The planned Northwestern Kansas regional police department is just coming to birth when its very first case puts the whole concept in jeopardy.
Lottie Albright, historian and undersheriff, has been chosen to head the regional police force. While she’s showing her husband’s aunt, mystery writer Dorothy Mercer, a historic site, they find the body of a local young man in the mausoleum and, even worse, the body of a baby resting on a nearby sculpture. When Lottie calls Frank Dimon of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, he encourages Lottie to coordinate the local effort, though both the KBI and the FBI may become involved. Lottie’s husband, retired veterinarian and reserve deputy Keith Fiene, comes aboard. So does Lottie’s twin sister, Josie Albright, a clinical psychologist who’s helped Lottie before (Hidden Heritage, 2013, etc.). Noticing how clever Dorothy is at spotting clues, Lottie makes her a consultant. The only unfortunate addition is Dr. Evan Ferguson, a narcissistic psychologist forced on the team by pressure from a state representative. The murdered young man’s parents are devastated, and his sister, Merilee, is a wreck who’s obviously hiding something. Another baby is discovered dead on a statue, and an online search discloses at least one older but similar case. Lottie and Dorothy, meanwhile, have both become fascinated by the commonplace book of Franklin Slocum that’s recently been turned in to the historical society. As they read the tale of a physically handicapped young man widely regarded as an idiot, kept by his mother only for the disability check she can claim and left to roam at will, they discover some shocking parallels to their case. Franklin writes an eyewitness account of a man who rapes and kills both young women and boys and buries the bodies in the woods where he roams.
Hinger does a wonderful job connecting a young boy’s grim life with a horrific crime spree and the knotty problem of for-profit prisons.