Citizens in a Pacific Northwest town face assorted threats—both domestic and foreign—in this third installment of a series.
Wealthy farmer Jeff Henderson has funded a new cancer wing for the Skagit Valley Hospital. At the wing’s dedication, Henderson’s neighbor Joseph intercepts two hooligans stealing wallets and purses. But those men may be more than mere thieves, as they later target Joseph’s property, specifically his work with mushrooms. Joseph’s mushroom experiments are part of his University of Washington–endorsed research into a cure for cancer. Based on a cryptic message he recently received, Joseph fears his family’s Russia-related past may compromise his research. Meanwhile, locals are protesting the alleged unfair treatment of migrant workers at the Henderson Farm. But Henderson may have more substantial problems than the boycott of his blueberry fields. Joseph—along with Henderson’s teen daughter, Hannah, and her boyfriend (and her father’s ex-employee), Luis—gradually unearths copious illicit deeds, from drug smuggling to possible hacking. It’s abundantly clear there’s a menace in Skagit Valley, as the culprits who break into the university’s lab are likely the same individuals physically assaulting and abducting townspeople. But the baddies’ ultimate goal is something bigger than Joseph or anyone else has anticipated. Rolnick’s (Color of Lies, 2018, etc.) novel is jam-packed with richly defined characters, including several from earlier series installments (generally in supporting roles). Murky character backgrounds often enhance the overall mystery, like enigmatic Frank McCain, Joseph’s friend who lives in an airport hangar. In other instances, histories provide sympathy: Hannah lost her twin sister, Jenna, to cancer four years ago, and immigration officials deported Luis’ parents to Ecuador. Much of the story revolves around a string of startling incidents and the attempts to identify the specific villains. At times, the events are overwhelming and convoluted even to the story’s characters: “I can’t keep it all straight,” admits one individual. Nevertheless, the author’s pithy writing helps retain a discernible tension throughout the narrative, with many of the characters finding it hard to trust anyone.
Striking characters populate a remarkable tale blending mystery and suspense.