Meet Heidi Kick: former beauty queen, current interim sheriff and her rural Wisconsin county’s best hope for a future not completely marred by crime, misogyny and general horribleness.
In the opening pages of John Galligan’s dark mystery thriller Bad Axe County, we learn that back in 2004, 18-year-old Heidi was crowned Miss Wisconsin Dairy Queen and, later that night, learned that her parents had died. The police called it murder-suicide, but she knew in her gut it wasn’t true.
Fast-forward to 2016, and Heidi’s still determined to find out the truth, this time from a better vantage point. She’s an excellent investigator and law-enforcer who’s been named interim sheriff of Bad Axe after the death of her corrupt predecessor. The late sheriff was an enthusiastic participant in the remote county’s good ol’ boy network, the members of which secured their power via nepotism, fraud and far more sinister endeavors—and will do seemingly anything to keep Heidi from being elected sheriff. Heidi soon finds herself embroiled in a search for a missing girl, Pepper Greengrass, while a major ice storm threatens to catastrophically flood the rough, wild landscape at the edge of the mighty Mississippi River.
As the action ratchets up and danger seems to loom at every turn, Galligan deftly alternates between Heidi’s and Pepper’s points of view, plus that of Angus Beavers, a former local baseball star who’s returned home to right deadly wrongs. Readers will find themselves eager to see how the various storylines will converge and wary of what shocks the next pages might reveal.
Bad Axe County is quite a ride, with its unapologetic acceptance of the presence of evil among us and its occasional sharp shots of humor and hope amid the devastation. It’s also a layered exploration of the ways that long-held secrets and shame can reach far into the future—with a suspenseful, likely gasp-inducing final act that will leave readers hoping they haven’t seen the last of Heidi, and of Bad Axe County.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with John Galligan about Bad Axe County.