by Sandra Murphy
Details on how to win a copy of Death Stalks Door County at the end of this review.
Dave Cubiak’s life is a mess. So is Dave himself. He’s lost weight, looks terrible, wears too-worn clothes and has no interest in anything beyond drinking. The love of drink is at war with a promise he made to his friend Malcolm who helped him get a fresh start.
Malcolm was Dave’s partner at the Chicago Police Department. After Dave’s wife and daughter were killed in a hit and run, he lost all interest in life. Alcohol helped him forget so he dove right into a bottle and planned for a long stay. Showing up drunk for work when you’re a cop is a particularly bad idea so the department persuaded Dave to take an early retirement. Malcolm talked him into going back to school and in a perverse move, Dave studied forestry.
He got a job at Peninsula State Park in Door County, Wisconsin. The locals call it the Hamptons of the Midwest because of all the tourists who flock to the area in the warm weather. Tradition reigns as things are done “the way we’ve always done it.”
Dave just wants to be left alone to work in the woods. His boss, Otto, has other plans. He takes the outdoor work and leaves Dave to deal with the public. The annual festival is coming up and all the business people look forward to opening day for that’s when the money starts to flow. It’s also one giant headache.
Otto’s discovery of the body of a young man at the foot of a ranger’s tower threatens to put a damper on things. Worse, the guy was the younger brother of the hit and run driver who killed Dave’s family. Under ordinary circumstances, Dave would be a natural suspect but the Sheriff isn’t interested in working too hard. It’s spun as an accident and life goes on.
The second death is treated in the same way. Drunk blows up a boat, case closed. Dave wonders though, could the old man have seen the tower from the water? In spite of his determination to punish himself, Dave is starting to take an interest again.
The third death, a young girl in the woods, killed with an axe (and very little details about that, thank you) couldn’t have been a suicide or an accident so the plan is “Let’s blame the bikers” and an arrest is made.
However, that doesn’t solve the problem. Bodies keep piling up and there doesn’t seem to be any connection at all–unless someone is looking to ruin the festival itself.
There are suspects of course. Otto’s one, after he suggests the park be turned into a wilderness area and barred to hikers and campers. The Sheriff himself might have a reason. Dave is semi-deputized by the local mover and shaker, Beck, to find out the truth. In spite of himself, he doesn’t just go through the motions but investigates and remembers why he became a cop.
This is a story of a man who is in genuine anguish every moment. He cannot forgive himself. His return to living is well-told. As Dave investigates, he makes friends with the coroner, his housekeeper and even Otto. The reader gets a glimpse of small town life and the impact summer visitors can have, even as the locals depend on tourist money to survive. Skalka also points out the precarious balance between growth and destruction of habitat and a way of life. Her love for Door County shows through in every description.
In the acknowledgements, Skalka says there will be more to come. That’s a good thing. Dave and Door County are worth getting to know.
To enter to win a copy of Death Stalks Door County, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Stalks,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 23, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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