Book review: ‘Dead Angler’ by Victoria Houston

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Paul Osborne is a recently retired dentist in the northern community of Loon Lake. While he is a skilled musky fisherman, it has been years since he has used his dormant fly-fishing skills. Recently rediscovered equipment while organizing the garage has rekindled an interest. Imagine his surprise when a lesson arranged by a local outdoorsman turns out to be with a woman, and not any woman, but Lew Ferris, the recently appointed sheriff. She proves to be an expert and a capable teacher, but her idea of fishing the roiling Prairie River at night seems ill advised. And it proves to be, as Osborne slips on a body stuck under a rock and falls in the river.

After some investigation, the body proves to be that of Meredith Marshall, who had recently returned to Loon Lake. Her sister, Alicia Roderick, lived in Loon Lake and was married to an older millionaire businessman. They have no choice but to deliver the bad news to her, though it was the middle of the night. Since Osborne had known the Rodericks socially when his wife was alive, Sheriff Lewis asked him to go along. Knowing Alicia Roderick and liking her were two different things. She was a born critic who regularly gave off the vibe that she was better than everyone else. She was devastated when she got the news regarding her sister, explaining that they were in the process of going into the restaurant business together. 

About the same time, Sheriff Ferris learned that there was an undercover FBI agent in the area to try and discover how drugs were being smuggled into the county. There was a major musky fishing tournament in Loon Lake soon, so there would be considerable traffic in the area. After the rough edges got smoothed in the relationship between the two officers, they agreed to work together on the drug issue while the Sheriff and Dr. Osborne continued to attempt to solve the murder. It had been concluded that it was a murder and not just a drowning. Because Dr. Osborne had previously done dental work for the dead woman, he knew that she had had a considerable number of gold fillings. Since the coroner was not available, and Osborne had done forensic dental work in the service, he was deputized immediately to examine the body. The gold had been crudely removed, thus the murder conclusion.

Appropriately, given the title, the fishing theme is maintained throughout. It must play a part in solving the mysteries, but does it?

Victoria Houston is the 2021 Vernon County Reads author.  She has written 19 books of the “Loon Lake” mystery series. All of them are set in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and explore some aspect of fishing. She will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Performing Arts Center in Westby.  Free tickets are available online at wapacludus,com or at the door.

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