Book review: ‘The Blood Knot’ by John Galligan

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Ned Oglivie, Dog, was on a mission. He was on a three-year fly-fishing trip across the USA. He would drive the old Cruise Master to a trout stream and camp if the fish were biting. It was a way to take his mind off his past. Now he was near Avalanche, Wis., to fish the west branch of the Kickapoo River. His first effort netted not a trout, but a bitten leg from a feisty beaver that Dog thought he had spooked out of the stream.

Dog immediately left the stream and sought help in the Avalanche Mercantile Store. He was surprised when the woman behind the counter sought to barter to give him aid. She wanted help with her son (teaching him to fly fish) as a trade for giving him assistance. In the end, her brother-in-law sewed up the wound with a fishline. There was some talk about the beaver being rabid, which later proved true, though that responded to Eve Kussmaul’s (the Mercantile clerk’s) Amish treatment. She had been raised Amish and later banned for her behavior (resulting in the aforementioned son).

Ned Oglivie was in a camping area near the river. When he heard several rifle shots, he responded, thinking that Eve’s son, Deuce, was shooting at the beaver. It was Deuce shooting all right, but his apparent target was a woman lying dead by the bridge. Known to Dog as “the Barn Lady,” she had also been camped in the campground at some distance from the Cruise Master. She had been a painter who featured the various barns in the area. The barns in the area were owned by the several Kussmaul brothers. They had been unhappy that she was earning money from their property without giving them a cut, but was this enough reason for Deuce Kussmaul to shoot her?

His mother, Eve Kussmaul, didn’t think so, and she expected Ned Oglive to help her prove that. Dog didn’t know what to think; he knew what he had seen, but it was hard for him to believe that the boy would commit murder. Anyway, forensics would identify the cause of death. Eve Kussmaul believed that Annie Adams was already dead when her son shot her. The forensics would answer that, too. As a minor, Deuce was released to his mother after the psychiatric examination.

It was clear that Deuce needed some time filled. Dog began the task of teaching him to flyfish. That proved even harder than he even imagined. Deuce wouldn’t go anywhere without his puppy, Wally. And Wally was as likely to romp ahead in the stream, scaring any trout that might be there. Deuce tended toward that approach as well. There was also the small matter of proper handling of a fly rod. It also didn’t help matters that Dog questioned him regarding his reason for shooting the Barn Lady. Even so, they did do some fly fishing. As happens in fly fishing, the combination of the right bait and a fortunate cast resulted in Deuce hooking a large Brown. In the end, it got away.

The Kussmauls farmed most of the land in the area. Each brother had a farm and a unique barn. They had taken a serious dislike to Annie Adams not asking permission to paint their barns and her not sharing the money. In addition, they thought, rightfully, that she snooped. Dog wondered if she had found something that got her killed. Was Eve’s theory correct? Had she really been dead before Deuce had shot her? If so, why had Deuce said he killed her?

The blood knot does play a key role in solving the mysteries involved in this book, but it will require reading John Galligan’s “The Blood Knot” to discover how.

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