After tracking a clever killer in Death Stalks Door County, park ranger and former Chicago homicide detective Dave Cubiak is elected Door County sheriff. His newest challenge arrives as spring brings not new life but tragic death to the isolated fishing village of Gills Rock. Three prominent World War II veterans who are about to be honored for their military heroics die from carbon monoxide poisoning during a weekly card game. Blame falls to a faulty heater but Cubiak puzzles over details. When one of the widows receives a message claiming the men “got what they deserved,” he realizes that there may be more to the deaths than a simple accident.
Investigating, Cubiak discovers that the men’s veneer of success and respectability hides a trail of lies and betrayal that stems from a single, desperate act of treachery and eventually spreads a web of deceit across the peninsula. In a dark, moody tale that spans more than half a century, Cubiak encounters a host of suspects with motives for murder. Amid broken dreams, corruption, and loss, he sorts out the truth. Death at Gills Rock is the second book in Patricia Skalka’s Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery series.
Looking out my window at shades of gray
By Patricia Skalka
I write this sitting at a table in front of a large window looking out at a small dune of beach grass, a strip of sand and a mass of gray water that stretches to the far horizon. On a sunny day, the water will be blue, but today the water and the sky are varying shades of gray. Not fifty, but five at least. The water is calm today but still it looks oceanic, and on days when the waves crash against the shore, I can almost imagine the scent of salt in the air. But it isn’t there. This is Lake Michigan, a body of fresh water nearly 300 miles long and one of the nation’s Great Lakes, and I perch on the shore of the Door County Peninsula in northern Wisconsin captivated by its mystique.
Some days I sit on the beach and imagine the thousands of people who have walked the midland coast through time. The native Americans who trapped furs along its shores; the Scandinavians who settled here as fishermen; the early loggers; the first tourists, wealthy families that rode the train from Chicago and Milwaukee for the summer when the cities became too sultry; and the legions of artists who found inspiration in its sunsets and forests.
One sunny day, I sat on the sand, captivated by the sheer loveliness of the place. That same night, I sat in pitch blackness and shivered at the sense of foreboding that came with a cloudy, moonless night. Anything can happen here, I thought.
What happened for me was the genesis for a mystery series, the Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries. Death at Gills Rock, the second book in the series, is set in an isolated fishing village, a blip of a town, at the northern tip of the peninsula. The story revolves around treachery, secrets and lies and for these to flourish, isolation is a must. What happens when the truth is revealed? How do those most intimately affected by the deceit respond?
Well, there is murder involved and up to Cubiak to determine the particulars, including who did it. Cubiak is a brooding, burdened man forced to face his own tragic past in the first book Death Stalks Door County. My protagonist came to the peninsula with every intention of leaving after one year but Door County worked its magic on him.
If all goes according to my writer’s plan, Cubiak will stick around for another four or five books and another twenty or so fictional years. And I’ll continue sitting in a chair in front of this window looking out at the same water, taking the journey through time with him.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor. Her nonfiction book credits include Nurses On Our Own, the true-story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners.