Thursday, June 14, 2018

Patricia Skalka's Latest Now Out - Death Rides The Ferry - A 2018 Personal Favorite!


Door County Peninsula juts out between the pristine waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan in northern Wisconsin. With 300 miles of scenic shoreline, five wooded state parks and a collection of quaint, waterfront villages, the area is a mecca for artists, musicians, outdoor enthusiasts and tourists. Every year, some two million visitors come to Door County, the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.”


The Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries pit a former troubled Chicago cop against a roster of clever killers on the Door County Peninsula in the heart of the Midwest. Set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty, the series kicks off with Death Stalks Door County and continues with Death at Gills Rock and Death In Cold Water. (Click on each title to see reviews of series thus far...)

The Yellow Viol
...After meeting with the ladies, the sheriff drove to the festival. The next series of concerns started in ten minutes and the grounds were filled with people hurrying to reach their seats. As he pushed through the cheerful throngs, he pictured Jane Doe sitting on the ferry and wondered what went through her mind before she died. Had she been crying because of something that had happened at the festival? Or because she had taken the poison, as Pardy suggested, and then had a change of heart and realized too late that she wanted to live?
...The program listed nightly concerts in the hall, but the afternoons were given over to smaller performances by groups of three, four, and six musicians. The sheriff knew little about classical music beyond what his friend Evelyn Bathard had taught him about opera while they worked on the coroner's dilapidated wooden sailboat. From the bits and pieces that he overheard as he wandered the grounds, he knew the musicians were playing stringed instruments, but the music was different from anything he had ever heard. It seemed to have a simpler, cleaner sound than the more familiar music of Mozart and Beethoven. He wished he ould sit in on a performance, but he had little time for music that day.

Wow this gave me chills! "Joyful, Joyful"...Was Never So Joyful!

...Cubiak knocked. "Sorry to interrupt," he said.
The three looked up startled.
"I hope this is important, Sheriff. We have a busy schedule," Frost said after introductions were made. He was short and stout and patted his forehead with a white handkerchief as he spoke.
"I'm sure you do," There wasn't an empty chair, so Cubiak stood and told them about the woman who was found dead on the ferry...
"Sheriff, you have to realize that we can't have a dead woman associated with Dixan V. It would ruin everything. Not just this year's event, which so many people have worked for so hard, but"...Winslow gestured toward the ground outside the center..."everything."
"Why? Because four decades ago, a woman died after the first Dixan festival?"
The three stirred uneasily.
"It's more than that. You don't understand because you're not from here," Frost said, his tone harsh. "Sorry, no offense meant..."
"I don't mean to sound insensitive to the poor woman on the ferry, but it's just that we are trying to live down our own sorry history with the public and the Dixan sponsors. This years festival is our chance to salvage the island's reputation. If we don't succeed, as Veronica just said, then it's over for us. Finito. Poof." Frost blew a puff of air at his empty palm like a child would at the fuzzy head of a dandelion.

Winslow pushed a small brochure across the table. Her nails were neatly manicured, and it was clear from her posture and manner that she was the kind of person who took appearances seriously. "This is from the first--the only--Dixan Festival ever held on Washington Island before now."
Cubiak skimmed the headline. "I've heard a little about it. But that was forty years ago."
"That is correct."
"During which a rare violin disappeared."
Winslow sighed and exchanged frustrated looks with her colleagues.
Mitchell Stone stretched his elongated neck and spoke for the first time. "Not a violin, Sheriff. A viola da gamba." he said as he adjusted his striped tie. "Shall I assume you don't know the difference?"

Classical music is one of my favorite genres so I was pleasantly surprised to learn about an instrument that I had never heard of in Patricia Skalka's latest Cubiak mystery. Obviously the size and method of playing is similar to a cello, so I don't think I would have noticed during orchestra presentations whether one of these had been used...It looks like a guitar, doesn't it? Anyway...the musical component of a novel, which is an incentive for me, added a bonus that made this a personal favorite.

Cubiak, on the other hand, is one of my favorite male leads as sheriff and I had already decided I'd love to see Tom Selleck play the role similar to his Jesse Stone role in Robert B. Parker books. Cubiak gained our sympathy when his wife and child was killed...Now he has fallen in love again, but, she, too, faces danger in this story. Cubiak couldn't stop the deaths of his family, but, this time, he will die trying if necessary...

The book starts during the planning and actual musical festival known as the Dixan Festival--this is the fifth one and has not been back to Door County since the first which was held forty years ago. Getting the Festival back is really a second chance, because at the first festival, a famous instrument, a viola da gamba, was stolen! It had been loaned by a private family and the man who had brought it to the festival was not only publicly disgraced, but his wife, who was pregnant at the time, was delayed in getting to the hospital and died that night...

Everything was going fine at the festival until a woman was found dead on the ferry that carried local residents as well as those attending the festival back and forth... For some reason, Cubiak had noticed the woman while he had roamed the festival. However, when he started his investigation, nobody knew her and nobody else had even noticed her...

During his investigation, he did learn that the stolen viola da gamba taken during the first festival had never been discovered. This link would have to be at least explored before clarifying that there was no connection. And, in fact, it soon seemed that solving the theft may be the only way to discover who was now leaving dead bodies during the second festival!

Given the interplay between the murders and the theft, I'm not going to go any further into the storyline other than to say that my intuition was working, but I still wasn't sure who and how the crimes were done...Great mystery! Skalka has given the University of Wisconsin a winning and local series that is bound to continue to retain and continue fan appreciation for this fantastic series... Highly recommended.


Patricia Skalka is the author of the Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries which premiered with "Death Stalks Door County" (2014) and quickly followed up with "Death At Gills Rock" (2015). "Death in Cold Water" (2016) received the Edna Ferber Fiction Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers.
“A first-rate series” says Kirkus Reviews.
“The intricate plot and well-developed characters will appeal to fans of William Kent Krueger,” says Booklist.
A Chicago native, Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and freelancer with human interest and medical articles in national print and online publications and nonfiction books published by Random House, St. Martin’s and Rodale. She is a member of The Authors Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Society of Midland Authors and the Chicago Writers Association.

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