cover image Blood Country

Blood Country

Mary Logue. Walker & Company, $23.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-3339-9

Set in the scenic bluff country along the Mississippi River of western Wisconsin, this first in a series launch introduces Claire Watkins, a deputy sheriff for the Pepin County Police Department. Claire, a former Minneapolis police detective, and her 10-year-old daughter Meg fled the Twin Cities after her husband, Steve, also a cop, was killed. When Landers Anderson, an elderly neighbor who befriended Claire and Meg, dies of a heart attack after being sideswiped with a shovel, Claire determines to find the culprit. This involves delving into Landers's family history and investigating the machinations of a right-wing group, Homeowners of America, that is buying up property to build an environmentally unsound development. At the same time, Meg fearfully admits to Claire that she saw the man who killed Steve. Claire contacts her former partner, Det. Bruce Jacobs, and prods him into accelerating the investigation into Steve's death. The murderer, who has a mysterious police informant, tries to kidnap Meg but instead grabs Claire's pregnant sister Bridget, who gets away. Meanwhile, Claire's complex relationship with Bruce (they slept together once, he carries a torch for her, she's not sure she's ready) is challenged by her attraction to a neighbor, Rich Haggard. While the Anderson case has a satisfying solution, the mystery surrounding Steve's murder concludes with a killer most readers will have identified long before he's revealed. Although the plot development is heavy-handed and the dialogue often stilted, Logue has created some appealing characters in an attractive, offbeat setting. (Nov.)