The shocking identity of a murdered clown leads an investigator to wonder how much she really knows about the town she calls home.
When six-months-pregnant Gemma Monroe, a seasoned deputy in Cedar Valley, is called in to investigate the murder of a clown at the traveling circus, she’s astonished to discover the identity of the victim. Though the circus has known the clown as Reed Tolliver, the coroner identifies the body as that of Nicky Bellington, the mayor’s teenage son everyone thought was killed in a hiking accident three years earlier. The discovery reopens the file on Nicky’s death, prompting Gemma to pair with the department’s rookie cop, Sam Birdshead, to investigate. When their interviews with the Bellingtons lead to nothing more helpful than the reopening of the family’s old wounds, Gemma and Sam turn to Reed Tolliver’s life to see if they can find a motive within Nicky’s new identity or his carny family. Interviewing Reed’s girlfriend, Tessa, and her roommate reveals a love triangle, but is it a strong enough motive for murder? Gemma has a sense that the case is somehow related to the murder of two young boys some 30 years before, though her only evidence for this connection is her own nightmares. She almost wishes her partner, Brody, were back from his research trip to Alaska, but she knows that when he returns, he’ll want to know whether she’s in this relationship for good.
Presenting investigations into two different worlds gives Littlejohn, in her mystery debut, an opportunity to show her skills in drawing real characters and presenting them from the viewpoint of her appealing protagonist.