Saturday, November 30, 2019

Bad Axe County

Title:  Bad Axe County
Author:  John Galligan
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2019. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1982110708 / 978-1982110703

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The clammy hand of state representative Cyrus Johnsrud (R-Portage) has released her elbow and is drifting down her spine, stopping to savor each vertebra through the fabric of her gown."

Favorite Quote:  "... nobody is cutting you slack for your pain from the past. You're in charge here. You're the boss ... You can either do this job or you can't. We need you to do do it ... but if you can't separate the past from the present, even the people who support your are going to freak..."

Bad Axe County is place in rural Wisconsin. This is book one in what is planned to be series. The main character is Heidi Kick, the first female sheriff of the county - at least an interim sheriff. Heidi is Bad Axe County born and bred.

She is a police officer despite, or perhaps because of her traumatic childhood. When Heidi was in high school, her parents were shot dead on their farm. It was ruled a murder suicide with her father accused of killing her mother before he shot himself. Heidi never believed it, but she survived. Now, Heidi is a police officer, a wife, a mother, and she still does not believe the story told about her past. She wants to prove it otherwise. She may have survived the trauma, but she has never recovered.

That is the background and the past coming into Heidi's present. That present also holds secrets of its own. There are many in town who would like to see her fail. There are many with secrets of their own. It is Heidi's job and quest to unravel it all.

All this angst and intrigue manifests itself in an ice storm and in a missing teenager. That is the current mystery of the book. This mystery goes in a direction I completely do not see coming especially in a setting like rural Wisconsin.

Without saying where this book goes, I will say the topic really surprises me. I had no idea, and it sent me researching. It turns out that the issue is a very real problem in the area, and it endangers some of the most vulnerable in our society. The fact that the mystery centers around a missing teenage girl should give you a clue as to the nature of the crime. Trigger warning:  The book does depict horrific and violent treatment of young women.

The book does not depict the physical beauty or grand natural vistas of Wisconsin. Rather, it focuses on the human-created terror and despair. It leaves a one-sided image of corruption and violence. I hope future books show some of the peace and beauty the images of Wisconsin conjure up for me, if only to contrast with the actions of the characters. It would reinforce the point that good can survive in the most inhospitable surroundings just as evil can thrive in a serene, bucolic setting.

Both the story of Heidi's past and the current mystery of the missing girl lead to an action packed book travelling the back roads of Wisconsin. The two stories, however, travel in tandem and have only a tangential connection. Even Heidi's marriage and children become a background to the action of the book.

Perhaps, the back story is there to establish Heidi as a character. Perhaps, it is something that will be explored further up in subsequent books. Regardless, I find myself much more interested in the current day mystery and the social issues it leads me to research and learn more about. For that reason, I may look for the next in the series.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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