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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

And There He Kept Her

Series: Ben Packard #1

ISBN: 978-1728247892

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Publication Date: 01/31/2023

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)


A dark and complex mystery that will consume you, starring a protagonist who is equal parts quirky Milhone and steady Gamache."―Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight

They thought he was a helpless old man.

They were wrong.

When two teenagers break into a house on a remote lake in search of prescription drugs, what starts as a simple burglary turns into a nightmare for all involved. Emmett Burr has secrets he's been keeping in his basement for more than two decades, and he'll do anything to keep his past from being revealed. As he gets the upper hand on his tormentors, the lines blur between victim, abuser, and protector.

Personal tragedy has sent former police officer Ben Packard back to the small Minnesota town of Sandy Lake in search of a fresh start. Now a sheriff's deputy, Packard is leading the investigation into the missing teens, motivated by a family connection. As clues dry up and time runs out to save them, Packard is forced to reveal his own secrets and dig deep to uncover the dark past of the place he now calls home.

Unrelentingly suspenseful and written with a piercing gaze into the dark depths of the human soul, And There He Kept Her is a thrilling page-turner that introduces readers to a complicated new hero and forces us to consider the true nature of evil.

About the Author

Joshua Moehling works in the medical device industry by day and writes at night.

He lives in Minneapolis.

His first novel, AND THERE HE KEPT HER, is forthcoming from Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks in spring 2022.

Connect with Joshua


Lambda Literary Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature

"This is a remarkable debut―sharp, suspenseful, and emotionally powerful―sure to appeal to readers of Karin Slaughter and Lisa Gardner."

—First Clue, Starred Review

"And There He Kept Her plays out like something on TV, resembling Yellowstone in its small-town setting and larger-than-life drama set against captivatingly detailed scenery...And There He Kept Her is a great opportunity to get into a new detective series at the ground level. Especially if you like the idea of the hardboiled detective novel but prefer your stories set in modern times with light touches of current social issues. Moehling’s is a strong debut."

― Associated Press

"Readers will find this book especially well written and polished…And There He Kept Her exploits the rich terrain of a small town where an overactive grapevine thrives and seemingly everyone conceals a secret."

― Mystery Scene Magazine

"This isn’t just another dark, gritty, graphic suspense thriller. Readers are summoned to ride shotgun from beginning to end, meaning they are privy to all the dirty deeds, secrets and intentions of everyone involved. So what’s left? A chilling, complex plot line that tackles issues like mental illness, teen drug use, sexual abuse and orientation, and kidnapping – all rolled up into a disturbing, shocking thriller."

― Mystery and Suspense Magazine

"Stellar debut…I’ll happily follow Packard’s adventures for as long as Moehling wants to keep writing them."

― Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Vivid characters and a sharp sense of place prevent this debut novel from being your average small-town puzzler."

— St. Paul Post-Dispatch

"The characterizations are sharply drawn, with a keen eye for humorous details and dialog. At the heart of all this, of course, is the hard-working, intelligent and deeply conflicted Ben Packard… Following along as [he] comes to terms with both his identity and his grief is almost as gripping as the suspenseful abduction plot, and certainly as entertaining."

― Criminal Element

"Joshua Moehling has created realistic, extraordinarily complex characters...this is dark, gritty writing at its finest."

― Book Reporter

"This book isn’t just unputdownable, it’s the definition of the word."

― Samantha Downing, international bestselling author of For Your Own Good

"There’s a terrific new voice in crime fiction and it belongs to Joshua Moehling. And There He Kept Her is a taut, beautifully written thriller reminiscent of Karin Slaughter. A novel with heart, its protagonist, acting Sheriff Ben Packard, is the kind of hero we need today, a man wrestling with his sexual identity as he searches for missing teens in a small Minnesota town guarding secrets of its own."

― Jonathan Santlofer, author of The Last Mona Lisa

"When Deputy Sheriff Ben Packard investigates the disappearance of two teenagers in Sandy Lake, Minnesota, he exposes the seamy underbelly of a small American town. And There He Kept Her is a sharp, intense thriller combining a dark plot with a relentless pace. An absorbing, impressive debut."

― A. J. Banner, #1 Amazon, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author

"Fans of Sue Grafton are going to love And There He Kept Her. Compulsively readable, Josh Moehling has crafted a dark and complex mystery that will consume you, starring a protagonist who is equal parts quirky Milhone and steady Gamache. In the wake of a tragic loss, sheriff’s deputy Ben Packard has returned to Sandy Lake, hoping to start over with a blank slate. What he finds is a town populated with eccentric characters and its own dark secrets, proving that small town life can still add up to big trouble."

― Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight and Lies I Tell

Coming in Paperback January 31, 2023!

Q&A Elevator Ride with

debut author Joshua Moehling

"Behind the Book" #AuthorElevatorSeries

Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.


Welcome, Joshua!

We are super excited to have you join us today for our June #AuthorElevatorSeries ride. It is always thrilling to feature a smashing debut author who hits the ground running. We cannot wait to learn more about you, your writing, and your latest hit thriller, AND THERE HE KEPT HER. I loved it! The novel would make for a killer TV series or movie and fingers are crossed for an ongoing series. Let’s dive in!

Q. Give us your BEST Elevator Pitch for AND THERE HE KEPT HER.

JM: Ben Packard is a small-town sheriff’s deputy trying to outrun his past and keep his personal life a secret while trying to rescue two teenagers who have stumbled upon the horrifying lair of a retired killer.

Q. When you wrote AND THERE HE KEPT HER, did you intend on this being a series? These characters are too good to end!

JM: As I finished the first draft, I started feeling like I could write multiple books with Ben Packard. It wasn’t until late in the revision process that I came up with his missing brother which will take another book or two to resolve.

Q. HUMOR: I love a thriller balanced with humor. You nailed it. Gosh, I loved Ben, Jenny, Cora, and especially Gary (favorite) — reminds me of Leslie Jordan. Then the evil characters, Emmett, and worse, Carl. How much fun was this to write?

JM: A book like this needs some humor to lighten the tone. Packard uses humor to de-escalate and deflect. Gary is larger-than-life and gayer than a parade. He was really fun to write. He’s had nine lives and has some stories to tell.

Q. TWIST FLIP: A unique creative twist turning the victim of a robbery into a retired serial killer will blow the reader’s mind – quite brilliant! The reader's loyalty changes with Emmett’s character as well as the book moves along (kidnapper, murderer, elderly victim, and protector). Can you share more about creating this shift?

JM: I didn’t want to write a book where kidnapping, raping and murdering women was the primary action in the present. I wondered if I could have it in the background, and have a villain who is old and weak but still a threat. How would he react when confronted with his past? Eventually, I needed to up the stakes so I added Carl, who totally changed the dynamic between Emmett and Jenny and (maybe) between Emmett and the reader in unexpected ways.

Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working on or what is next in ten words or less or less?

JM: The next Packard book is written. Working on the third.

Readers: Be sure and pick up a copy of AND THERE HE KEPT HER and post your review on your favorite social media platform. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I predict this will be the Thriller Debut of the Year!

Now, more up close and personal with Joshua.

Get to Know the Author

Elevator Ride

Behind the Author with Joshua Moehling






The seasons


I could eat tacos three meals a day.


Breakfast…a long bike ride…a nap…a good book…dinner out with friends.

FAVORITE TV SERIES? (Or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.?

Bosch is a great adaptation of the Michael Connelly novels. Hacks with Jean Smart has been brilliant.


Traveled around the south of Spain with my friend Lisa. We took a ferry from Tarifa to Tangier, Morocco, and spent the day touring the Kasbah.


The study room at my local library.


Jim Harrison: The Complete Poems


Words with Friends


I have a lot of office clothes for how often I go into the office anymore.


Can I have two favorites in Minneapolis? Magers & Quinn Booksellers and Once Upon a Crime


I love books that leave me emotionally wrung out. The last book that truly gutted me was The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.


Finish that first draft. There’s nowhere to go without a first draft.


LaRose by Louise Erdrich was the first book I finished in 2022. I’m always in awe of Erdrich’s beautiful prose and masterful storytelling. Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby was a Liam Neeson movie and a season of Sons of Anarchy refined down to their purest form. Dark, violent, and compulsively readable. I just read The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. It was a master class in post-Chandler California noir storytelling. I loved it.


Cake cake cake cakecakecakecakecakecake


My dad was a beekeeper so my job for many summers growing up was working bees (putting empty boxes on hives, taking off full boxes, and extracting honey).


Seeing live music.


Chris (my partner) playing the guitar.

Thank you, Joshua, for spending time with us today!

Thank you, Judith!!!!

My Review


"June Pride Month Book Pick"

"Andy Griffith meets Schitt's Creek in this small rural Minnesota town of Sandy Lake— with wit, grit, long-buried secrets, and a well-developed cast of diverse, colorful characters that will have you drooling for a series. I LOVED IT! Prime for the big or small screen."

A STAR IS BORN! Joshua Moehling, the newest voice in crime fiction, is at the TOP of my favorite author list, and I predict he will be on the bestselling charts for years to come. An author to watch.


From the dazzling character development, the artful blending of dark humor, suspense —and insights into the dark side of the human psyche, AND THERE HE KEPT HER is a well-crafted knockout psychological crime thriller debut! I cannot wait to see what comes next.

A cross between Karin Slaughter/Lisa Gardner, Paul Cleave/Linwood Barclay/Michael Robotham, LGBTQ PJ Vernon/Catherine Ryan Hyde, Janet Evanovich/Sally Hepworth/Kaira Rouda/Kimberly Belle, and Allen Eskens/Heather Gudenkauf/John Hart (all favorites) with a winning Joshua signature style.

Hilariously funny, and hopefully, a new series featuring hunky new Sherriff Ben Packard (LGBTQ) Sandy Lake, MN, and the loveable gay Gary reminds me of Leslie Jordan (a favorite). Also, Gary's neighbor, the Bible preaching Cora with the evil husband, Carl. What a fun banter between Gary and Cora.

Gay, white Ben Packard is a new deputy (acting Sheriff) in the small rural town of Sandy Lake, Minnesota. He also has to contend with a not-so-bright and naive Barney Fife type. He is using the job as a mask to keep a low profile, but being the current Sheriff who has cancer, his role is getting more attention. He wants to keep his personal life his own business.

His former black lover-partner (cop) was killed in the line of duty, and he has been grieving and decided to take this job back in Sandy Lake and put his personal life on hold. He keeps to himself in his personal time, living on the lake and swimming daily. However, he might be ready to start dating again and his new pal, sidekick dog, Franklin named after his grandfather.

However, he is haunted by his brother's death years earlier, and I have a feeling much more to come in future books about this. What happened to Nick?

There is always drama in this small, complex town, and Ben is trying to make peace with an array of drama. Then you have the high school drug dealers stealing the meds of the crazy older folks.

Susan, (cousin of Ben) and mother of Jesse, and upscale restaurant owner— is a bit of an enigma and I think there is more to her backstory.

Then you have the monsters (one may be worse than the other) Emmett and Carl, who have been begrudging allies for years.

Jesse is a teen being blackmailed by Sam, a small-town teen drug dealer in town(wealthy parents and grandson of the sheriff, and threatens his sister if he does not pull off a drug deal. As the book opens, Jesse and his girlfriend, Jessica break into a remote lake house owned by an older man with known prescription drugs.

However, things do not go as planned. Emmett, the crazy owner, is a monster with guns, prescriptions, a prison cell/bondage set up in the basement, and dead bodies in the backyard going back for decades, and he will do anything to keep his dirty secrets. They have no clue.

Jessica has diabetes. If she does not get insulin, she could die. The niece of acting Ben Packard and daughter of Susan—wise, but can she outsmart Emmett and remain alive? A creative, quick thinker, brave, fearless, and tenacious.

THE TWIST: The author brilliantly showcases his talent when he turns the tables: a robbery victim into a retired serial killer, flipping the script from victim to predator. The lines blur between the victim, abuser, and protector.

Sandy Lake is one crazy and complex town. I cannot wait for the next in the series. Get this one on your TBR list! I cannot recommend this book highly enough and the author. This one will be in my Top 10 thrillers of the year and a contender for best debut crime thriller of 2022. Yes, it is that good and then some! The summary description does not do it justice.

A BLENDING of rural small-town, dark, gritty, cop procedural, LGBTQ. A rural noir crime psychological thriller with loads of sarcasm, suspense, witty humor (which I adore) with lots of heart, entertaining morally complex, and multi-dimensional characters.

A special thank you to Mandy Chahal at Poisoned Pen for this recommendation (you know what I love) for a print and e-book ARC and also NetGalley to read, listen to, enjoy, and review.

I also listened to the audiobook by narrator Linda Jones, which was excellent. She gave an award-winning performance, and I highly recommend it. Thank you, Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for an audio ARC. You are the best!

Aug 15, 2023

Ben Packard #2

Where The Dead Sleep

Joshua Moehling


"A dark and complex mystery that will consume you." –Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight, for And There He Kept Her

A small town's dark secrets turn deadly…

When an early morning call brings Deputy Ben Packard to the scene of a home invasion, he finds Bill Sandersen shot in his bed. Bill was a well-liked local who chased easy money his whole life, leaving bad debts and broken hearts in his wake. Everyone Packard talks to has a story about Bill, but no one has a clear motive for wanting him dead. The business partner. The ex-wife. The current wife. The high-stakes poker buddies. Any of them―or none of them―could be guilty.

As the investigation begins, tragedy strikes the Sheriff's department, forcing Packard to make a difficult choice about his future: step down as acting Sheriff and pursue the quiet life he came to Sandy Lake in search of, or subject himself to the scrutiny of an election for the full-time role of Sheriff, a job he's not sure he wants.

There's a hidden history to Sandy Lake that Packard, ever the outsider, can't see. Bad blood and old secrets run deep. But an attempt on Packard's life means he's getting uncomfortably close to the dangerous legacy of the quiet Minnesota town. And someone will do anything to keep it hidden. READ MORE



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