The death of a young drug user looks all too much like the work of a serial killer who’s already locked up.
Lacy O’Connor’s corpse shows a shocking amount of abuse for her 27 years on the planet. Not only are there track marks from heroin abuse and dental destruction from meth abuse, but there are five deep stab marks left by the coldhearted killer who dumped her body in the road. One of the wounds, however, holds a surprise: Medical examiner Izthak Rybarceski finds five yellow carnation petals tucked neatly inside. Even more uncanny is the recollection of Mattie Winston (Dead of Winter, 2019, etc.), the medicolegal death investigator who works with Izzy, of the forensic conference she attended a year ago where a colleague from Eau Claire told her about a serial killer who left carnation petals in his victim’s wounds. Eau Claire DA Pete Hamilton is none too happy to hear that a fifth victim may have turned up in time to exonerate Mason Ulrich, the man he sent to the Columbia Correctional Institution, convicted of four earlier deaths. Mattie and her husband, Detective Steve Hurley, find Ulrich’s account of his wrongful conviction credible, but their pursuit of justice for Ulrich is complicated by storms on the marriage front. Since Mattie’s first marriage to surgeon David Winston was fine until it suddenly wasn’t, she and Steve have never learned how to argue. And it’s a skill they’re really going to need, since, already mother to 2-year-old Matthew and stepmom to teenage Emily, Mattie suddenly finds herself expecting another child she’s not entirely sure she wants.
Marital woes bog down an otherwise ingenious whodunit.