Door County Mystery Saga Culminates With Wisconsin Author’s Seventh Entry | Entertainment
The final installment of the David Cubiak Door County mystery series by Wisconsin author Patricia Skalka will be released later this month, bringing the seven-book mystery saga to a close.
Throughout the series, Cubiak, the main character and sheriff of Door County, has solved a litany of crimes and murders while facing his own demons. The final book wraps up its story while introducing readers to a final mystery set on the scenic peninsula.
Skalka will discuss the book “Death Casts a Shadow” at an event at Mystery to Me later this month.
Q: “Death Casts a Shadow” is your seventh and final novel in the Dave Cubiak series. Was writing this book any different knowing that this was the last time you used these characters?
A: Ending the series was a bittersweet and difficult decision. During the writing of the books, Cubiak became very real to me, and I was always aware that I was saying “goodbye” to him. Even now, thinking back, I wonder, “My God, what is he doing? But it was time. Cubiak’s journey was over. From the start, I knew the series was going to work on two levels – two story arcs. Each book would have a different murder or mystery to solve, but the overarching story of the entire series was going to be Cubiak’s personal journey of redemption. I also knew that the last book would be set in winter. It just seemed appropriate.
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Q: Could you give readers a brief overview of what the character Cubiak has struggled with throughout the series?
A: In this book, Cubiak returns to Chicago, the city where he grew up and where he tragically lost his first wife and daughter. He goes there with his son, Joey. It’s the first time they’ve been there together and he doesn’t know which part of his past to share. Ultimately, he takes Joey on a quick trip of a lifetime that culminates at the scene of the fatal accident. It’s a moment of truth. Until then, the boy, now 13, knew the basic facts about his father’s past life, but for the first time Cubiak shares the grief of the loss and his struggle to move on. It’s a real bonding moment between father and son. Joey, on some level, will understand his father entrusting him with intimate personal knowledge and what it’s like to have to deal with the responsibility, guilt and pain of overwhelming loss. Cubiak must trust that his son is mature enough to handle this.
Q: You mentioned both arcs, and in “Death Casts a Shadow” Cubiak seems to be fighting a lot of his own demons – in addition to solving the murder. Did you intentionally write it that way?
A: Absolutely. Each of the seven books in the series operates on two levels. One is about the mysterious plot – the part that made it part of the story – and follows the steps Cubiak takes to solve the puzzle and reveal the culprit or killer. The other follows his emotional journey through life. In the opening scene of “Death Stalks Door County”, the first book in the series, Cubiak feels he has let everyone down and is overwhelmed with despair and shame. In each book he heals a little more, and sometimes retrogrades. But in the final moments of “Death Casts a Shadow,” we see a man who is finally at peace with himself and with life.
Q: The other arc in the book – a character dies or is murdered while holding a bronze statue of Frederic Remington. Why did you decide to present this work of art?
A: I have always been fascinated by bronzes. I have no artistic talent, and the idea of someone creating something like this intrigues me. How do you make something so solid and tangible and make it so delicate? I saw examples of the Remingtons at the Chicago Art Institute. They are fierce and fragile. In the story, I needed to have something of value that this grandfather was starting to collect, and I wondered what would please someone who was some kind of robber baron. I wanted his collection to have a kind of masculine feel and thought the Remington bronzes fit the bill. I had to learn all about them. All I knew was that I loved them. What I was amazed to discover was how valuable they were.
Q: From the very first chapters, this book examines the economic disparity in places like Door County by highlighting the woman who cleans the houses. Why was it important to draw this parallel between housekeeper and wealthy landowner?
A: It is a very real situation. Not just in Door County, but all over the country. My family has a very modest cabin in Door County and we feel blessed and lucky to have it, but I see the disparity. The shortage of affordable housing is an ongoing problem. This is a problem during peak season when many workers come from outside Door County. Where can they afford to live? Permanent residents also face these affordable housing issues. If you look into the history of Door County, you’ll find that was the frontier at one time. It was not the pretty tourist or artistic paradise or mecca that now exists. During those difficult early years, fortunes were made and lost, and all was not always fair. The plot of “Death Casts a Shadow” grows from the seeds of revenge that were planted during this time.
Q: Now that your Dave Cubiak series is complete, what’s next for you?
A: Right now, I’m taking a little break and focusing on promoting this book. I actually have a few manuscripts that I wrote years ago that I need to carefully review and decide if I want to see them again. One is a mystery about two women whose lives were intertwined growing up and what happens when their paths cross again. The other is a short story… an inspirational Christmas story based on a conversation I had with my daughters when they were young girls… the power of love between a mother and her 10 year old daughter. I’m also intrigued by the idea of writing a historical mystery.
Q: Are readers upset that Dave Cubiak is leaving?
A: The messages I received were “Oh no!” or “So sad!” I was encouraged to continue the series, but I think readers understand why it is ending. I am truly grateful to all the booksellers who have supported me and continue to support me. I’m really grateful to the readers, they really embraced Cubiak. He started out as an unlikable character, but they rooted for him. Many of them saw each other in his struggles. I’m really grateful in a way that it was helpful to some people.