BAD AXE COUNTY
By John Galligan
Published by Atria Books
Available July 2019
(Reviewer’s Note: Admittedly, when I requested this book from NetGalley for review two weeks ago, I did not know it was from the summer of 2019. Not that there’s anything wrong about me reviewing a previously released book, but I wouldn’t have squeezed this one into my busy TBR stack had I realized this ahead of time.)
“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.”
Now, I don’t know of Megan Miranda, but I’m a big Dennis Lehane fan. That alone caught my eye when I viewed this NetGalley offering. I’ve also been in the mood for a good crime novel lately, so I hoped this would give me that fix. And while I was not blown away by Bad Axe County, I did find enough to like that I devoured the book rather quickly.
The pacing is quick, almost anxious in its delivery. The chapters are short and to the point. You jump around in the story, following a variety of characters. Some of it is a bit confusing to keep track of, because you don’t yet know how it all ties together. Some of it doesn’t even come together until the climax; this makes some of the ride a bit frustrating, to be honest. However, I was never so turned off that I felt like abandoning the novel. The pacing is probably what saved this novel, for me – I was never given enough time to think about something and complain about it. Had it been slower or more detailed, I may have gotten annoyed with the jumping around and last-minute-conclusions.
The cast was pretty strong. The MC is problematic, but also a bit of a thrill to follow (because you can’t really guess what stupid thing she’ll do next). I have a bit of an issue with this interim sheriff taking her children to a location in which she aims to confront someone for her case, though – that’s not only stupid, but difficult to believe. Just how bad a mother is she supposed to be to put her children in such obvious and potential danger? The other characters – like the supporting deputies and dispatch officer – are far more likeable. Some of the bad guys are also interesting and realistically disturbing.
Which reminds me – there is sexual assault of minors throughout this book. If that’s a trigger, I wouldn’t recommend you pick this one up. Nothing is detailed, luckily, but it’s still ever present and actively happening in some scenes.
The story itself is a bit jumbled, but I also liked that. The crossing paths and awkwardness of it all felt realistic, not scripted. So even when I was annoyed, I was content.
In scoring this title, I was a bit torn. I didn’t feel like it was tight enough for a 4, but a 3 was too average for it. It has its share of issues, but also excels in enough departments to leave me wanting more.
Highlights: Fast and furious … some great characters … short chapters make it easy to convince yourself to read “just a little more”
Shadows: The story is a bit jumbled, which can be off putting … the MC is a bit too careless at times to be thoroughly likeable
For fans of: Crime, suspense … anxious reads … stories that read like a chase sequence or a race against time
Takeaway: Though Bad Axe County isn’t without its faults, there’s enough character to its delivery that I was left ready for book two in the series.
Would I read this author again? Yes