A retired schoolteacher’s part-time job turns her into an eager sleuth.
Alice Adams, bored with retirement and thinking that helping to edit the Clark’s Fort Guardian will give her something to do, ends up spending long days at work when Montana’s Meredith Mountain fire becomes big news. Her nephew, Stuart Campbell, who encouraged her to take the job after he signed on as assistant editor and general dogsbody right out of college, convinces the paper’s owner, Mort Weatherby, to let him go up on the mountain to take pictures and report the story. Once his stories and his amazing photos start coming in, they have to print more and extra issues to keep up with demand, and Alice is able to circumvent stingy Mort by convincing him that Stuart’s extra expenses will be worth it in the long run. After the fire is finally controlled, a new discovery keeps the story alive and growing: a body so badly burned that it will take a team of forensic scientists to come up with a cause of death. It takes Alice and Stuart a long session with Google to figure out what the final autopsy report is saying. In the meantime, some of Alice’s former students are ramping up their drug experimentation from a little pot to opioids stolen from their parents to finding a heroin connection. Many of the stories Alice and Stuart hear are contradictory and confusing. Have drugs arrived in a big way in their quiet little town?
In a departure from her police procedurals (Denny’s Law, 2016, etc.), Gunn introduces some engaging new characters but leaves too many loose ends for a satisfying conclusion.