A Chicago ex-cop seeks solace in a Wisconsin forest.
Even after the thug who mowed down his wife and daughter has been tried and convicted, Dave Cubiak can’t shake the sadness of his loss. So his partner, Malcolm, jawbones him into a yearlong stint as a ranger in Peninsula State Park, a finger of land jutting into Green Bay. With only surly Otto Johnson and aging housekeeper Ruta Lapkritis for company in Jensen Station, Dave is on his own much of the time. He still broods, and he still drinks too much, but he starts to enjoy the routine and the beauty of the woods. Then a series of deaths shatters the landscape. A young man is found dead at the foot of the park’s observation tower. A teenager is hacked to death with an ax. A local fisherman is blown up on his boat. Two cyclists are slashed by piano wire strung between trees. Otto wants to cancel the annual spring festival that brings waves of tourists into the park. But local businessmen, led by J. Dugan Beck, whose family made a fortune in beer, browbeat Sheriff Halverson into letting the festivities continue. Beck also hires Dave privately to investigate. His sleuthing brings him into close contact with Door County’s leading citizens: coroner Evelyn Bathard and his frail wife, Cornelia; baker Martha Smithson; fiber artist Ruby Schumacher; and her photographer niece, Cate, who might be inclined to offer Dave her own brand of consolation. Can a big-city cop solve a series of murders whose only witnesses may be the hemlocks?
An atmospheric debut with enough twists to tempt puzzle aficionados.