Washed Up” is Susan Koefod’s debut novel; however she has published fiction, memoir and poetry. Susan, a native Minnesotan, states on her website that she “spent much of her girlhood taking long bicycle rides and walks through hilly Dakota County and along the beautiful Mississippi River valley.”

At the end of the book, Susan Koefod, offers a book group discussion guide. In one of the questions she points out that during a period from the late 1990s to the early 2000’s three drown babies were discovered near Red Wing Minnesota. Susan shares that she has been haunted for years by these very real crimes, and this prompted her to write “Washed Up.”

“Washed Up” is an excellent title for the book and a metaphor for much of the story. The book opens with a dead baby washed up on the riverbanks and the solution to that case is the basis for the mystery. Washed up also describes the once decorated detective assigned to the case, Arvo Thorson, who now, going through a divorce has become a drunk. Arvo is joined in his search for justice by Christine Ivory, the county social worker, who herself has demons that she is fighting. The search for justice winds a path through trailer parks, sleazy nightclubs and Senators.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The characters are interesting and compelling, although flawed. I especially liked the young witness, Abatha Cox. While the book talks about the negative aspects of her life, I had quite the opposite impression of her. She seemed to me to be an intelligent eleven year old that seemed to have a strong sense of herself.

Susan Koefod’s background in poetry came through clearly in her prose as did her love of the area and the river. In describing the river at the beginning she states, “The river was so low that it slid along, shimmering black and silver like a thick oily snake in the main channel, leaving behind it tangles of smooth driftwood and garbage.”

The book offers interesting symbolism that would be excellent for book clubs to discuss. The author suggests in the discussion notes, the river as being a symbol. I also thought the eagles were an interesting symbol as well used in the book.

It addresses such heavy and timely topics as politics, immigration and child abuse, with the issue of child abuse being the dominant concern. Susan in her acknowledgements states, “I hope readers of “Washed Up” can help in supporting the Crisis Nursery’s mission – so that when a parent takes that important and very scary first step, there are available services to meet their needs.”

Five Star out of Five.


In accordance with FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge.  I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review. All they expect is an honest review of the work