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Bad Day Breaking: A Bad Axe County Novel


Bad Day Breaking: A Bad Axe County Novel

BAD DAY BREAKING is John Galligan's latest entry in his popular Bad Axe County series. Despite its title, the novel actually covers several really bad days for the local county head of law enforcement, Sheriff Heidi Kick. She is a native of the area, which means that most are aware of her troubled background. But now she's married with children and loves her job, even if the county board in charge of the sheriff's department has saddled her with a deputy sheriff who is at best incompetent and at worst involved in some extremely unsavory business.

As the book opens, that person is manhandling the "prophet," who is leading what locals call a cult. The House of Shalah and their leader, whom they refer to as "father," all live on land they purchased. The prophet and his wife reside in a motor home, while the followers stay in a storage facility on the property, where there is no running water or heat.

"The conclusion is not surprising but will make readers wonder if and how the series will continue.... Do not look for a happy ending here. There is none. Instead, what we get is the simple truth: life goes on."

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and Heidi is debating whether or not to meet an old friend from her pre-sheriff days. She's worried about the situation with the cult and the townspeople, who formed their own group, "Kill the Cult," headed by none other than the deputy sheriff's husband, a man with anger issues who was fired from a notorious prison for his behavior. Interspersed throughout the chapters are pages of email correspondence from inmates at the local prison to an unidentified individual. We assume this person will play an important role in the story, but we're not sure how.

Through the multiple points of view from which the novel is narrated, we meet Fernanda, a member of the cult. She was married to Roy, who suddenly disappeared, and was then given as a wife to one of the thugs who recently joined the cult. The "prophet" uses women as concubines whenever he wants, and he is not above pedophilia. Heidi is about to experience some of the worst days of her life, and she's not the only one who will be tested and suffer during this time.

Duke Hashimoto, who has retired from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, reflects on the tragedies of Waco. Through his reminiscences, we learn how the government lied about and misrepresented this fiasco. Duke mostly remembers all the children who died and how that horror was covered up. He and Heidi are determined that the House of Shalah will not meet a similar fate.

Heidi's mother-in-law, who has moved in with the family, has problems of her own. She drinks too much and is resentful of Heidi and the fact that they expect her to help with her grandchildren. She has a new gentleman friend, and Galligan makes it clear that we should be wary of this person, whom he keeps mysteriously hidden. Heidi is also worried about her ex-boyfriend and former drug dealer, who went to prison based on her testimony. He's out now, and she's pretty sure that he's looking for payback. We see fairly quickly that he is indeed out for revenge.

What we don't know is how all the seemingly disparate pieces will fit together, and how Heidi will unravel the multiple webs of murder and bad guys in an effort to stop the violence. She's also on the run after making some poor decisions, so the tension is high. I wish Galligan had provided a map of the cult's property and the scenes where other action takes place. It was difficult at times to keep track of where things were, and which people were connected and in what ways.

The conclusion is not surprising but will make readers wonder if and how the series will continue. Galligan’s books wonderfully capture the rural Midwest and manage to encompass the good and the evil. People who genuinely care about others are effectively contrasted with those who are small-minded and provincial. Sure, there is hate in many of these prejudiced individuals, but there are also those who have true kindness in their hearts. In BAD DAY BREAKING, we see more of the former --- truly despicable people who enjoy their cruelty. Do not look for a happy ending here. There is none. Instead, what we get is the simple truth: life goes on.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on September 16, 2022

Bad Day Breaking: A Bad Axe County Novel
by John Galligan

  • Publication Date: September 13, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1982166568
  • ISBN-13: 9781982166564