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Dead Big Dawg

About The Book

Murder, She Wrote meets Fargo in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in the nineteenth “gripping, atmospheric, and smart” (T. Jefferson Parker, New York Times bestselling author) installment of the Loon Lake series.

When the bodies of a wealthy Chicago industrialist and his wife are discovered in their summer home at the same time that a local lawyer disappears, life becomes complicated for Loon Lake Chief of Police Lew Ferris.

Relying on the forensic dental expertise of her close friend and acting coroner, Doc Osborne, Lew soon finds the investigations are even more complicated than she thought when a rarely used computer belonging to a local sawmill operation is taken over by foreign hackers. Add to that the family issues facing both Lew and Doc, and this Northwoods summer becomes both hot and dangerous.

Engaging and fast-paced, Dead Big Dawg is a clever mystery perfect for fans of Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich.


Staring into the eyes of the great horned owl, the old woman died happy.

They had been meeting like this for months: in the dark, in secrecy. Watching one another, sometimes watching the creatures moving through the towering pines surrounding them . . . just . . . watching.

The owl had seen her head move as the bullet slammed into her brain. Death was painless, even as the brilliance of her mind was extinguished.

When the old woman had lain still too long, when her eyes no longer met his, the owl sent the alert. Within seconds the forest surrounding Loon Lake erupted with alarms as owls woke their feathered cousins to pass along the warning.

Eight-year-old Cody Amundson, fishing in the dark off his grandfather’s dock, paused before casting his lure. The explosion of birdcalls caught him by surprise. Turning toward shore, he was scanning the pine boughs over his head when a scream pierced the air. Throwing his spinning rod into the rowboat moored alongside the dock, Cody ran up the stone stairway leading to his grandfather’s house. He banged through the porch door and right into the arms of Dr. Paul Osborne.

“Shhhh. Settle down, Cody. It’s okay,” said Osborne, grasping the trembling boy firmly by the shoulders. “Just a screech owl.”

“Are you sure, Gramps? That sounds like a real person. Maybe we should call Chief Ferris?”

During the same five minutes since the birds had started calling, Ray Pradt had paused to look up from where he was dousing a campfire he had built in hopes of charming his date.

“My God, Ray, what is that racket?” asked the young woman, looking up as she opened the screen door to the trailer. A bat swooped and she nearly dropped the bowl of chips and guacamole she was carrying back to the kitchen.

Before Ray could answer, a harsh cry echoed through the trees.

“What on earth? Who the hell was that?” The girl was happy to close the door behind her. “Boy, is this a fun place.”

Paraphrasing his neighbor’s words to his grandson, Ray assured Paula that a serial killer was not lurking in the dark. “That’s an owl, not a human,” said Ray, following her into his trailer as the embers died in the fire pit behind him. “And don’t you worry—I know how to keep you safe. . . .”

“Yeah, right.” The girl grinned as she let him wrap his arms around her.

Next door, once Cody nodded that he believed his grandfather, Osborne walked the boy back down to the dock to retrieve his fishing rod. “Okay, son? Not afraid anymore?” Osborne kept a reassuring hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We don’t want your new rod to end up in the lake, so let’s put it away in my fish hut where it’ll be safe.”

Cody relaxed as he stepped into the rowboat to retrieve his rod. Any time spent in Grandpa’s fish hut was okay with him.

Early the next morning before Cody was up, Osborne was enjoying his coffee on the screened-in porch when Ray gave a quick knock on the porch door before walking in, coffee mug in hand. “Morning, Doc. Did you hear that scream last night?”

“Scared the living daylights out of Cody.”

“One more little bunny who won’t need a hat,” said Ray as he filled his mug from the pot Osborne kept plugged in on the porch.

“That wasn’t a rabbit, that was a screech owl.”

“Oh . . . Hmm, wonder what the birds saw. They were pretty excited. . . .”

The men sipped their coffee: Osborne on his porch swing, Ray in his favorite chair, and the sun throwing shadows on the dock as early summer infused the lake world with life.

About The Author

Photograph by Marcha Moore

In her teens and twenties, mystery author Victoria Houston was the classic hometown girl who couldn't wait to leave her small Wisconsin town. She has not only returned to her hometown of Rhinelander, but she has based her popular Loon Lake mystery series in the region’s fishing culture. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (June 11, 2019)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781440598838

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Raves and Reviews

“There’s a strong sense of place in this descriptive story . . . [that will] appeal to Sean McCafferty’s readers, fans of fly-fishing, and wilderness mysteries."

– Library Journal

“Fans will enjoy catching up with old friends.”

– Publishers Weekly

“All in all, an enjoyable read indeed.”

– Mystery Scene Magazine

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More books from this author: Victoria Houston

More books in this series: A Loon Lake Mystery