A new sheriff tries to untangle a web of murder, domestic terrorism, and secrets in a debut thriller from Fee.
Matt Callahan arrives in Nicolet County, Michigan, bearing emotional and physical scars after an attack brutally disrupted his life as a Chicago cop. His new jurisdiction, spread across several remote islands in the northern end of Lake Michigan, seems like a good location for rebuilding his life. His tiny, tame department mostly handles issues like traffic control and roadkill removal, and his tenacious deputy, Amanda Gillespie, and kindly dispatcher, Julie Banville, help him navigate the islands’ multigenerational Irish community. But a dark underbelly to this peaceful area becomes apparent when Callahan discovers a body buried in the woods. The victim is not a local, and further investigation by Callahan, Amanda, and Julie uncovers connections to a rape case, a supposedly accidental hunting death, mysterious explosions on Native American land, and domestic and Irish paramilitary groups. The novel stands out for its vivid settings; the carefully described people and places of the wild, beautiful Nicolet County make Callahan’s world feel real. A large cast, from a no-nonsense tribal police chief to a drunk who constantly misplaces his boat to an art thief with only the sweetest of motives, conveys a complex, diverse society without falling into stereotype. The writing is brisk and readable, and short chapters allow the plot to churn along pleasantly. An action-heavy sequence near the book’s close, involving Callahan racing to stop a possible terrorist attack, makes the following quieter resolution of the book’s central mystery feel slightly rushed. A few short segments describing Callahan’s attacker back in Chicago feel out-of-place and unneeded. Callahan himself is an appealing character—no-nonsense, smart, and in denial about how deeply the Chicago attack hurt him—but some moments of impulsive behavior (breaking into a home without a warrant, for example) feel unconvincing for such a thoughtful man. Despite these issues, the book remains well-plotted and highly enjoyable.
A well-written mystery about a unique community imbued with a palpable sense of place.