The Killer in the Woods

the killer in the woods book cover


Robert Vance is a magazine editor who works from home and lives in a house full of books. His neighbors think of him as a quiet, unassuming man. His passion for pheasant hunting with Preacher, his German wirehaired pointer, is typical of sportsmen living in the Midwest. But what isn’t so typical—and what his neighbors don’t know—is that occasionally Robert hunts something besides pheasants.

Robert hates bullies and injustice. When someone has a problem with either, he or she can hire Robert to make the situation right.

But Robert isn’t—in his own mind—just a contract killer. He lives by a set of rules that dictate who, where, and why he can kill. So when a well-meaning citizen discovers Robert’s latest target and winds up being charged with the killing, Robert must take steps to ensure the man’s freedom.


Van Etten has labored in the trenches of the magazine business–the outdoor magazine business in particular–for decades, and The Killer in the Woods proves it was time well spent. The man knows a story when he writes one. The Killer in the Woods has more plot twists than a cyclone in an Iowa cornfield. Van Etten’s protagonist, Rob Vance, a hit man by night and a magazine editor by day, puts a whole new spin on the idea of Midwestern hospitality.

–Dave Carty, author of Leaves on Frozen Ground

As a native Iowa farm girl, dog lover, and former pheasant hunter, I couldn’t wait to read this book.  Mr. Van Etten has captured the essence of living in the Midwest while adding a bit of mystery and killing to the mix.

Robert Vance is an editor, writer, dog lover, and hunter who happens to be a “hitman with a code of honor.”  He abhors bullies and injustice and when he’s given a contract to eliminate a pompous Chicago lawyer who gets away with murder, the normally clean kill turns to s***. Unfortunately, an innocent man is falsely accused of the lawyer’s murder, and now Robert’s Rule #2—no collateral damage—has to be rectified.  The story gets more interesting when the hitman becomes the investigator to free an innocent man by any means possible.

The reader is cleverly immersed in Robert’s outwardly normal life of a man in his early 60’s writing, spending time with his dog, and dating. And then there is the alter ego…the hitman…the man who believes in deadly justice.  It’s a fascinating dynamic considering his age, location, and his lifestyle.

Overall, this is an enthralling and finely detailed crime-turned-investigative-story by a hitman determined to right a wrong that he has created. And did I mention there is a doozy of a twist at the end? Recommend highly!

Sharon Clayton of The Eclectic Review