A compassionate small-town constable tries to unravel a grim murder puzzle while struggling with a tough patch in his personal life.
Tipton (Vt.) constable Hector Bellevance has a surprisingly eventful birthday. It begins with the discovery of a headless, handless body in the nearby woods. Later, Hector tries to intercede in the simmering feud between Vaughn Higbee and his irascible father-in-law, Marcel Boisvert. Marcel was estranged from his daughter Kathy when she died in a plane crash, and abusive to his wife Shirley, whose best friend, town clerk Ella McPhetres, has convinced her to leave him. Though Marcel loves his young grandson Marc, Vaughn keeps them apart. Hector’s lover Wilma, a crack reporter for the local newspaper, breaks two pieces of important news over dinner: She’s pregnant, and she’s been offered a big job in Boston. Next morning, Hector discovers the body of Ella, shot to death at the town hall. He rushes to Marcel and Shirley’s house, where he finds Sheriff Pete Mueller shot equally dead and no one else around. Hector assumes Marcel is the killer, but State Police, abetted by forensics tests, think Marcel may be a victim as well. Amazingly, they suspect Hector. Capping this nightmarish day, Wilma gets fired. Hector determines to solve the crime, a complex challenge.
A bit overstuffed and front-loaded, but Bredes (Cold Comfort, 2001, etc.) writes superbly and creates compelling, believable characters.