Bad Axe County by John Galligan
Published by Atria Books on July 9, 2019 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, crime, mystery, thriller
Format & Length: e-book, 336
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Dennis Lehane meets Megan Miranda in this tense, atmospheric thriller 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.
Upon starting Bad Axe County, the world Galligan created brought one word to my mind: bleak. And it only got darker from there.
This crime thriller has a complex plot with multiple strands, but the main one follows Heidi, former beauty queen who is now interim sheriff of Bad Axe County in rural Wisconsin. Taking place over the course of an ice storm and its aftermath, Heidi investigates several clues that lead her down a path of secrets that have been kept for several years while her past also comes back to haunt her. What she discovers is shocking and deals with some tough subjects, including drugs, rape, and sex trafficking, various aspects of which are described fairly explicitly.
Due to the nature of the story, it took me some time to really get into Bad Axe County. Once the plot strands started coming together to paint a larger picture it began to pull me in more and kept me coming back to see how things would turn out. And what started out seeming like it was in a completely different language than what I’m used to became second nature as the pacing and tension intensified.
Overall, Bad Axe County was dark, gritty, and full of atmosphere. It’s hard to say that I enjoyed this given the subject matter and I don’t think I’d ever revisit it but it was well done. Recommended for readers who like darker crime thrillers.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.