1965. Echoes of the Vietnam War trouble the waters of Black River Falls, Iowa—which, as fans of attorney/investigator Sam McCain know, were never all that peaceful to begin with.
Something about Harrison Doran makes certain people want to take a swing at him. Whether it’s his larger-than-life good looks, his way with the ladies, his antiwar stance, or the promise that he’ll inherit $10 million, even mild-mannered McCain can’t abide him. When hawkish Korean veteran Lou Bennett is stabbed to death the night after he decks Doran at an antiwar rally, McCain’s alcoholic boss, Judge Esme Anne Whitney, asks him to represent Doran and prepare a defense on his behalf. That means replacing him in jail with someone else, even though Doran, after his initial panic has passed, indicates that he’s in no hurry to be found innocent or even to make bail. To the accompaniment of a ’60s soundtrack and concomitant cultural markers from Norman Mailer to Candid Camera, McCain makes the rounds of the usual sources (idiot police chief Cliffie Sykes, reporter Sally Weaver, soft-core pornographer Kenny Thibodeau) and fresh new faces auditioning for the role of killer: book-burning preacher H. Dobson Cartwright, Bennett’s daughter Linda Raines, ultra-right-wing retired fire chief Ralph DePaul, and William Hughes, who’s been Bennett’s dogsbody ever since Bennett saved his life in Korea. When finally identified, however, the killer comes out of deep left field.
The locals seem to be displaying more dirty laundry more openly than usual (Fools Rush In, 2007, etc.). Blame the Beatles.