Bad Axe County

Your neighbor minds his business.

And yours, the guy’s down the road, and the lady’s next door. He sees everything and is happy to share – or so you’ve heard. As in the new novel “Bad Axe County” by John Galligan, nobody tells you a thing.

When the Weather Service said that a storm was coming and it might dump 10 inches of snow, few in Bad Axe County worried.

It was just another spring in Wisconsin and the snow wouldn’t last. Still, Interim Sheriff Heidi Kick needed to keep her deputies alert, though that was becoming a problem: Half her staff was loyal to the last sheriff, and they made little-to-no effort to hide their dislike for her.

Much of Bad Axe County kinda seemed like that, ever since the night a dozen years ago when Heidi’s parents were killed in what authorities said was a murder-suicide. Heidi was serving as the county’s Dairy Queen then, and folks never forgot that those both set her apart. It surely didn’t make her job – or her life – easier.

Neither did a growing sense that there were things people weren’t telling her.

Like, when elderly librarian Harold Snustead was assaulted at work. The attack seemed senseless, even to a witnesses who also said that Walt Beavers had been on the library’s public-access computer. When Heidi checked its history, she discovered that Beavers had been looking at a website for local sex workers and possible predators. Was that why he skedaddled after the attack?

At the county’s edge, Pepper Greengrass had only known Dale Hill for a short time, but she already knew everything about him: he wasn’t very bright, so the 16-year-old played him like her Ho-Chunk ancestors played a drum. Hill was surely her ticket away from her sleazy stepfather, so she’d go along with whatever he said; besides, Pepper’s Dad once told her to “go with the flow” and she’d always be okay. She remembered that, as she was passed from man to man in a line that stretched from 1980 to South Dakota and straight into Bad Axe County…

Readers who are fans of author John Galligan’s previous books may’ve wondered where Galligan’s been since the last one. One possible answer: He may’ve been perfecting his craft, because “Bad Axe County” is as good as it gets.

With a shiver and nod at today’s news, this novel opens with a scream of two different sorts as we’re introduced to a new, and quite reluctant, crimefighter in Heidi Kick, who wears armor that’s part platinum, part cotton, and she’s not afraid to get it dirty. Readers will also be delighted that Kick is fresh, open, not-quite-naïve, but willing to be schooled; surrounding her is a bawdy dispatcher, a too-handsome officer, an eager EMS volunteer, and criminals that’ll make you cringe, gasp, and dig your nails in.

Readers of thrillers take note, then: “Bad Axe County” is wildly good, frighteningly realistic, sometimes raw, and gritty as dirt. It’s perfect for you. Make it your business to read it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer developed her love for books at an early age and was reading by age 3. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with her two dogs and thousands of books.

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