In an inspired use of literary license, the author made Michigan’s Beaver Island the state’s smallest and most remote county and installed a physically and psychologically damaged ex Chicago cop as the sheriff. This is the third in the Sheriff Matt Callahan mystery series and it more than lives up to the first two very promising opening volumes in what I hope will be a long- running series. The second in the series, “A Dangerous Identity” won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award, and in my humble opinion this newest offering in the series is the best yet.
The book is set during the winter season when the ferry from Charlevoix stops running and the only way off and on the island is by plane. So how did a young teenage girl get on the island during the depths of winter. She appears to be able to survive in the island’s least populated areas and is rarely seen except when she steals food from the island’s residents. Sheriff Callahan and his small staff find the girl and discover she won’t or can’t speak and doesn’t match any statewide postings of missing girls. When it becomes apparent she may be a Native American, Callahan works with tribal police in the UP to try and find out why she ran and how she got on the island. It turns out the girl believes a mythical Ojibwa beast is out to kill her, when in fact she is the target of a human killer. A secondary mystery concerns who and how did someone cause the wide-spread infection of all the fish in one of the island’s lakes.
The author fully captures Beaver Island during the winter and the hardy souls who weather the cold, snow, and the isolation. Major and minor characters ring true and Callahan and his staff grow and develop with each new book in the series. Of particular interest in this mystery are politics, business, and law enforcement on Native American land in the Upper Peninsula. This book goes down like a hot cup of cocoa while setting before a fire while a January blizzard howls outside. Completely satisfying and left wanting more.