A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, January 7, 2022

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Bad Axe County by John Galligan- Feature and Review


Fifteen years ago, Heidi White’s parents were shot to death on their Bad Axe County farm. The police declared it a murder-suicide and closed the case. But that night, Heidi found the one clue she knew could lead to the truth—if only the investigators would listen.

Now Heidi White is Heidi Kick, wife of local baseball legend Harley Kick and mother of three small children. She’s also the interim sheriff in Bad Axe. Half the county wants Heidi elected but the other half will do anything to keep her out of law enforcement. And as a deadly ice storm makes it way to Bad Axe, tensions rise and long-buried secrets climb to the surface.

As freezing rain washes out roads and rivers flood their banks, Heidi finds herself on the trail of a missing teenaged girl. Clues lead her down twisted paths to backwoods stag parties, derelict dairy farms, and the local salvage yard—where the body of a different teenage girl has been carefully hidden for a decade.

As the storm rages on, Heidi realizes that someone is planting clues for her to find, leading her to some unpleasant truths that point to the local baseball team and a legendary game her husband pitched years ago. With a murder to solve, a missing girl to save, and a monster to bring to justice, Heidi is on the cusp of shaking her community to its core—and finding out what really happened the night her parents died.



Bad Axe County: A NovelBad Axe County: A Novel by John Galligan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bad Axe County by John Galligan is a 2019 Atria Books publication.

A gritty, atmospheric crime story-

This is an ambitious mystery/ thriller which profiles the rural Wisconsin terrain as much as it does the characters, becoming an intricate part of the plot.

Heidi Kick was a small -town beauty queen when her life took a tragic turn. Her parents allegedly died as a result of a murder-suicide pact. Despite their financial downturn, which was believed to be the motive, Heidi never bought into that theory.

Now, after the local sheriff’s sudden demise, Heidi becomes interim sheriff. This doesn’t set well with the local good ole boys in the community at all. But Heidi is not totally without a support system, with one or two allies in the department helping her make logical decisions.

She does have to balance a marriage, and small children, along with her demanding, pressure -filled job. She’s holding her own, until an unexpected storm in the area triggers a series of events, revealing the dark, lurid underbelly of Bad Axe County.

Suddenly, the inexperienced, but determined sheriff is neck deep in corruption, human trafficking, sleazy private parties hosting underage girls, and a strange burglary. The deeper she scratches beneath the surface, troubling implications hit a little too close to home. Dark forces are working against Heidi, thwarting her at every turn. While working around the clock to locate a missing girl, Heidi fervently hopes to finally discover the truth about her parents.

I won’t lie- what initially caused me to give this book a closer look was the atmospheric cover art. The premise sounded intriguing enough, with the promise of a strong female lead, so I decided to take a chance on it.

However, I also must admit, in all honesty, the story wasn't quite what I was expecting. Although Heidi refuses to accept the official cause of death in her parent’s case, her obsession with uncovering the truth runs more in the background. More in the forefront, is Heidi’s ‘race against the clock’ mission to locate a missing girl without making any critical missteps.

The story starts off on an odd, unexpected note, emphasizing the character's quirks, as they pertain to the rural setting. The banter is light and good-natured, but the atmosphere suddenly shifts turning super dark, edgy, and suspenseful, with a no holds barred tendency towards violence. I immediately sensed it was time to fasten my seatbelt and hold on for dear life.

Unfortunately, there are several threads running at once, along with a large cast of characters, which, as I’ve stated countless times, rarely works out for me. Sure enough, I struggled to keep everything straight. I had to slow my reading down to a crawl and do a little re-reading on a few occasions, to be sure I was keeping everything and everyone straight. I can’t say I was a big fan of the execution, or the uneven flow, but at the end of the day, despite its messiness, all the threads eventually come together, and the book ends on a high note. So, as they say, a win is still a win, even if it’s an ugly one.

The conclusion is gratifying, especially since Heidi Kick lives to fight another day. I liked Heidi’s character, as well as her sidekick, Denise. Those two made a great team. I wouldn’t mind stopping by Bad Axe County again someday. I think this rural, deceptively bucolic area of Wisconsin still has many secrets, and the feisty Heidi Kick knows just how to unravel them.






John Galligan,in addition to being a novelist and teacher, John has worked as a newspaper journalist, feature-film screenwriter, house painter, au pair, ESL teacher, cab driver, and freezer boy in a salmon cannery. He currently teaches writing at Madison Area Technical College, where his experience is enriched by students from every corner of the local and world community.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin - Feature and Review


It's been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town's Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town's youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can't look away. She shares a wound that won't close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past--the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town's dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.


We Are All the Same in the DarkWe Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We are all the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin is a 2021 Ballantine Books publication.

One fateful night, that would go down in infamy, Trumanell Branson and her father disappeared. Trumanell's brother, Wyatt, was found wandering around, out of his mind, and ended up institutionalized for years.

On that same night, Wyatt’s girlfriend, Odette, who also happened to be the police chief’s daughter, was in a horrendous car accident that resulted in a leg amputation.

Now Wyatt lives alone, talking to the ghost of Tumanell, and Odette has followed in her father’s footsteps.

When Wyatt finds a girl, with a missing eye, on the side of the road, who can’t or won’t speak, instead of calling the police, he assigns her the name ‘Angel’ and takes her home.

Eventually, Odette gets involved determined to help ‘Angel’, while she also works diligently to discover what really happened to Trumanell all those years ago.

While the town is convinced Wyatt is responsible, Odette isn’t convinced, but the truth may not set her free…

This is an extremely absorbing novel. It’s atmospheric, and very intense!

I added this book because I noticed some reviews mentioned it had a ‘Gothic’ feel to it. I’m a little wary of that sometimes, because what some people call ‘Gothic’ is a bit of a stretch, but yes, this book most definitely has that quality to it, and I loved it!!

I think the foreboding, the inability to trust anyone, and the way the author built the anticipation, is what kept me sitting on the edge of my seat.

But Hearberlin also put in a great deal of detail about living life as an amputee, and it’s obvious she did her homework, something I really appreciated.

Overall, this is my kind of Mystery/Suspense! I know it may have been a slow burn for some people, but it was the slow build that added all that delicious suspense and apprehension and the ‘Gothic feel’ everyone was gushing about. Sometimes good things come to those who wait…



Julia Heaberlin is the internationally bestselling writer of BLACK-EYED SUSANS and PAPER GHOSTS, a finalist for Best Hardcover Novel by the International Thriller Writers Awards. Her latest psychological thriller, WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which described her work as "exceptional." All of her books, including PLAYING DEAD and LIE STILL, are set in the moody, diverse landscape of Texas and together they have been published in more than twenty countries. Before writing novels, Heaberlin was an award-winning editor at newspapers that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. BLACK-EYED SUSANS, a USA TODAY and a top-of-the-charts Times of London bestseller, has been optioned for television by Sony Pictures. Currently at work on her sixth thriller, Heaberlin lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She is published by Penguin Random House and represented by Kimberly Witherspoon at Inkwell Management.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson- Feature and Review

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry.

The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.



The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is a 2019 Sourcebooks Landmark publication.

In 1930s Kentucky, Cussy Mary, born with a genetic condition that gives her a blue tinged skin color, is very content with her job working for the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service. She lives with her widowed father, a coal miner, who, after a series of disastrous attempts to settle Cussy into married life, he allows her to continue to do what she loves best, delivering books to the hill people of East Kentucky.

Unfortunately, Cussy’s blue skin has the pastor claiming ‘Bluets’ are demonic, and he plans to put an end to them.

A local doctor gives Cussy a chance to escape an inevitable bad ending with the pastor, if she will agree to medical testing to determine the reason for her unusual blue coloring.

Cussy’s journey is a difficult one, but she is a fighter, a survivor- and she resolved to help others worse off than herself, rather than give in or give up. Her life wasn’t a fairytale- she continues to face hardships and setbacks, but her spirit and resolve is unbreakable.

I loved this story. It is hard to read sometimes, but there is so much to learn from Cussy’s experiences and from her character.

The author did a fabulous job of placing the reader in the time and place of 1930s Appalachia.

The dialogue and vernacular are well-researched, and I learned all about the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service- something I was not aware of, and about the genetics that caused Cussy’s blue hued skin- again something I was completely ignorant of.

While the conclusion is not necessarily all wrapped up in a nice neat little bow, it was enough for me. I have faith that Cussy and her little family will find their way and am looking forward to the continuance of this saga, soon.



NYT and USA TODAY and L. A. TIMES bestselling author, Kim Michele Richardson resides in her home state of Kentucky. She is the author of the bestselling memoir The Unbreakable Child. Her novels include Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field. The Sisters of Glass Ferry and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Kim Michele latest novel out May 3.2022 is The Book Woman's Daughter, both a standalone and sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

You can visit her websites and learn more at: