Two years ago, I spent a weekend up near Spring Green, Wisconsin, and discovered Arcadia Books. It was there that I bought my first Bad Axe County mystery featuring Sheriff Heidi Kick. It was one of the best books I read that summer, and when I wrote this review, I was eager to track down Books 2 and 3. However, for some reason, I didn’t.
However, two weeks ago, I found myself back up in the area (meeting with the same friends for a long weekend) and I returned to Arcadia Books. I decided I needed to support a local author and find out what was next for Heidi Kick.
It turns out that things are not going well for Heidi. She did decide to officially run for Sheriff (she was “acting” sheriff in Book 1) and won, but by a narrow margin. However, in the 619 days since she has officially taken office (yes, she is counting), she has seen the toll this job has taken on her husband and children, she has become hooked on nicotine gum, and she has frequently battled a stubborn and geriatric “good old boys” network both in city and county government. Add to that, Heidi has recently drawn the online ire of several white supremacist groups when she arrested and prosecuted her brother-in-law, Kenny, for driving through downtown Farmstead, flying a confederate flag on the back of his truck. The only bright spot is Heidi has hired a new deputy, David Morales, from Texas, whose clean record and ability to speak Spanish are desperately needed in Bad Axe.
However, things are about to take a turn for the worse. A local teacher/historian/Polka band leader, Augustus Pfaff, has written (and is just about to publish) a book that unearths some history of the region involving its African American residents that many would like to keep hidden. A young migrant worker is left at the back door of the hospital, badly beaten, apparently the victim of an underground fight club. A group called the Sons of Tyr have signed up to take part in the Syttende Mai Festival parade, and a young man from Milwaukee comes to Bad Axe to track down a long lost relative. All these elements (and a few more) come together in an explosive way that pushes Sheriff Kick to her limits and also exposes the dark underbelly of a rural Wisconsin county.
John Galligan’s writing is crisp and brutal, and this book might need a trigger warning (given its body count); however, I find Sheriff Heidi Kick a compelling character, and I have already started Book 3.