Cover Image: Bad Axe County

Bad Axe County

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Member Reviews

3.5 / 5.0

“Dennis Lehane meets Megan Miranda in this tense, atmospheric thriller about the first female sheriff in rural Bad Axe County, Wisconsin, as she searches for a missing girl, battles local drug dealers, and seeks the truth about the death of her parents twenty years ago—all as a winter storm rages in her embattled community.”

Now, I don’t know of Megan Miranda, but I’m a big Dennis Lehane fan. That alone caught my eye when I viewed this NetGalley offering. I’ve also been in the mood for a good crime novel lately, so I hoped this would give me that fix. And while I was not blown away by Bad Axe County, I did find enough to like that I devoured the book rather quickly.

The pacing is quick, almost anxious in its delivery. The chapters are short and to the point. You jump around in the story, following a variety of characters. Some of it is a bit confusing to keep track of, because you don’t yet know how it all ties together. Some of it doesn’t even come together until the climax; this makes some of the ride a bit frustrating, to be honest. However, I was never so turned off that I felt like abandoning the novel. The pacing is probably what saved this novel, for me - I was never given enough time to think about something and complain about it. Had it been slower or more detailed, I may have gotten annoyed with the jumping around and last-minute-conclusions. 

The cast was pretty strong. The MC is problematic, but also a bit of a thrill to follow (because you can’t really guess what stupid thing she’ll do next). I have a bit of an issue with this interim sheriff taking her children to a location in which she aims to confront someone for her case, though - that’s not only stupid, but difficult to believe. Just how bad a mother is she supposed to be to put her children in such obvious and potential danger? The other characters - like the supporting deputies and dispatch officer - are far more likeable. Some of the bad guys are also interesting and realistically disturbing.

Which reminds me - there is sexual assault of minors throughout this book. If that’s a trigger, I wouldn’t recommend you pick this one up. Nothing is detailed, luckily, but it’s still ever present and actively happening in some scenes.

The story itself is a bit jumbled, but I also liked that. The crossing paths and awkwardness of it all felt realistic, not scripted. So even when I was annoyed, I was content. 

In scoring this title, I was a bit torn. I didn’t feel like it was tight enough for a 4, but a 3 was too average for it. It has its share of issues, but also excels in enough departments to leave me wanting more.

Highlights: Fast and furious … some great characters … short chapters make it easy to convince yourself to read “just a little more”

Shadows: The story is a bit jumbled, which can be off putting … the MC is a bit too careless at times to be thoroughly likeable

For fans of: Crime, suspense … anxious reads … stories that read like a chase sequence or a race against time

Takeaway: Though Bad Axe County isn’t without its faults, there’s enough character to its delivery that I was left ready for book two in the series. 

Would I read this author again? Yes

Review by Aiden Merchant
Social Media: Instagram (AidenMerchant.Official) and Twitter (AidenMerchant89)
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This is a crackling thriller of a book, and once you go beyond the Prologue, it picks up steam and never lets go. The plot is densely populated by multi-dimensional characters, peppered (no pun intended!.... you'll see) with painstaking details and inside jokes on a landscape that's spiraling downward, out of control.

Bad Axe County endears you right away to its protagonist - a young Heidi White, barely (nearly?) eighteen and already a Queen.

The early parts reminded me of the earliest Jack Reacher, just a little more words (!). Chipping away at the marble, to reveal the character that has always been hidden underneath. A feisty Sheriff, facing half-a-town of opponents - most only in principle, and therefore immune to logic and sanity (!) - sure sounded more like Reacher than anything else.

But to give respect where it’s due, this book is NOT a copycat of any of the Reacher books. But the comparison was instinctive for me, and that’s saying something!

The characterization is interesting. Filled in with small details, the overall picture emerges - slowly but gradually - of a coterie of characters you know well, and understand quite well.

I was barely 15% into the book, and I was ready to give it 4 stars already.

At other times, this reminded me of another book I read recently that surreptitiously gathers momentum and sort of catches on to you before you know it - Her Kind of Case.

The plot itself is satisfactorily complex, and true to life - is filled with cross connections and labyrinthian diversions that seem to lead nowhere, forcing our protagonist to question her starting point and assumptions. It leads to some delightful police work - good old fashioned police work, knocking on doors, talking to people, looking for evidence - not the glitzy computer-stuff that's perceived to be detective work nowadays.

As you go along the story, you realize the details are forming into a complete mosaic, rather than a single picture. Again, more life-like than most other thrillers I've read recently. There is enough risk, danger and peril that engulfs the characters, and the main plot covers two days - and moves along like a juggernaut, slowly but surely - to an explosive denouement!
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Rising tides bring rising memories, past secrets, and buried histories to light!
What could be more tenacious than a woman as interim sheriff? A woman who takes no crap and is ready to uncover the truths about the death of her parents that the legal system deemed murder/suicide.
The fact is not everyone wants Heidi to obtain full time status as sheriff of Bad Axe and they'll do anything to keep her silenced.
So many things are on the line including finding a missing girl, recovering her status in her community, solving her parents case, and using the planted clues to administer justice.
A unique albeit complex situation in which not everything is as it seems with multiple characters to keep this wringing wet long into the night.
Thank you to John, the pub, NetGalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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Heidi was an all American Beauty Queen when her parents were murdered,  it the police declared it a murder suicide. Fifteen years later she is the interim, first female Sheriff, in Bad Axe County to the displeasure of quite a few of the residents. On top of this, a storm is brewing and Heidi must track down a missing teenage whilst also uncovering hidden truths in this small town and look after her family. The plot is told from a range of view points, and in particular that of a young trafficked girl is particularly memorable. A book that will keep you on your toes to the very end.

Thank you John Galligan, the publisher and NetGalley for this ARC in return for an honest review.
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Heidi White is Bad Axe  Interim County sheriff is slogging her way through a plot that involves human trafficking, mutilation, rape, child abuse, and murder. This book is considered by many as one of the best releases of 2019. 
This is a dark and disturbing book that takes place in the rural area of Wisconsin. There is a lot of things going on, most of it disturbing and the people involved in the story are hard to like. This, in my mind, also included the main character Heidi White. I admittedly, warmed up to her as the story progressed.
This is the first book I have read by John Galligan so it took me a while to get used to his writing style but overall, it was well worth the time. I am certainly looking forward to reading the second book in this series “Dead Man Dancing” in August when it is released
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This was a very dark tale with some very unsavoury characters. The cover is a great match for the tale within. I was impressed by the writing. It was tight, well-paced and made me squirm in some places. Good fiction should make us uncomfortable sometimes.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for my opinion.
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Richly textured and cinematic in scope, this intense Noir-styled police procedural (and first in a series) is set in the rural coulees of southwest Wisconsin where the Mississippi and Bad Axe rivers meet. Visions of a bucolic dairyland countryside are shattered as readers encounter a gritty, seedier world of derelict farms, dangerous back country roads, ingrained attitudes of bigotry and misogyny, police corruption, human trafficking, meth addiction, drug-fueled thefts and acts of senseless violence. Oh yes, and murder. Can't forget that. Told from the alternating points of views of interim sheriff Heidi Kick, recently returned home local baseball player Angus Beavers and runaway teenager Pepper Greengrass, this is more than just a crime/murder mystery. At its heart, this is your classic good versus evil story. In true Noir fashion, the motives of our three strong-will protagonists are fueled by revenge, determination and a 'go it on your own' approach, giving us flawed complex characters to understand and cheer on from the sidelines, even though some of the decisions they make are questionable ones. The author give the reader a lot to think about and really exposes human nature for the complex, dynamic aspect that it is. This is also what I like to describe as a train wreck kind of story... you watch the bad unfolding, helpless to intervene. A lot of this comes from having the three points of view: we know what is happening that the other characters are not aware of, which adds to the gut-wrenching suspense.  

The overall effect is a well written, fast-paced, atmospheric crime story filled with long-kept secrets, well developed characters and adrenaline-pumping moments of suspense. Word of caution: If you are uncomfortable reading a story with some really unpleasant (okay, nasty) characters, blatant misogyny, cruelty and violence, this is not a story I would recommend for you.
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This may seem like a weird thing to say, but I didn’t think I would like this book as much as I did. I don’t get me wrong, I love a good mystery, but the cop genre is not my favorite. Maybe the fact that this one was about the first woman sheriff in a small town added to my enjoyment. 

The sheriff finds herself investigating a cold case that takes her on a wild ride involving many members of the small town.  

I enjoyed this book!

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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Special thanks to Atria for providing our copy in exchange for an honest & fair review.

I thought I was ready for this one, but NOPE. This one was just too dark & gritty for me. Definitely a preference of me as a reader and not a knock to the author. I feel like folks who like darer TV shows & don't mind getting down with darker details would enjoy this one. 

Thank you for the opportunity to be an early reader.
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Traveling With T’s Thoughts:

When a publicist emailed me about this book and with a Netgalley widget for reviewing- I was kinda excited about this book. It sounded in the same family of books I like to read, but with a bit more grit.

Well, while I did like the book ok- this book has a lot more grit. And evil. And just a general ickiness as I turn the pages.

What I Liked:

If ever there was a cover that fit the tone of a book- this one does!

The short-ish chapters. Good for mounting tension… and there was plenty of tension.


What I didn’t love:

While I wouldn’t say this book had gratuitous violence, the author is dealing with some serious topics ( human trafficking, for one). Reading that, reading what the girls went through while there was a good ole boy “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” network all up in Bad Axe County really turned my stomach. I kept reading to find out what would happen- but it def gave me the bad chills the further I got into it.

And while I know this happens- there is human trafficking, there are drugs, there are people willing to look the other way to make a buck or for their own personal power game- when I read, I don’t always want to be faced with what I know the world has parts of.

Bottom line: For me, there was parts I liked and I loved Heidi Kick. But big parts of this book was just a bit too much for my heart.
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This book was a little hard to get into. I was hoping for more of a story with the mystery of her parents and felt the husband wasn't more in the story than I thought he would be. There were bits and pieces where I was into the book though.
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Two mysteries travel in tandem in Bad Axe County by John Galligan. Both go in a direction I completely do not see coming especially in a setting like rural Wisconsin. The fact that the mystery centers around a missing teenage girl should give a clue as to the nature of the crime. The back story establishes the main character, but I find myself much more interested in the current day mystery and the social issues it leads me to research and learn more about. 

Read my complete review at 

Reviewed for NetGalley
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Really engaging and interesting book! I love the gritty setting and this book immediately sucked me in!
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An egalley of this book was gifted me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Bad Axe County’s corrupt sheriff dies and Heidi Kick is appointed interim sheriff. She’s the first female sheriff the county has had and does not receive a warm welcome. She is quickly plunged even deeper into Bad Axe County’s crime-ridden underbelly as she tries to pin down a human trafficking ring and solve a decades-old murder. (And Kick does all of this while battling the ghosts of her past.)

This book moves much more quickly than I expected, and several threads weave together in ways I didn’t always see coming. I liked Kick’s moxie, even if she was a little reckless at times, and I was impressed with how everything tied together at the end.

TW: This book does deal heavily with human and sex trafficking, and some passages are difficult to read.

Review posted on B&N, Amazon, Goodreads, and Instagram (
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3.5 rounded up
I finished this book a couple of weeks ago, but had to sit and sort my thoughts and how to rate it. It’s a really hard subject matter. I have some really mixed feelings about this book. First off I did really enjoy the book. Good solid writing and great character development. It was a good police procedure book, and I loved the main character Heidi, the interim sheriff, her coworkers Denise and Olaf the handsome, and I liked Angus the baseball player. From the very first chapter I was hooked and didn’t want to stop reading. 
My main problem with this book was the depravity and dark theme. The utter hate and contempt for the interim sheriff Heidi, and the way women were portrayed really bothered me. I understand the extremely hard subject of human trafficking, and that in itself is terrible thing that happens. But do we really need to explain/write in detail such sick acts and thoughts towards Pepper, and Heidi and of women in general? Maybe it was to really show how bad the town of Bad Axe was, and the corruption in every corner starting with the past sheriff, his lackeys, the druggies and lowlifes but I had a hard time with the explicit content. I sure had the picture engraved in my brain. I just really have a hard time when authors feel the need to write about the worst in human nature and tell it in explicit detail of really sick acts. You can really write a great book without all the gore and sick stuff... we have great imaginations.
With those thoughts out of the way, I did like the book. I really would like to read another book by JohnGalligan because I really like his story telling skills. He is a talented writer who can weave a great story. Great build up of suspense too. I literally did not want to put it down because I wanted to know what was happening next,  I purchased the audible version of this book, so when I couldn’t read I could listen. The narrator Samantha Desz was great and was perfect for this book. I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed a good police procedural mystery/suspense novel. But keep in mind that it is very dark and contains very disturbing and graphic details. 
I’d like to say thank you to Atria Books via NetGalley, for the advanced readers copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Woah, this was a dark, gritty mystery. This book immediately pulls you into the story and just keeps pulling you deeper into it’s murky depths. Heidi Kick is the interim sheriff of Bad Axe County, a rural area in Wisconsin, and the county sure lives up to it’s name. While Heidi is just trying to do her job and keep the county safe until the new sheriff is elected, she is busy battling her own demons as well as those that are haunting the county.

Heidi’s husband, Harley Kick, is a local baseball legend. Though an injury pulled him from the team years ago, he still coaches and everyone in the area knows him. He and his old baseball buddies could do no wrong when they were younger and as Heidi dives deeper into the crime throughout the county she begins learning their darker secrets.

This book covers a lot of crime committed by a lot of awful people. Some of it was  difficult to read, so go into it with the warning that if graphic sexual assault or human trafficking are triggers for you, maybe skip this one. Aside from the graphic nature of some of the scenes, the book was super interesting. I loved following along and trying to figure out how each of the characters fit into the larger scope of the story.

This is not the mystery for everyone, but definitely give it a read if you’re looking for something dark!

Thank you so much to Atria and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book!
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Heidi Kick, Interim Sheriff of Bad Axe County, not only has to deal with things like the former sheriff’s reign of corruption, meth heads, and human trafficking, she also has to deal with the denigrating comments and outright threats from those residents who oppose having a woman in the position. Her teenage crowning as Dairy Queen, her parents’ murder fifteen years earlier, and the fact that she wasn’t raised in the county don’t help, either. Her husband Harley, a standout baseball player on the local semipro team, has a high standing in the community, but even he comes under fire as Heidi’s investigations target several prominent families.

Bad Axe County has a lot going on beneath the surface, and this book uncovers many of its secrets. Heidi is determined to solve her parents’ murder, officially labeled a murder/suicide, and in the meantime crashes a police car in the Mississippi River, pulls her gun on a friend of her husband’s, finagles information from a co-worker, gets herself suspended from duty, and shoots a suspect in the leg, all while upholding her oath to keep the people of the county safe. This is a fast paced story with many interesting characters, one of which is the county itself.
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This book has been described by others as “dark, gritty”, a genre with which I typically do not have any problem.  This, though, I thought, was just an unpleasant story in an unpleasant place full of unpleasant characters (although I did like Heidi and Denise).  I REALLY wanted to just put it down and walk away, but I stuck it out, sometimes skimming a bit.  

That said, it was well written and I do think that Heidi Kick has the makings of a strong character for a series.
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This is not the type of story I usually read but I really enjoyed it. Packed with colorful characters and places, the author led us through Heidi Kick’s search for a missing girl all while trying to uncover the truth about her parents murder twenty years prior.
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Heidi White left Bad Axe County with a bad taste in her mouth for the town.  When the sheriff dies she decides to return and be interim sherif and eventually run for the full time position.  This will greatly impact her family and will push her deep into the drama of this town.  

With a lot of characters and storylines, this book felt like it didn't have a focus.  If anything I was frustrated that the main focus of the synopsis Heidi's search for the killer of her parents seemed absent during most of the story and only showed up at the very end.  The rest of the story had this large cast of characters in this town dealing with all sorts of crazy shit.  It was too much.  

I always know I don't love a book when it takes me a long time to read it and this one felt like I was reading for a full week which is a long time for me.  If you are a reader who likes a large cast of characters going in all sorts of directions, then this could be the book for you.
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