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Northwoods by Amy Pease
Crime fiction



We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Amy Pease, on your first book!

by Amy Pease

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Quick take

A struggling deputy sheriff finds himself in over his head when a local teen is murdered in his lakeside small town.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Drug&AlcoholUse

    Drug & alcohol use


Eli North is not okay.

His drinking is getting worse by the day, his emotional wounds after a deployment to Afghanistan are as raw as ever, his marriage and career are over, and the only job he can hold down is with the local sheriff’s department. And that’s only because the sheriff is his mother—and she’s overwhelmed with small town Shaky Lake’s dwindling budget and the fallout from the opioid epidemic. The Northwoods of Wisconsin may be a vacationer’s paradise, but amidst the fishing trips and campfires and Paul Bunyan festivals, something sinister is taking shape.

When the body of a teenage boy is found in the lake, it sets in motion an investigation that leads Eli to a wealthy enclave with a violent past, a pharmaceutical salesman, and a missing teenage girl. Soon, Eli and his mother, along with a young FBI agent, are on the hunt for more than just a killer.

If Eli solves the case, could he finally get the shot at redemption he so desperately needs? Or will answers to this dark case elude him and continue to bring destruction to the Northwoods?

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Northwoods.


Eli North stripped off his clothes and waded into the water. The lake muck cushioned his feet, and, when he was in up to his chest, he rested his plastic travel mug on the water’s surface and let his feet drift upward. He had always been good at floating.

The water had that mid-August feel, warm and slippery and heavy with microorganisms, and a flotilla of lily pads protected the tiny beach from water traffic. Not that anyone would be on the water at this time of night.

He tried to focus on the stars, the weightless sensation of floating. Meditation, they called it. A way to set aside negative thoughts. He put the mug to his lips and sucked the whiskey through his teeth so it wouldn’t spill into his nose. His lip was split, only partially healed, and the fiery liquor lanced the wound open again.

Michelle had agreed to meet him after work, but she’d left before he had shown up, two hours late. It was a sad routine, making promises, breaking promises, and there was a part of him that had been relieved when she asked for a divorce in July. At least now they could both move on, her to something better, and him to a place where he didn’t disappoint her all the time.

He thought of Andy.

Across the lake, somebody cranked up the radio. Etta James’s voice slid over the water, a nice change from the usual shit-kickin’ country coming from Dan Simons’s cabin. Classy with a K was how Michelle had always described Dan. Eli took another sip of whiskey and winced at the pain on his lip, at the throb of the surrounding bruise.

At last

My love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song

The music seemed custom-made for the setting, as if it was to be sung only on dark summer nights, against the rustle of cattails and the plinking call of chorus frogs. Maybe the vacationers wouldn’t mind Etta James. Maybe they wouldn’t call to complain. Maybe tonight he could just get drunk and float. He lay there, floating, for a long time, long enough to notice that the music was playing on repeat, which suited him just fine.

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Why I love it

From time to time, life comes and knocks each of us down. Leaves us a little battered and bruised. There are few things more fascinating than watching how someone responds when they are down but not yet out. For me, this is true in life and in fiction—blessed be the underdogs. In her assured debut novel, Northwoods, Amy Pease gives them their proper due.

Eli North is “going through it.” Ever since he came back from Afghanistan, life has been a series of relentless knocks and defeats. His wife has left him. PTSD has made him unfit for his old career, so now he serves as a deputy sheriff (working for his mother). And his only solace lies in the bottle, which he takes to more with each passing day…

Then a teenage boy turns up dead in the local lake.

Hungover and worse for wear, Eli nonetheless commits himself to solving this boy’s murder, seeing a potential chance for redemption. Thus begins a twisty and at times harrowing investigation that reveals the unseemly underbelly of their sleepy Wisconsin resort town. From private country clubs to local bar managers, seemingly everyone is implicated in a widening web of greed, coercion, and double-dealing. Can Eli solve the mystery before evidence is destroyed or more violence erupts?

Northwoods is an atmospheric slow burner that kept me guessing at every turn. It’s only January, but I suspect it will prove to be one of the best crime fiction reads of the year. Don’t miss out!

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Member ratings (1,168)

  • Angela P.

    Carrollton, TX

    Such a great small town mystery. It’s a slow burn but NOT boring. I was fully engaged as the story reveals itself. I would have loved more to the ending, but maybe we’ll see these characters again.

  • Lisa B.

    Cuyahoga Falls, OH

    Such a good book! I loved the realism of Eli’s struggles and premise that no one is who they present to the world. There is usually so much more to them that we don’t know. And the mystery was great!

  • Laura K.

    Bridgeport, CT

    I loved this book and am excited to read more from Amy Pease! Good mystery, characters are complex and real, and she gives such a good atmospheric sense of place. I was rooting hard for Eli and Marge!

  • Jeff S.

    Columbus, WI

    Crime fiction is no doubt my reading jam, and every now and then a novel breaks free to be so much more than a mystery. This is an incredible book. That it is a debut makes it even more remarkable.

  • Kayla F.

    Fairmont, WV

    This was a well written mystery. It had depth like literary fiction and described addiction in an empathetic way. I had a hard time putting this one down. Recommend if you like Long Bright River.

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