Book review: ‘Dead Water’ by Victoria Houston


Doc Osborne was a retired dentist who occasionally was deputized to assist Loon Lake Police Chief Louellen Ferris. Ray Pratt, his neighbor and friend, sometimes was deputized, too. Because Osbourn had some experience with forensic dentistry, he subbed for the politically appointed coroner from time to time. Pratt, whose primary job was as a hunting and fishing guide, was the very best regarding tracking and knowledge of the area.

Both were called upon when a woman was found shot to death in a remote area. It appeared her body was dumped there since there was little blood. The investigation was hardly underway when they were called regarding a second body in another location. The second was less remote, and the woman was known, since she was staying at a local bed and breakfast. She had left for a run and later was found shot in the head. She apparently had been shot in another location.

With the help of the bed and breakfast owners, the dead woman was identified as Amy Olson of Kansas City. Her emergency contact was Gina Palmer, a journalist in Kansas City. Gina was called and asked to come to Loon Lake to provide a positive identification of her friend. She purported to know who had killed Ashley Olson — Michael Winston, a former boyfriend. She would bring pictures.

Chief Ferris also had a lead on the other body. A local family had reported a daughter missing, and further investigation established that the missing daughter was their other murder victim. The only relationship that there seemed to be between the two women was that they were both shot in the head by a high-powered rifle.

Besides the murders, a secondary drama involved Ray Pratt. A former girlfriend had sent a teenage boy, Nick, to him claiming Nick was his son. To offset the teen’s frustration with the lack of Wi-Fi service on Ray and Doc’s phone line, Nick was introduced to Carl, a local gamer and computer guru about Nick’s same age. The relationship worked, and Carl even got Nick a part-time job where he worked, the Wildwood Game Preserve. Nick worked at the game preserve for a man named Hank Kendrickson. Kendrickson had made quite a splash in the area as he promoted his reserve, his hunting and fishing abilities and even courted Chief Ferris. Doc Osbourn didn’t like him. The fact that he employed the boys was a plus, however.

Ashley Olson arrived in Loon Lake and identified her friend’s body. She still maintained that the killer was Michael Winston and that he must be somewhere in the area. At this point, the reader is convinced that Michael Winston and Hank Kendrickson must be the same person, but Ashley meets Hank Kendrickson and doesn’t recognize him. 

My grandfather was a fisherman, my father was a fisherman, and I have a brother who is a fisherman; I’m not. Reading the quotes that front each chapter in “Dead Water” makes me think maybe I should be.

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 or at the door.

Comments are closed.

  • Muscoda man apprehended for retail theft in Ontario, La Farge

    10 hours ago

    Vernon County police today arrested David J. Meboe, 33, of Muscoda, Wis., for several retail thefts in Ontario and La Farge since Aug.15.

    CWD Summit set for Saturday in Wilton

    August 10th, 2022

    The Monroe County Land Conservation Department will host its CWD Summit from 2–5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Wilton American Legion Hall, 508 Walker St.

    Rails-to-Trails Marathon set for Oct. 2

    August 6th, 2022

    The Rails-to-Trails Marathon is set to be back on track on Sunday, Oct. 2. 

    1950 census now searchable for Monroe County

    August 4th, 2022

    The Monroe County Local History Room & Museum recently finished a massive undertaking to get the 1950 census for Monroe County indexed.

    Man flees from Ontario crash after hitting utility pole

    August 3rd, 2022

    A 23-year-old Viroqua man fled the scene July 30 after striking a utility pool in Ontario. 

  • First train arrived in Elroy 150 years ago

    August 1st, 2022

    On Aug. 5, 1872, the first train arrived in Elroy.

    ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ performance set for Aug. 5 at Wildcat

    July 27th, 2022

    Wisconsin-based traveling theatre company Summit Players Theatre is returning to live, outdoor performance and will perform Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” Friday, Aug. 5, at Wildcat Mountain State Park in rural Ontario. 

    N-O-W to have special meeting

    July 25th, 2022

    The Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District will have a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

    13-year-old hurt on the Kickapoo near Ontario

    July 24th, 2022

    A 13-year-old girl hurt her leg and hand at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday when she attempted to jump off a rock ledge over the Kickapoo River outside of Ontario, according to the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office.

    N-O-W Athletic Notes

    July 14th, 2022

    The following is 2022–23 Brookwood Athletic Department information.

    Royall School District hires new superintendent

    July 14th, 2022

    The Royall School Board last week hired a new superintendent, Tom Benson, who will replace Mark Gruen, who has accepted a position in the Johnson Creek School District.

  • [Advertisement.]
  • Archives