Title: Death Stalks Door County
Author: Patricia Skalka
Price: $26.95 (hardcover) $10.49 (ebook)
Publisher: Terrace Books (University of Wisconsin Press)
Point of Sale: various, listed at author's site
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
My local library held a local authors’ fair in January. I attended the event, sold a couple of books, and of course bought a couple. One of the books I bought was Death Stalks Door County by Patricia Skalka. It’s a contemporary mystery, but I firmly believe one should vary what genres one reads. It helps that Death Stalks is a very good book.
Death Stalks is Patricia Skalka’s first novel, although the author enjoyed a long career in non-fiction writing. It’s set in Door County, Wisconsin, which is a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. For reasons cultural and geographic, when Chicagoans are looking for a weekend getaway, they go north to Wisconsin, and Door County is a heavy recipient of that traffic.
The protagonist is Dave Cubiak, a newly-minted state park ranger and former Chicago cop. His wife and child were killed by a drunk driver, and Dave crawled into a bottle. In an attempt to help him get out of said bottle, his buddies set him up with the job in Door County. It wasn’t helping. Then, the brother of the man who killed Dave’s wife takes a fatal fall (or was he pushed?) from the top of the park’s observation tower, and Dave discovers the body. Thus ends Chapter 1.
This is the first of a number of suspicious deaths, all of them occurring just as the county is getting ready for their annual “start of the tourist season” festival. The big wheels in the county, thinking tourists are coming to escape big-city violence not get dead in it, want these murders to stop and things kept quiet. It turns out that there are other plans afoot, some of which are even more threatening to Door County.
It’s hard to write a review of a mystery without giving it away. All I can say is, everybody is a suspect, and Skalka plays fair with her clues. When the final reveal happens, it’s fair and I could mentally go back through the book and lay out the clues I had missed. There’s an especially subtle touch towards the end with an Indian feather head-dress worn during a parade.
All I can say is, read this book.