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The Bookworm Sez: “Bad Day Breaking: A Bad Axe County Novel” by John Galligan

Not everybody has to like you.

That’s a lesson you learned the hard way, probably in grade school. Try as you might, you were going to have enemies and detractors along the way and there wasn’t much you could do about it. Not everybody has to like you but, as in the new novel “Bad Day Breaking” by John Galligan, they aren’t allowed to kill you.

Many years ago, Sheriff Heidi Kick was the kind of girl she’d arrest now.

Back then, she and her best friend, Missy, were into drugs, guns, and petty theft, they both dated Roman Vanderhoof, and the three of them partied constantly until things got out of hand. That was when “Mighty” Heidi went to the sheriff’s office and confessed to everything she knew about drugs and theft. Missy went to rehab, Hoof went to prison in Boscobel, and Heidi kicked her addictions, enrolled in college, got married, paid her dues, and became Sheriff of Bad Axe County, Wisconsin.

Now those days were in the rearview mirror, and she hadn’t heard from Missy in a while.

Until she got a text the day before Thanksgiving.

“Want to drink ketchup?” it said, Missy’s code for getting drunk.

Despite that Heidi had been sober for years, her answer was “yes.”

It had been a long week already in Bad Axe County, and it would get even longer. One of her officers was using a department computer to email prisoners, and the courts wouldn’t let Heidi investigate. Another officer had assaulted the leader of a new religious group in town, and city council members were about to appoint her deputy sheriff.

And that religious community? Folks in Bad Axe didn’t want a cult around, although Heidi wasn’t sure the community qualified as a “cult.” The two groups were protesting across the road from one another, things were heating up, and allegations of abuse and animal cruelty floated around town.

Then Sheriff Kick learned that Hoof was out of prison.

And she knew he wouldn’t stop unless he got his revenge…

You know that thing you do when you see something scary, so you put your hands over your eyes and peek between your fingers because you can’t not see? That’s exactly what you’ll want to do with “Bad Day Breaking.”

Long before its prologue is anywhere near done, this book turns dark and cold as the snowstorm that hits the background of the story. Slush and ice lay the ground, then, for everything that author John Galligan can pack into an unhappily-long holiday weekend, made more wretched by the kind of small-town embroilments that happen when everybody knows everybody else’s business. Add a headline-ripping current-events possibility and gun deer season in Wisconsin, and oh, yeah, you’ll want to see what happens.

Galligan fans will appreciate knowing that “Bad Day Breaking” contains an ending that’ll make you shriek and perch yourself at the bookstore to await the next Bad Axe County novel. As for this book, though, you just have to like it.

“Bad Day Breaking: A Bad Axe County Novel” by John Galligan
c.2002, Simon & Schuster
326 pages