Friday, September 3, 2021

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Deer Season" by Erin Flanagan, Served with Fudgy Frosted Brownies

Happy Aloha Friday! I am excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Deer Season by Erin Flanagan. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Fudgy Frosted Brownies. 

Publisher's Blurb:

It’s the opening weekend of deer season in Gunthrum, Nebraska, in 1985, and Alma Costagan’s intellectually disabled farmhand, Hal Bullard, has gone hunting with some of the locals, leaving her in a huff. That same weekend, a teenage girl goes missing, and Hal returns with a flimsy story about the blood in his truck and a dent near the headlight. When the situation escalates from that of a missing girl to something more sinister, Alma and her husband are forced to confront what Hal might be capable of, as rumors fly and townspeople see Hal’s violent past in a new light.

A drama about the complicated relationships connecting the residents of a small-town farming community, Deer Season explores troubling questions about how far people will go to safeguard the ones they love and what it means to be a family.

Publisher: NEBRASKA (September 1, 2021)
Paperback: 320 pages

My Review:

Deer Season quietly crept up on me and I found myself engaged from beginning to end in this literary mystery set in a small Nebraska community in the 1980s. Character driven with characters, who while not always likable, feel real and will stay with me. Clyle and Alma Costagan are childless, and have become family for Hal, their intellectually challenged farmhand and they look out for him, even as he is approaching 30. They aren't happy when he goes on a deer hunting trip with a couple of locals and when he comes back early saying he shot a deer, and with a dented truck with bloodstains, they think the hardest thing to do will be to smooth over the issues with his hunting permit and help him clean up. Unfortunately a teenage girl, Peggy Ahern, is missing and soon the community is suspicious of Hal, and Alma and Clyle do their best to defend him while having their own thoughts and worries about what Hal is capable of. 

The story is told by partially by Alma, a hard woman to like and considered by most to be an outsider since Clyle brought her back from the city when his mother died. The other chapters are told by Milo Ahern, Peggy's 12-year-old brother, wise beyond his years, and my favorite character in the book. I enjoyed the 1985 Nebraska setting and the cast of small town characters that make up Gunthrum. The mystery is solid and slow and steady tension is built to the end, but it is the relationships and the the meaning of family and loyalty that are the standouts. One of my favorites for the year so far, Erin Flanagan is a talent, and I'm going to look up her short story collections to read more from her. 


Author Notes: Erin Flanagan is a professor at Wright State University. She is the author of two short story collections, The Usual Mistakes (Nebraska, 2005) and It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories (Bison Books, 2013).

You can Connect with Erin on her website or Twitter


Food Inspiration:

I am a little bummed because there is plenty of food in Deer Season and I highlighted it in my Kindle e-book copy but then it reset and I lost all my notes. :-( Very sad! From memory, mentions included coffee, peanut butter toast, ham and eggs, pancakes, spaghetti, poached eggs, sausage, Oreos, potato salad, sugar cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, venison, cinnamon rolls, lasagna, fish sticks, meatloaf, baked pork chops, macaroni and cheese, potatoes, salad with Dorothy Lynch (a brand of salad dressing), Runzas (a pocket sandwich) and crinkle cut fries, venison and beer. I am sure there was more but that's a least a sample. 

For my bookish dish I decided to go with brownies. There's a mention in the book about Peggy, the missing girl, would sneak into the pan of brownies and cut a quarter of an inch off from the cuts already made and keep doing it over and over, thinking no one would notice but her mother did. Mainly, I was craving chocolate and brownies! ;-) I don't make brownies (or even bake) very often but when I do, I like this recipe from the Joy the Baker Cookbook that I first made years ago for a cookbook spotlight event. 

Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Frosting
Adapted from Joy The Baker Cookbook
(Makes one 8-inch (or one 11-x-7) pan)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease and flour an 8-inch-square baking dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. In a medium, heatproof bowl, add butter and unsweetened chocolate. Place the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water and allow to melt. Stir to incorporate. Once melted, remove the bowl from the simmering pot. Whisk in brown and granulated sugars. Whisk in eggs, yolk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, all at once, to the chocolate mixture. Fold together with a spatula until well incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frost when cooled. Brownies last, well wrapped, at room temp for up to 5 days.

Note: Joy the Baker has an amazing buttercream frosting (here) that I would have made but it calls for Ovaltine in it which neither I or my store had. I looked online and ended up with this recipe from (here) that I think is both easy and delicious. You could also leave these fudgy brownies unfrosted, but why not just go all the way?! ;-)

Notes/Results: These brownies are so chocolatey and fudgy and I love a fudgy brownie! With the layer of frosting they are especially decadent and I am going to need to give them away because I have already eaten two since this afternoon. I put them in the freezer, both because I like slightly frozen brownies, and also to get them out of my sight. Although Joy the Baker's frosting is suburb, I would happily make these brownies and this brownie frosting again. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event  being hosted by Marg at The Adventures of An Intrepid Reader. It's a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. Here's a link to this week's post. 

Note: A review copy of Deer Season was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.    

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here


  1. Oh no, I hate when the Kindle resets! Loving the brownies. That sounds like a good plot. I’m going to Omaha at the end of the month - Nebraska here I come!

  2. Those brownies look gorgeous. I would love one right now. Two or three would be even better.

    best... mae at

  3. Too funny, and great minds, I have brownies cooling, just out of the oven, as I type! Charleston Pecan Brownies, for my women's group. The recipe from a Laura Childs book in her tea shop series. Deer Season sounds like one I'll be reading.

  4. You can never go wrong with brownies. They sound really rich and decadent.

  5. You can never go wrong with brownies. They sound really rich and decadent.

  6. Those brownies look so good! I am thinking that I am going to have to make brownies soon, but I think I am going to make cheesecake brownies. We'll see!

  7. Well now, forevermore I will know how to get a bit more for myself with those quarter in cuts!

  8. I'm reading this one now and you're right, this is engaging from page one. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours


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