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'Death Rides the Ferry' Explores the Beauty & Treachery of Door County


Door County is a popular destination for both Wisconsin natives and tourists from other states. It’s varying natural landscapes, state parks, and towns draw thousands to the peninsula - and to the ferries that take them to Washington Island.

For author Patricia Skalka, who splits her time between Chicago and a family cottage in Door County, the peninsula is the perfect setting not just for a getaway, but murders. "I'm always interested in the history of the location, and Door County is just marvelous in terms of the richness of its history," says Skalka.

She notes that the landscape can be beautiful, but can also turn treacherous in an instant. "I was sort of thinking about the difference between day and night, light and dark, good and evil, and that did birth the whole idea for the series."

Her latest book, Death Rides the Ferry, is the fourth installment in her Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery series. It follows Sheriff Cubiak as he tries to make sense of a troubling series of events occuring on Washington Island during an early music festival surrounding a rare instrument - the viola de gamba. 

Skalka recalls that despite all the time she has spent in Door County, it didn't occur to her to use one of the quintessential transportation experiences as a setting for a mystery until her daughter suggested it. "It's the book that almost didn't get written," she says. "I've been coming up here for decades, I've ridden that ferry a zillion times, and it had never occurred to me to use the ferry in one of the books. Talk about staring at the obvious and not seeing it!"

Before we get too deep in the mystery, Skalka joined Lake Effect’s Audrey Nowakowski by phone to talk about Death Rides the Ferry:

Skalka will be in Milwaukee at Boswell Books to talk about her book Thursday evening at 7pm.

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.