Review: Twice Bitten
Many years ago, I remember watching an episode of UK crime drama Taggart where someone was planting venomous snakes in people’s houses and this book brought it all back. Approaching Twice Bitten, the third Matt Davis Mystery, I was under no illusions that snakes may have something to do with the storyline given the cover and the title too. Naturally, I was intrigued.
Twice Bitten has different narratives running through the story. One is a third person narrative of Ron Trentweiler who finds religion in prison and begins preaching on his release. He soon hooks up with Winona Stepp and together the couple begin making a profit from their church. Things change when they begin to incorporate snakes into the services and their actions lead to one or two of the locals dying. The other narrative is the first person perspective of Matt Davis, a Police Chief in Roscoe, who is investigating the death of a local, Billy Stillwater, found dead in his car. We also get a narrative of Billy’s movements in the run up to his death but how do these threads all link together?
Perrone does a good job of having these narratives running together without the reader losing track of what is going on. While Matt Davis investigates Billy’s death in the present, we are taken through Ron’s story over a period of time until it reaches the same point as Matt’s investigation. Billy’s actions are in the days leading up to his death and though you’ll have a fair idea who is responsible you’ll have to wait to find out the motives. Aside from the crime and investigation, Matt Davis has the additional problem of his wife Val who is diagnosed with breast cancer and their world is turned upside down. Matt is a dutiful husband and supports his wife throughout but will her treatment prove successful?
Ron and Winona are a lustful and conniving couple, a great team that know how to make money from the unsuspecting. Their church activities are embraced by the local community, even when they begin using venomous snakes in the services and so loved are they that they receive the odd payment from parishioners left in their will, substantial sums of money as well. Ron and Winona eventually find their way to Roscoe while Matt is busy investigating Billy’s death. Are Ron and Winona responsible? Will Matt solve the mystery? What is the significance of the snakes Ron uses in church?
Twice Bitten has a fascinating back story for both Ron and Winona which has shaped them as individuals in the present. Their characters seem somewhat more developed than Matt but I put this down to the book being the third entry in the series and my first experience of Matt Davis. My perception would certainly have been different if this was my third experience, I have no doubt. This is still a fast-paced and good read throughout with a few surprises and revelations along the way.
Twice Bitten is an effective mystery thriller with good characters and background histories to go with them. The side story of Val’s battle with cancer is a welcome addition to the overall narrative and demonstrates the loyalty and priority of Matt Davis who, although focused on doing his job well, never forgets what is most important to him. I’ll certainly be going back to read the other books in the series – As The Twig Is Bent and Opening Day and will look forward to future instalments too.
(Book source: reviewer received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)