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Dave Wood's Book Report, Oct. 1, 2008

There's something comforting about reading novels set in places where you're fairly well acquainted.

I loved Thomas Gifford's "The Windchill Factor" years ago. That was the espionage novel that begins in Taylors Falls, Minn., when the little white frame library blows up.

When I read the book I had recently visited that little library, which had the weirdest classification system I had ever seen. Gifford followed with "The Cavanaugh Quest," a novel set in Prospect Park, which is within eyeshot of the college where I used to teach.

Then along came Minnesota's Harold Adams, who wrote a series of book about an upper Midwestern lawman making his way throughout the Great Depression, when I was born. I learned from all those books.

The same goes for the multitudinous works of John Sandford and one of my other favorites, St. Paul author Larry Millett, who has taken to bringing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to Minnesota to help solve crimes for fellows like James J. Hill and to visit historic sites like the great forest fire in central Minnesota.

And so it's always a joy to get a new mystery from Mary Logue, whose deputy sheriff Claire Watkins works out of Maiden Rock and makes frequent trips out of Pierce County, Wis., where I live, to Pepin County and the jail at Durand.

Logue never fails to mention sights familiar to me, like the Bauer Built Retread offices on Hwy. 10 in downtown Durand.

Logue spends her summers in Maiden Rock and she knows the terrain and the townspeople well. In one of her recent books she tells us who the murderer is on the first page. That didn't hinder me from completing the whole book because Logue is so good at describing the characters who live along the river and Lake Pepin. Now she's out with "Point No Point" (Bleak House Books, $24.95), a spot on Lake Pepin that looks like a point, but is actually an illusion.

The sheriff's department finds a dead body near Point No Point, bloated and floating. That's just the beginning. Next thing that happens is that Claire's friend shows up shot in her own house and the leading suspect is Claire's boyfriend's best friend Chet.

That means trouble at home between the lawwoman and her man (that's what people call boyfriends and husbands in western Wisconsin.

Add to that Claire's encroaching menopause and her daughter Meg's curiosity about sex as her sap rises and you have lots of fireworks. It's a good story, folks, and it almost makes me want to drive down there along the river to enjoy a Friday night fish fry.

As long as we're in the region, let's stay there. I first read Spring Green author Sara Rath when she wrote "The Complete Cow" years ago, a work of non-fiction that told you all you needed to know about cows. Since then Rath has branched out to writing fiction. Her latest is "Night Sisters" (Terrace Books, $24.95), a novel set in Little Wolf, Wis. that deals with the heroine's exploration into the psychic world.

Dave Wood will appear in dialogue with author Samuel Hynes at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Elmer L. Anderson Library on the University of Minnesota campus. Hynes is the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature Emeritus at Princeton University and the author of several books, including "Flights of Passage" and "The Growing Seasons," about his years as a World War II pilot and later a student at the University of Minnesota. Most recently, Hynes was a featured commentator on Ken Burns' PBS series, "The War." The program is free and open to the public. Reservations recommended. Call 612.624.9339.