In Minnesota, the February sky is gray, the air is frigid, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is jangling the synapses of everyone in the town of Rutherford, including Detective Jake Hines’s best gal Trudy, who threw his galoshes into the snow and stomped off for no reason he can fathom. At work, matters are even worse. Hines learns that eight-year-old Billy Sheets, waiting for the school bus, has suddenly fallen face down dead of unknown causes, and the police chief’s son, teenager P.K. McCafferty, has started a major brouhaha in the Central School lot, with everyone taking sides and throwing punches. Although no one heard or saw it, scientific investigation turns up a bullet in Billy’s back. Tracking its trajectory leads Jake to a supposedly locked shed—except that a couple of kids have broken in and left shell casings that match the ones used in several random dog killings, and now in Billy’s death. Before Jake and Trudy patch things up, P.K. will be taken hostage, a sharpshooter will suffer through a bout of acrophobia, and the mysterious behavior of a pair of teenagers and young Billy’s senseless murder will be traced to darker, meaner impulses than those unleashed by SAD.
A near-perfect blend of detection, police procedure, small-town quirkiness, and middle-aged romantic noncommunication. The series, now on its fourth entry (Five Card Stud, 2000, etc.), just keeps getting better.