Friday, October 7, 2016

Third Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery Proves it! Patricia Skalka is Fantastic Mystery Writer!

Dave Cubiak cast his line into the gray water and waited. Perched on the rock ledge along the Green Bay shore, he'd waited all afternoon: For the sun to break through the clouds. For a fish to take his hook. For the autumn leaves to be done with their annual display of color. For the tourism to pack their bags and depart. For Cate to come home.
Watching the sun fall toward the horizon, Cubiak checked the time. It was late and he'd missed pretty much all of Sunday's big football game: The Bears versus the Packers or, because this was Wisconsin, the Packers versus the Bears. He'd done so deliberately, even though skipping the match was an unforgivable sin in his adopted Door County. He'd have to pick up the highlights later. A few of the important details would provide fodder for a week's worth of small talk around the department and elsewhere on the peninsula.
The day was cooler than predicted, and Cubiak wished he'd worn gloves and an extra layer. He tugged his collar up to his chin and reeled in his line. For the third time in thirty minutes, the bait was gone. Maybe he should try a lure, he thought, and reached for his dented red tackle box. As Cubiak rummaged through the jumble of jigs and plugs, he heard a rustling in the bushes and looked up to see a white bundle sail over his head toward the bay.
The sack hit the water about fifteen feet from shore.
"What the hell?" he said.
He figured it was a plastic bad filled with trash and wondered if he could snag it with his line.
Then something inside the bag wiggled, and there was a sound, a cry like that of a baby.
Cubiak struggled free of his boots and jacket and jumped in.
The momentum pulled him under, and the sheer cold of the water left him unable to move. After a panicky moment, he began to flail about. Pumping his arms and kicking his legs, he fought his way up and surfaced ten feet from the bag. It was sinking fast. Never much of a swimmer, Cubiak stroked desperately toward it. When he was within an arm's length, the bag went under, trailing the rope that knotted it closed. Cubiak lunged for the cord and snared the end between his numbing fingers...It was an old pillowcase. Cubiak loosed the rope and began unknotting the top. The cries had ceased. Was he too late?
Cubiak peered inside and then fell back on his heels. He'd braved the icy water to save a litter of newborn kittens. The sheriff would have laughed if his teeth hadn't started chattering. Who else would go out for fish and come back with kittens?

Still, it was a cruel thing to do to such helpless creatures. And Cubiak had no tolerance for wanton cruelty. Which is why when he saw a familiar blue pickup outside the Tipsy Too, he swerved into the parking lot... Dubiak didn't care that he appeared ridiculous to the crowd in the car. Ignoring the sniggers and sideways glances from the clientele, he searched through the cluster of regulars until he found the owner of the truck...The sheriff slapped the wet pillowcase in front of the burly, bearded man. "This yours?" 

Death in Cold Water:
A Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery

By Patricia Skalka

University of Wisconsin Press published the third in series from Patricia Skalka, who has quickly gained recognition for her outstanding mystery series. It took me until this novel to identify Dave Cubiak in my mind... If you have either read the Jesse Stone series by my top favorite author, Robert B. Parker, or seen the television movie series, I think you'll see a similarity in the two characters, making Tom Selleck the perfect man to play Cubiak. I loved Parker's Spencer series first, but Jesse Stone quickly won a place in my heart, just as Dave Cubiak has... If you're a mystery fan, Patricia Skalka should become a must-read for you!

Skalka quickly pulls readers in when the son of a local legend is pulled in for drunk driving. He was actually already on his way to report that his father was missing. Of course Cubiak didn't know who the man was and his deputy, who is an excellent character that adds greatly to the duo law officers, quickly explained that he was called "Mr. Packer" due to his strong loyalty and financial support of the team.

The missing person was Gerald Sneider who had made a fortune in lumber. His son and family were with him in Chicago at the latest game when his father got a phone call. 
Andrew had been amazed that his father actually left since the game was tied and he'd never left a game until it was completely over. Andrew responded to Cubiak's question, that he'd never asked his father about his leaving--that he'd learned long ago not to question or cross his father... Great! How would they even get a beginning hold on where his father had gone?!

As Cubiak began his investigation at the victim's home, they discovered a super bowl ring hanging from a light fixture with a thin piece of cardboard underneath with the words. Pay or he dies...

But this is not a simple kidnapping...

One of the things I most enjoy about this series is that the author takes the time to provide readers with parts of the main character's life. He becomes real to us and we come to care about him. For me, it is very important that the characters come alive so that we can more fully sink into the story... Cubiak had lost his family and had moved to Wisconsin to a small town where he was trying to make a new life for himself. At least he seemed to be making it on the job, but his personal life was still in question...

Maybe last night's business with
Andrew Sneider had been a
dream and in reality he and Cate
had flown to the tropics as they'd
so often planned. Or they were
starting another morning at
home in Door County with Cate
in the kitchen fixing breakfast.
When he'd returned from Ellison
Bay, Cubiak had expected to find
her sound asleep, with Burch
curled up at the foot of the bed.
But at a quarter past three,
when he finally got in, the house
was empty. Had Cate come in
later or had he spent the night
at her condo? He ran a hand
over her side of the bed. The
sheet was smooth and cool.
Cubiak woke to the smell of coffee and the sound of music, classical guitar, floating in from the hall. He was groggy and lay still, imaging himself somewhere far from his little house on the Lake Michigan shore. Mexico, perhaps, Or Belize, even. He'd never been to either but after listening to Rowe's chatter about his vacation the sheriff couldn't help but fantasize about palm trees and water sports, the kind that didn't include swimming into shark caves.
In the shower, Cubiak faced up to the real truth about why he'd been fishing the day before. Yesterday was the day his daughter should have turned eleven. He'd spent the afternoon away from home to avoid seeing reminders of Chicago flashed on the TV screen during the game and being reminded of Alexis' birthday, but...all he could think of was the cake lit with candles, the party, and her gleeful delight as she ripped the wrapping off her gifts. This was the nature of grief and its litany of perpetual reminders.
He was still learning what it meant to forfeit one reality, to lose those he loved, and still trying to understand what it meant to try to create a different and separate existence. How to be faithful to what had been, while being true to what was now. His friend Evelyn Bathard had found a way forward following the death of his wife. Could Cubiak do the same? And how did Cate fit in?...

Still this case was bound to be different because of the victim. And he was not surprised when the Packers became interested in the case, after all, he was a major funding source for them.
And the FBI soon got involved...

But it was Butch, Cubiak's dog that moved the case forward when he, during a trip to the beach with Cubiak and Cate, had found a bone, probably human... And that's when the story moved from a simple kidnapping mystery to an unbelievable murder cold case!

They'd waited for him, Cubiak realized. After thanking them, he approached the platform for one last look. Bathard had talked about Milton's concept of good and evil, but all Cubiak could think of were Dante's nine circles of hell. Those who acted violently against others were consigned to the outer ring of the seventh circle, where they were immersed in a river of boiling blood and fire for eternity. A fitting punishment for...., Cubiak thought.     The sheriff bowed his head and prayed...

Skalka has moved into a darker topic in this novel, but one that constantly needs to be brought to light. Thank you, Patricia...

This author continues to get better and better, providing a novel that pulls together wonderful characters, a beautiful setting, and a masterful mystery that places her as one of the best in the genre, in my opinion. You really need to check her out... This book is highly recommended!


See my Review of Second Book

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