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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Death at Gills Rock by Patricia Skalka

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Dave Cubiak did such a good job solving the last murder that he’s now the official sheriff … not that there’s a lot of crime in town. That means, he’s got time to devote to Butch, the pregnant dog he took in, and her subsequent puppies. He’s kind of seeing Natalie the veterinarian, too, and not just for free consults about the dogs. Of course, there’s Cate, but she’s gone and no one knows when—or if—she’s coming back. Mostly it’s the death of Dave’s wife and child that keeps him from a new relationship.

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The town is coming up on a celebration to honor three local war heroes. They’re all successful businessmen, married, and living large. Their weekly poker games, hunting and fishing trips and hikes are legendary.

The men receive an advance copy of the newspaper about their war exploits and decide to celebrate. The poker games are held in a cabin so as to not disturb anyone else with the drinking, smoking, and laughing that goes on. It’s a shock when all three are found dead the following morning. It looks like carbon monoxide poisoning, but the Big Guy was a stickler for checking for clogged vents, so maybe not.

It doesn’t seem like anyone had a grudge—not to mention means, motive, or opportunity to kill them. Still, the situation doesn’t sit right with Dave. The more he looks into the past, the more he finds that things are not always what they seem.

Image source: University of Wisconsin Press

Another death occurs on the day of their funeral. This time it’s a clear case of murder: a man is shot by his wife who admits to doing the deed for “reasons of her own.” Does this help Dave’s investigation, or just make it harder?

Once Dave gets past the veneer of polite society, he discovers secret after secret, all with far-reaching consequences that blow the suspect pool wide open. It’s up to Dave to wade through the clues and red herrings to find the truth, if there’s any truth to be found.

As a nice contrast in mood, Bathard and Sonia are getting married. He’s Dave’s good friend, an older man who found happiness after the death of his first wife. Dave’s not sure how he can do that. Barhard’s not, either, and says he and Sonia will probably still be debating the wisdom of their marriage as they walk toward the minister. Still, it’s a great example for Dave, showing there’s life after the death of a loved one.

Skalka’s books are so rich in detail about the area that Door County becomes a character without intruding on the rest of the story. Butch and the puppies are too cute for words—how will Dave be able to find homes for the pups? I like watching Dave move closer to life again. He’s past the don’t-care-if-I-live-or-die stage of grief and starting to ease his way back to living. This was a great mystery, full of twists and turns, real clues and false leads, an unusual but satisfying ending—and, all the way, full of heart.

I can’t wait for Book Three. Death Stalks Door County was the first and was reviewed for KRL.

To enter to win a copy of Death at Gills Rock, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Gills,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 11, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.