luster. I'm not good at picking the killer but I had this one pegged early on.
Overall, I can breathe easier continuing this series now that we've leaped a major hurdle. Hopefully we can get back to the adorable antics of Mattie's life instead of the haywire, insane, desperate choices that we've seen in recent history. The addition of Matthew marks an introduction of a new 'friendly' character into the series and will hopefully breathe life back into the funny that's been missing.
The cover explains it all for this square: