June 1963. To the usual period trappings of Black River Falls, Iowa—ragtops, barber shops, s’mores, Woolworth’s—Gorman adds racial tensions.
Who took the photos of popular Senator Lloyd Williams’s daughter Lucy and her black boyfriend David Leeds holding hands as they strolled the campus of the University of Iowa? Believing that it was shady shutterbug Richie Neville, Judge Esme Anne Whitney sends her sometime investigator Sam McCain (Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, 2004, etc.) to look around his place. Sam finds something much worse than the negatives: the bodies of Richie and David. Dumb police chief Cliffie Sykes blames the shootings on errant bikers. Richie’s brother Will and half-brother James are thinking conspiracy, even though they may have been in line to inherit his blackmail operation themselves. Sam has his eye on Lucy’s racist ex-boyfriend, Rob Anderson, and his buddy Nick Hannity. If racism were the qualification for each suspect, of course, Sam would have to take in half the population of Black River Falls. But he wouldn’t be doing it under the watchful eye of Judge Whitney, who’s finally realized she has a drinking problem and agreed to take the cure. Instead, Sam turns to new prosecutor Jane Sykes, a smarter, better-looking cousin of Cliffie, mends fences with the D.A.’s office and wonders if he’s found still another chance at true love.
Another picture postcard from middle America at a time when things seemed simpler but weren’t.