Check out this fresh crime-story premise: Heidi Kick (a name bred for crime fiction), wife of local baseball legend Harley (of course!) Kick, is the first female sheriff of Bad Axe County, WI. Her job is to deal with – and hey, perhaps even stop – corruption, meth dealers, and prostitution. And of course she does. Where else would such a trifecta occur other than in Bad Axe County?
Bad Axe County by John Galligan is a mid-western sprawl of a tale. The premise is crimes-blues fun. The plot direct and raw. Galligan’s execution is as rough as the harsh mid-western landscape.
You have to work through his structure. And this isn’t a good exercise like when trying to dig into a Michael Chabon paragraph-long sentence for context. Rather, this is a slog in determining possession and location.
Bad Axe County, both in story and location, is dark and creepy. The prostitution is not anonymous ladies-of-the-night pedaling their wares on forlorn johns, rather, the real and vile sex trafficking of minors. The villains aren’t trippy yokels with hillbilly nicknames and comic-book fiendishness. They are violent, disturbed creatures. Well, except for S’more, who completely satisfies the former’s checkbox.
Heidi goes on her one-woman campaign in high ‘80s cop-film style to bring law and order to Bad Axe. And her pursuit is a worthwhile one as the mystery does get deeper, involved, and yes, interesting. Galligan goes all out and in doing so, presents too much. On top of the missing girls, the murdered girls, the baseball mystery (Yes, a baseball plot! Something all crime fiction needs more of!), and the political in-fighting, Heidi is also trying to solve her parent’s murder. The result of which comes as a near-convenient coda that could have been worked as its own separate story.
Bad Axe County, WI might be as fictitious as Gotham, but the settings and dealings are all too real for desired escapism fiction. And what in the name of Curly Lambeau is a “coulee”?
Thanks to Atria Books for the advance edition. I am looking forward to future offerings.