Hello and welcome to #NoWaitWednesday, where we turn the spotlight on a book on the New Release shelf that's hot, available, and ready for a lucky patron to check it out. No one likes waiting in line for the newest bestseller, but there's always quality authors that are lurking just under your nose at your local Library.
Patrons love a good police procedural, and patrons really love a good rural police procedural, where the action is taken out of a big city with all of the security cameras and state-of-the-art forensic equipment and into a more rural setting, where resources are scarce and law enforcement cover a larger area with little help, armed only with their own skills, their knowledge of the community, and a deep sense of right and wrong. It's a situation rife with storytelling potential, and fans of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett novels, Craig Johnson's Longmire series, or Jane Harper's excellent Aaron Falk novels know that small towns often hide big secrets.
Joshua Moehling's novel Where the Dead Sleep features small-town Minnesota sheriff Ben Packard. Correction - make that acting sheriff, as Packard is really a deputy who is elevated to the top spot when the sheriff of the small town of Sandy Lake falls ill. Packard grew up in the community and is familiar with many of the local players, but left when he was younger and is now back after a personal tragedy, bringing a bit of an outsider's perspective to his job. The novel begins with an early-morning call when a local man, Bill Sanderson, is found shot while in his bed. Even though Bill is a respected, high-profile banker known by pretty much everyone in the community, he's also the sort of person who always has drama swirling around him: he's a known gambler who's previously stolen from a business partner, and he is also recently divorced - and then turned around and married his ex-wife's sister directly afterward. Not to mention his poker buddies who all say the right things to the police but seem to be hiding something. We quickly learn that plenty of locals have some sort of grudge against Bill, but clear and definitive evidence is hard to find, and Packard must sort through the different levels of lies, secrets, and cover-ups to find the real story, which spans generations of greed and corruption, rotting the community from both above and below.
Also, Packard must decide his own career path - does he fade into the background, continuing on as a local deputy, or does he run for sheriff himself, potentially opening up his personal life as a gay man in a very traditional small town, but also giving him the ability to find out what happened to his missing brother from long ago? Moehling shines when balancing the procedural part of the novel where we follow Packard's investigation and unraveling of Sanderson's death with Packard's interior thoughts as he considers revealing more of himself to those around him. The novel, like all great mysteries, jumps between the technical and the personal, and the small-town Minnesota setting with its sprawling cast of (sometimes) eccentric locals and tourists is fuel for a nice long series of novels.
Where the Dead Sleep is technically the second book in this series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone. (Curious readers can check out 2021's And There He Kept Her as a proper introduction.) Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next week!