Anna's Playground by Fond du Lac Author Karen Barouski
Fond du Lac author Karen Barouski has written a page-turning thriller set in Marinette, Wisconsin in the late 1990s.
The novel opens with the disturbing scene of a father and son, Tom and Brian Crayton, who are deer hunting when they find the body of seven-year-old Danny Leonard. Steven Wendell and David Martin from the Marinette police are the first on the scene. Officer Tessa Ferguson asks to be on the case as soon as the two return to the police station, and she is sent with Officer Kenny Summers to talk to the neighbors of the Engel family since Danny went missing after visiting his friend Shaun Engel. Meanwhile, life goes on for Danny’s classmate, Anna Murray, who receives a swing set for her birthday. Anna lives with her widowed mother and sixteen-year-old sister Shari. Soon another first grader is missing. Because of that and the religious symbolism in Danny’s murder, the FBI is called in. FBI agent and criminal profiling authority Paul Gerhardt arrives in Marinette along with agents Edward Turner, Michelle Hargrove, Anthony Rasmussen, Andrea Dyer, Ryan Weston, and Eric Lessard. They soon take over the investigation. Tessa is initially thrilled and awed to meet Gerhardt. He is brilliant and forceful.
There are many characters that have a role in moving the story forward. As is the case with small communities such as Marinette, there are many overlapping relationships with the characters. For example, Steven’s son and Anna are in the same class as Danny, and Shari is a friend of Brian. But the tone of the story is suspenseful and foreboding rather than small town cozy.
It is not much of a spoiler to reveal that the murderer is caught about two-thirds of the way through the book. But there is more to the story which then takes on a mystical tone. You will have to read the book to find out who the murderer is, what happens to all the characters, and to draw your own conclusions. This quote from the back cover of the book sums it up. “The conclusion of the case will make everyone question where the line separating evil and spirituality lies.”