When Barrett Raines, of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is asked to run for county sheriff, he’s not just flattered and intrigued, but on fire for the job. To begin with, no African-American has ever been elected anything in Suwannee County, which might be reason enough to run right there. As sheriff, he’d be top law-enforcement dog, boss of his own clean, efficient department. But the proposition would also be a Faustian bargain with rich, powerful, utterly unscrupulous Linton Loyd, a powerbroker who’s never given a single volt of power away. Loyd hates incumbent Lou Sessions, and nothing would please him more than to see Sessions jobless and thoroughly aware of how he got that way. While Barrett is still debating the pluses and minuses of Loyd’s offer, a series of grisly murders drastically changes its terms. All three homicides are connected in one way or another to the Loyd family—at first to Gary, the no-account heir apparent, then to Linton Loyd himself. Sheriff Sessions is delighted when the case against his longtime enemy begins to seem airtight—so delighted that honest Barrett Raines, to whom law enforcement is a high calling, finds it more complicated than usual to be honest Barrett Raines.
Best of the series so far (Dead Man’s Bay, 2000, etc.), flawed only by a Grand Guignol finale tacked on to an ending that’s already wound up the tale as neat as can be.