Book review: ‘Dead Creek’ by Victoria Huston

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

As Doc Osborne thought about the needs of Mike, his dog, and the enormous muskie that lay in wait, a terrible screeching came from underneath his boat. Thinking he had hit something with his new motor, he looked over the side. What he had hit was a wire cage full of bodies. He was horrified.

As soon as he was able, Osborne attempted to notify Loon Lake’s Chief of Police, Lew Ferris, of his gruesome find. She was gone for training. In her absence, former Chief John Sloan responded and asked Ray Pradt and Osborne to assist him. Osborne’s neighbor, Pradt, was not necessarily Sloan’s favorite person, but he knew more about the area than anyone else and he was good with a camera. Dr. Osborne had been a dentist, and his background allowed him to act as coroner when called upon.

Along with two deputies, the three set out to recover the bodies. Somewhat to their surprise, there had been little decomposition. There also seemed to be little trauma involved. What they did find was that one of the bodies showed evidence of malformed reproductive organs. Since that corresponded with local studies of paper mill waste in the water, there must be a local connection. The bodies were sent to Wausau for further examination.

Doc Osborne was sure that some of the dental work on one of the bodies was his; it was a sure sign that the person had been local at one time. That sent him to his old records in an attempt to make a positive ID. Since he did not know the person, the dental work would have had to be done many years ago. He did find the file and a potential ID was made.

Ray was working another angle. It involved Herman the German and a Dead Creek story that Ray thought was important. He was going out to talk to Herman. Dead Creek was where the bodies had been found. Ray’s failure to return to take care of his animals was a red flag for Doc Osborne. After some time, Police Chief Lew Ferris also was convinced that there must be some reason that Ray had not returned. Adding Ray’s girlfriend to the search, they eventually found Ray sprawled on a dirt road behind Dead Creek. He was alive but out cold. He had been dumped there, likely to die. Police Chief Lew called for an ambulance.

There is much more to this mystery. It involves a multiple birth, a lawyer fiancée, a freezer, fishing, money and a variety of artwork. There is also some romance, or at least the potential for some.

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 north woods 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 wapac.ludus.com or at the door.

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