In the new novel “The Wind Knot” by John Galligan, Ned “Dog” Oglivie thinks that he’s unaccompanied on his trip back to New England for his son’s birthday.
And then he finds the corpse.
Galligan, author of “The Nail Knot,” “The Blood Knot,” “The Clinch Knot” and “Red Sky, Red Dragonfly,” lives in Madison and teaches writing at Madison Area Technical College. “The Wind Knot” is the fourth mystery book to feature the Dog, a damaged “trout bum” who wanders the country trying to fish his demons away.
In this latest tale, Dog decides he’s done with fishing. He’s done living in his RV, done trying to run away from hurt, done regretting. With a thousand bucks stashed away — payment from Dolf Cook for a fish that Dolf didn’t catch — Dog is heading home. In three days, it would be Eamon’s birthday.
Or would have been, except Eamon drowned in a bathtub six years before. Heartbroken still, Dog torches his fishing gear and quits. It’s time to leave Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, through Wisconsin, and head to Massachusetts.
But somewhere near Chicago, Dog smells it: nasty, like muddy body odor coming from his bunk. “It” is Dolf’s brother, Heimo Kock. Here was Heimo, the self-described “Governor of the U.P.,” swollen and purple-bruised, with fly line wrapped tightly around his neck.
In a Tang-and-vodka-fueled panic, Dog turns the RV around. Somewhere in the North Woods, there has to be a place to drop Kock’s body, but Dog is ill-prepared to deal with the cast of characters he’s about to encounter.
Esofea Maria Smithback absolutely adores the children’s book character Pippi Longstocking. So when she sees a man roll a body into the Two Hearted River, she wonders: What would Pippi do? Surely, Pippi wouldn’t have allowed a stranger to get away with murder. Surely Esofea’s boyfriend, or maybe ex-boyfriend, Danny Tervo is involved.
Deputy Margarite DuCharme has all kinds of troubles. She’d tried to keep her personal life secret but her lover, Julia, got drunk at the community picnic and now everybody knows. Then there’s the issue of her friendship with Sheriff Bruce Lodge, which is in question because he thinks she lied to him.
But the biggest problem is that just about everybody in Marquette County hated Heimo Kock. And many of them use the same kind of fly line that killed him.
Part romp and part mystery, it could be argued that “The Wind Knot” can be hard to follow. Unlike the first three books in Dog’s series, which are written in the first-person from Dog’s point of view, “The Wind Knot” is written in third person so that the mystery unfolds from multiple viewpoints. One could say that the cast of characters is hard to keep straight.
But it’s difficult to argue with the Dog. Galligan’s antihero is on the periphery this time, surrounded by eccentrics and scofflaws, still smarting from old pain. His very presence, though, his tortured depth — it lends a certain humanity to the story. Dog is flawed, which makes him — and this novel — easy to love.