Galligan's 'Dead Man Dancing' will get your heart hopping

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John Galligan's latest book is "Dead Man Dancing," available at most local and online bookstores. (Ya-Ling Tsai / Special to the Tribune)

Two hops on the left foot, then two on the right.

If you're leading, synchronize this footwork with your partner in a wide, fast circle, boots stomping; if you're really fancy, you can twirl her with her hand above her head, hopping-hopping-hopping. It's funny, isn't it, how the sound of the tuba in a polka can run in a direct line to your toes? Yes, but in the new novel "Dead Man Dancing" by John Galligan, it's not so funny if you get shot-ish.

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"Dead Man Dancing" is part of author John Galligan's "Bad Axe County" series, which focuses on protagonist Heidi Kick, the local sheriff. (Submitted photo)

Her brother-in-law, Kenny, was getting on Sheriff Heidi Kick's last nerve.


It was bad enough that he had the Confederate flag attached to his truck, but running around Syttende Mai like some yahoo with it was giving the Sheriff a headache. It didn't help that Kenny's brother, the Sheriff's husband, had been seen with a tall, pretty blonde over by a Farmstead area dam. Heidi and Harley had been having problems but she never thought he would cheat on her.

This May weekend was supposed to be a happy time, for cripe's sake, not some reason to be an idiot. And it might've been happy, except that Augustus Pfaff's house was torched by an arsonist, and Gus was inside it.

That was the last in a long string of weird things to happen in Bad Axe County, a mostly-rural place tucked away in southwest Wisconsin. The victims were almost all minorities: a young Latino man had shown up at the local hospital, beaten half to death. A Hmong fisherman found a bloody boat anchor while he was out near the Little Bad Axe River. And now Gus, a portly white ex-principal was dead. Gus, who'd been writing a book about area history and long-forgotten genealogy.

Sheriff Kick normally loved this time of year but even before the opening polka sounded its first oompa, she was already overworked, overwhelmed, and on-guard: a letter had been mailed to the Sheriff's office, promising a bounty on Kick's head, dead or alive.

And before the weekend was over, she'd have to fight to make sure it was the latter...

Hey, what are you still doing here? Why aren't you out getting "Dead Man Dancing"?

You should, you know. It's a perfect chance to relax between river and prairie, near bluffs and coulees, and meet fishing, good canoeing, cows, gruesome crime, blood, murder, and a nicotine-gum-addicted, sleep-deprived Sheriff who loves her town and her neighbors. Indeed, despite that Bad Axe County residents seem both backward and forward-thinking, author John Galligan plays his characters like a tuba — loud, dexterously, and with a deep breath — making it hard not to want to visit Farmstead yourself.

If you do, bring your knowledge of current events because Galligan ripped the pages out of a bunch of news magazines to make this book relevant, and as fresh as country air. Bring a bookmark, though you probably really won't need it. And remember: two jumps left foot, two jumps right, and the thrills inside "Dead Man Dancing" will get your heart hopping.


Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of the Detroit Lakes Tribune book review column, “The Bookworm Sez.” She has been reading since she was three years old, and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,000 books.

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