Author: Victoria Houston

Publisher: Tyrus Books, 2013

ISBN 10: 1-4405-6218-0

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6218-1

A small-town woman flies home to northern Wisconsin to rally her dad’s constituency, hoping to gain enough support to fill his Senatorial shoes. Problem one: she’s often drunk. When she fails to return to the capital for an important party, her campaign manager comes after her, and finds the house empty, the candidate’s purse on the kitchen counter. Enveloping this plot is the isolation of long roads that divide dark woods and a sudden flood, by which means body parts emerge to start an investigation of nasty people and events.

Author Victoria Houston has come to my attention late – after her 13th mystery. The name of her fictional town – Loon Lake – was irresistible. I am a Wisconsin girl, too, and the loon’s lonely call is part of my baggage. Houston made her mark as a journalist and non-fiction writer before she went back to her roots. That discipline shines through the story here, which is scandalous, brutal, and realistic to one who has seen the dark side of a region that is resplendent with old forests and sparkling lakes alive with Walleyes. While the characters are tempted, there’s little time for romance.

I have never before encountered so many accurately portrayed, professional protocols in one book, including those of media and marketing specialists. Also, Houston’s nuances are admirable: there is no medical examiner locally, so Sheriff Lew Ferris (a woman) uses the local dentist, Doc Osborne, to identify corpses; Ray Pradt, a guide who wears a cap with a stuffed trout sitting on top, has unofficial membership in an elite Indian tracker society; the women are never classic beauties; and the city slickers who come north to network are not total slime. Everyone is just trying to do a job -- except the killer, who is motivated by something deep and disturbing. Houston doesn’t tell us who that is. We have to keep our eyes on the threats temporarily assembled in the area. One of the most ominous personalities is the one most beloved.

Between developments, Doc, Lew and Ray manage to take guests out on the lakes and streams to fish, even people they don’t like. Houston shares intimate details of the craft, including a connection between hair extensions and the rising cost of fishing flies. This is superb reading – but you really need to go there, or at least read more in the series with an intriguing ensemble cast inspired by people the author remembers from her childhood.

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