Bad Axe County by John Galligan
Dennis Lehane meets Megan Miranda in this “dark beauty of a novel” (William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author) about the first female sheriff in rural Bad Axe County, Wisconsin, as she searches for a missing girl, battles local drug dealers, and seeks the truth about the death of her parents twenty years ago—all as a winter storm rages in her embattled community.
Fifteen years ago, Heidi White’s parents were shot to death on their Bad Axe County farm. The police declared it a murder-suicide and closed the case. But that night, Heidi found the one clue she knew could lead to the truth—if only the investigators would listen.
Now Heidi White is Heidi Kick, wife of local baseball legend Harley Kick and mother of three small children. She’s also the interim sheriff in Bad Axe. Half the county wants Heidi elected but the other half will do anything to keep her out of law enforcement. And as a deadly ice storm makes it way to Bad Axe, tensions rise and long-buried secrets climb to the surface.
As freezing rain washes out roads and rivers flood their banks, Heidi finds herself on the trail of a missing teenaged girl. Clues lead her down twisted paths to backwoods stag parties, derelict dairy farms, and the local salvage yard—where the body of a different teenage girl has been carefully hidden for a decade.
As the storm rages on, Heidi realizes that someone is planting clues for her to find, leading her to some unpleasant truths that point to the local baseball team and a legendary game her husband pitched years ago. With a murder to solve, a missing girl to save, and a monster to bring to justice, Heidi is on the cusp of shaking her community to its core—and finding out what really happened the night her parents died.
With “striking prose, engaging characters, and a searing story of crimes rooted in the heartland,” Bad Axe County is a “darkly irresistible thriller” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) that you won’t be able to put down.
I didn’t realize that the CE read and reviewed Book 3, Bad Moon Rising last year, and wasn’t wholly thrilled with it.
That is essentially my reaction to Book 1. From the beginning, it’s heavily atmospheric, describing Wisconsin very well. This is a small town with all the idiosyncrasies that comes with a small town: everybody knows everybody’s business. Most have been born, raised, and never strayed beyond the county city limits. Usually, that also means narrow thinking, biased attitudes, ole boy enclaves well entrenched. The haves; the have nots.
The protagonist, Heidi Kick is a former beauty queen turned law enforcement who suddenly discovers herself sheriff upon the death of the former officer. She has a history, of course, the apparent murder/suicide of her parents—something she never accepted and a case that is never far below the one currently being investigated.
And what’s being currently investigated is plenty. The storyline veers into missing girls, discovery of bodies, drugs, and human trafficking.
Lots of characters. Heidi is married with little ones. She is battling those who don’t want a “Dairy Queen” in the position—but she does have a base support.
The plot line turns decidedly dark, the dialogue raw, profane, denigrating, and demeaning. It is suspenseful, violent, and fast-paced. Better keep up!
The conclusion manages to work out all the threads, leaving Heidi snarking with her buddy, Denise—that part is fun—and I like the character of Denise.
It is well-plotted, loaded with atmosphere, and for the most part dark. I like strong female protagonists, but will have to give this one more thought.
Rosepoint Publishing: Three point Five Stars
Genre: Police Procedurals, Women Sleuths, Suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Listening Length: 10 hrs 24 mins
Narrator: Samantha Desz
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Bad Axe County [Amazon]
The Author: [Goodreads] John Galligan, in addition to being a novelist and teacher, John has worked as a newspaper journalist, feature-film screenwriter, house painter, au pair, ESL teacher, cab driver, and freezer boy in a salmon cannery. He currently teaches writing at Madison Area Technical College, where his experience is enriched by students from every corner of the local and world community.
2022 V Williams