Childhood friendships and personal needs complicate a border agent’s life when she takes on a homicide-suicide case in her hometown in northern Maine.
As U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Peyton Cote watches a cabin burn in Fred St. Pierre’s 450-acre potato field, the smell of gas makes her think the cabin was being used as a meth lab. It’s not a reach: the farm is on the border of enormous but sparsely populated Aroostook County and Canada, and it’s a likely spot for drug dealers and other undesirables to cross back and forth. But the cabin isn’t the only casualty. Peyton and her colleagues find the charred body of Simon Pink, whom St. Pierre hired to deliver potatoes for him. The case takes an even more disturbing turn when Fred shoots his wife, Marie, and then himself. Hidden money and two plane tickets to Prague in Marie’s and Simon’s names suggest a motive for the murder-suicide, especially since Peyton, who’s known the family since childhood, witnessed how possessive and controlling Fred was. For years he smacked Marie around, and he broke up his daughter’s friendship with Peyton. As if the family didn’t have enough drama, it turns out that fire didn’t kill Simon Pink: he was shot with a bullet from Fred Jr.’s gun. Peyton tries to keep from getting killed herself, ekes out time for her son and the high school teacher she’s dating, and hopes to use her insight into the St. Pierre family to help solve the case. But a connection to a Czech terrorist group and the discovery of IEDs soon have the tiny town of Garrett swarming with agents all the way up the food chain—especially given the impending recreational visit from the president.
Although Keeley (Bitter Crossing, 2014, etc.) clearly hoped to outdo himself in Peyton’s second adventure, he gets in his own way with a monotonous style and a cluster of extraneous characters. Still, his tough but compassionate heroine triumphs against the odds.