Review: Dead Man Dancing by John Galligan

Title: Dead Man Dancing by John Galligan
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 301 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this sequel to the “gritty, brash, and totally gripping” (The Real Book Spy) thriller Bad Axe County, Sheriff Heidi Kick is investigating an illicit cage fighting ring with ties to white nationalism when her husband suddenly goes missing.

It’s a time for celebration in Bad Axe County as the town gathers for the annual Syttende Mai—or Norwegian Independence Day—festival. During this rollicking family-oriented event filled with dancing and food, Sheriff Heidi Kick discovers a dark and shocking event—a migrant worker has been savagely beaten but refuses to explain what happened. Then, a sudden murder of a band member shatters the festival. Something is deeply wrong in Bad Axe County.

As she looks for answers, Heidi plunges into a secret underworld where high-stakes cage fights double as combat training for the White Nationalist movement. Then all hell breaks loose for Heidi when her husband disappears and a secret he’s been keeping from Heidi is revealed.

A timely portrait of the deep divisions and simmering tensions brewing in our country today, Dead Man Dancing takes you into the dark heart of a movement defined by violence and hate. Featuring John Galligan’s signature “striking prose, engaging characters” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and unforgettable twists and turns, Dead Man Dancing is a breathless thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.


Dead Man Dancing by John Gallighan is a topical small town mystery. Although this newest release is the sequel to Bad Axe County, it can be read as a standalone.

Sheriff Heidi Kick is preparing for the town’s annual Syttende Mai festival.  She is also struggling with balancing work and home. She is devoted to keeping the Farmstead, WI residents safe and her husband, Harley, is frustrated by how many hours she spends working. With the Syttende Mai festival kicking off, Heidi plans to take a couple of days off and spend with her family. But her plans are complicated with the discovery of a worker who has been severely beaten and the inexplicable murder of town favorite Augustus Pfaff.  Equally upsetting is the sudden influx of White Nationalists to Farmstead. With tensions running high, Heidi and  Chief Deputy David Morales are working around the clock to catch a killer and prevent the growing unrest from spilling into over violence. And when Harley disappears, Heidi will do almost anything to find him before it is too late.

Heidi is tenacious, dedicated and stubborn. She loves her children and Harley but her first concern is the townspeople.  Unlike the residents, she is doing everything she can prepare herself and the Sheriff’s office for dealing with the influx of Latino workers. Heidi is no stranger to people’s racism and xenophobia and she does not hesitate to arrest anyone who is trying to trying to stir up bigotry in Bad Axe County.

Heidi is upset at the tragic death of Augustus and she begins questioning possible suspects.  Visitor Neon Shivers is a person of interest since he is known to have been trying to locate Augustus the night of his murder.  Heidi also wants to question Francis “Ivy” Kafka so she can rule him out as a suspect.  She is also hoping he will have information that might help figure out who is responsible for Pfaff’s death.

Meanwhile, racism and xenophobia are raising their ugly heads in Farmstead.  Outside forces are arriving and they are prepared to continue causing racial strife.  While Heidi is quick to realize this is a growing problem, the town’s board members are somewhat in denial. Certain trouble is planned during the Syttende Mai celebration, and Heidi attempts to cut off trouble before it can begin, but is it already too late?

Dead Man Dancing is an intriguing mystery with a realistic storyline that is ripped from today’s headlines. Heidi is a likable lead protagonist  who is sometimes a little too obstinate for her own good.  The various story arcs are interesting but the story is a little slow-paced. With all of the various pieces finally falling into place, John Gallighan brings this clever mystery to a satisfying conclusion. Hopefully readers will see more of Heidi Kick in future novels.

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