When four friends go camping at a lake, only three return, igniting a string of mysteries connecting a missing person to a web of crimes.
Sari Chesney, Mac Stephens, Ally Chang, and Jake Stephens spend a night at Lost Lake just as the snow surrounding the water is melting. Come morning, Sari’s nowhere to be found. Detective Gemma Monroe is immediately suspicious of big Mac, Sari’s boyfriend, and is sure something bad has happened but less sure that there’s a case here. Before her investigation has dug up very much, Gemma is summoned to the Cedar Valley History Museum, where director Betty Starbuck is beside herself, to investigate the theft of the valuable Owen Rayburn Diary. Sari’s been employed as an assistant curator at the museum, and Gemma is too hardheaded to believe that her disappearance is a coincidence. Betty, frantically preparing for a museum fundraiser, is more concerned about her missing historical artifact than the whereabouts of her irresponsible employee, and Gemma thinks there must be an obvious connection, but before the night is over, Betty, in a shocking turn, is viciously strangled. Working long hours on the developing cases, all of which are merging into one big mess, puts Gemma under a lot of pressure, which isn’t relieved by her fiancé, Brody Sutherland’s absence on yet another work trip. Even worse, the chief insists that there’s a departmental leak to the press and that Gemma’s responsible for identifying the leaker. She gets no help from her usually supportive partner, Finn Nowlin, who seems to think Gemma could be the one with loose lips.
Littlejohn remains adept at the “show, don’t tell” narrative style, even though the laborious way she shoehorns myths of Lost Lake into her puzzle gives this entry less of an eerie edge than its predecessors (A Season to Lie, 2017, etc.).