Review of “Bad Moon Rising” by John Galligan

BookShop/IndieBound/Simon Schuster/ Libro.FM (AudioBook)


A record heat wave suffocates remote rural Wisconsin as the local sheriff tracks down a killer hidden in the depths of the community in this atmospheric, race-to-the-finish mystery by the acclaimed author of theBad Axe County series.

Sheriff Heidi Kick has a dead body on her hands, a homeless young man last seen alive miles from the Bad Axe. Chillingly, the medical examiner confirms what Sheriff Kick has been experiencing in her own reoccurring nightmares of late: the victim was buried alive. As the relentless summer heat bears down and more bodies are discovered, Sheriff Kick also finds herself embroiled in a nasty reelection campaign. These days her detractors call her “Sheriff Mommy”—KICK HER OUT holler the opposition’s campaign signs—and as her family troubles become public, vicious rumors threaten to sway the electorate and derail her investigation.

Enter Vietnam veteran Leroy Fanta, editor-in-chief of the local paper who believes Heidi’s strange case might be tied to a reclusive man writing deranged letters to the opinions section for years. With his heart and liver on their last legs, Fanta drums up his old journalistic instincts in one last effort to help Heidi find a lead in her case, or at least a good story…

With simmering tension that sweats off the page, Bad Moon Rising infuses newsworthy relevance with a page-turning story of crime in America’s heartland, capturing global issues with startling immediacy while entertaining from start to finish.

Taken from Publisher’s Website


For some series, you can definitely read the third book without having read the first two. I didn’t think it was entirely fair to criticize any pre-established plot stuff for that specific reason. This is the first book of the entire series that I have read, and for that reason, I felt a bit confused towards the beginning, and certain plot developments did not carry as much emotional weigh as they would have if I had read the earlier two books.

John Galligan’s Bad Moon Rising is the third book of the Bad Axe County murder-mystery thriller series set in a very non-pretentious, unvarnished rural Wisconsin setting, something that lends some hefty doses of realism to the story from the outset. The lead female character feels well-drawn with realistic flaws, grounding her also as less of a stoical stock type of female character that just emulates some of the laziest stereotypes of episodic male leads in these types of stories. She is both a mother and also a sheriff, and neither of these roles dominate her character with their own set of gender preconceptions. I personally find it to be quite a relief just to have a female character that is written purely as an interesting character, versus one carrying a certain tokenized role, for the sake of checking-off a political correctness checklist, something that when feels forced reads as hackneyed, and it is oftentimes a pretty big issue as of late in some other novels and film. Readers can discern the difference between the realistic/three-dimensional story formed in tandem with the novel’s structured, or one shoed-in by meeting some kind of contractual obligations. Luckily John Galligan’s characters themselves never feel like this.

Bad Moon Rising suceeds well in the balance department, managing to balance different type of plot elements, including small detours of the plot to chapters featuring a Vietnam War veteran who works for the local newspaper who has to deal with the malcontents in the form of Letters to the Editor, a relic of a bygone world where all journalism still left a actual paper trail. These clever detours offer their own progression of the murder mystery brewing at the core of the novel. Alongside all of this, there is the drama ensuing over the politics of a forthcoming sheriff election. These elements make this book a bit more multifarious of a thriller novel where there is an ongoing mystery, but there’s also concurrent life events going-in all around, this makes the novel feel more fluid and interesting, assisting in fueling the mystery’s suspense.

Most of my criticisms would not be fair, given that I did not feel this book can be read out-of-order. As a individual novel, the novel is certainly engrossing, competently written, nothing too intricate or earth-shattering, but there is a place for these types of novels, and I felt it was the perfect summer read in terms of it having very good pacing, characters that are well-differentiated from each other with their own idiosyncratic personalities, enough so that you certainly can easily separate characters from one another and can look forward to the switch between the two shifting perspectives in the novel.

But there were enough plot lines that had already been carried over from the last two books that it was simply impossible to enjoy the book to the fullest extent, knowing that there was still so much missing nuance/context without having read these two books. That is not really the fault of the writer, and if this book left me with anything; it was a strong desire to read the other two books in the series. I think the main characters were interesting enough that I would care enough to want to read from the beginning, and perhaps return to this book with an entirely different vantage of everything. I especially love the rural Wisconsin milieu the writer injects into this book, that same unmistakable quality of the News Orleans setting in Anne Rice’s novels that felt so organic/textured, that you felt immediately pulled into the story. Realism of setting is something I absolutely love about books, and it is crucial to achieving that seamless form of engagement of the reader. Bad Moon Rising’s greatest strength aside from its memorable , oftentimes eccentric cast of characters is the well-written ambiance of the rural Wisconsin setting of the book.

So you can count me in for another two books from this writer, and thankfully, Scribd, a program I still have a few weeks remaining for a free trial, has the entire series. Unfortunately I’ll have to read with a side of eye-strain since Scribd’s books are not available for my Kindle (my favorite digital format), but I guess nothing better represents my enjoyment of a book more than being willing to endure the discomfort of reading on my IPad in order to read this series properly from the beginning.

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