“Buckular Dystrophy” by Joseph Heywood (Lyons Press, $26.95) is the tenth book in his popular Woods Cop series starring veteran Michigan game warden Grady Service.
Set almost exclusively in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the entertaining book is more of a series of vignettes loosely tied together by assorted plot threads.
It showcases hard-working Service with an unlikely partner, his crafty archrival Limpy Allerdyce, who’s out of jail now and says he’s reformed.
Taking place mostly in a two-month time period before and during 2009 Michigan deer hunting season, Heywood’s novel focuses on the craziness that occurs each year at this time in the UP.
It’s a large wilderness area with numerous hunting camps, few big bucks, eager poachers, strange interlopers, clever hunters and an unusual assortment of peculiar characters.
Service and Allerdyce get involved in many bizarre cases, tracking down clues in the best police procedural manner.
They find hunters without licenses, illegal profiteers, deer heads without tags, weird relationships, impressive mounts, illegal blinds and much, much more.
Heywood is, however, an acquired taste that may not be easy for all mystery readers to enjoy. The dialogue is challenging at times as the author utilizes dialect to the extreme, twisting verbiage in a manner that makes it difficult for the serious speed reader.
It certainly may be realistic - and the way that many Yoopers talk, but it doesn’t make it any easier for the unfamiliar reader.
Those expecting clear closure to the assorted criminal incidents will also have to be very patient – until the last page-and-a-half of the book - where the author provides an accounting of the cases and the results.
Service gets considerable assistance from other conservation officers, associates, judges and diligent federal law enforcement professionals.
Dark humor and detailed realism abound; there’s still room for more Service and/or Allerdyce encounters.
It’s best to follow the intriguing adventures of Grady Service by reading the “Woods Cop” series in order, following the conservation officer’s growth through triumph and tragedy.
Dedicated Heywood fans may also enjoy two other books that feature similar characters in excellent recent short story collections: “Hard Ground” and “More Hard Ground.”
The 1965 MSU graduate’s website is: josephheywood.com, although ironically there’s only minimal mention of his latest book.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime
novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on June 26, 2016.