A suspicious fire that claims two of a trainer’s 14 horses opens the gate to a long list of felonies past and present.
Even before the blaze, Carlin Underwood had her hands full caring for her husband, Zane, left mostly paralyzed after an unaccountably violent run-in with his horse Rogue’s Honor. Now, even though her groom, Gerardo Gonzales, has rescued most of her stock, her barn is a total loss, and she’s more certain than ever that someone’s got it in for her and Zane. When insurance investigator Jared McKean asks who, she’s quick to answer: one of the Big Lick crowd whose practice of soring horses—deliberately burning or disfiguring them to produce an artificially high-stepping gait—she’s long fought. The list includes wealthy Sam Trehorne, Sheriff Hap Trehorne’s older brother; 80-year-old Jim Lister and his 40-year-old wife, Rhonda; Trudy Valentine, Zane’s childhood sweetheart; and Eleanor Underwood, his mother. With material support from Khanh, the half sister who figured so largely in River of Glass (2014), Jared probes the Big Lick crowd and talks as well to Doc Dave Willoughby, an ex-sorer who’s seen the light, and Eli Barringer, a cub reporter for the Nashville Sextant. The pattern that emerges bears out some of Carlin’s most dire suspicions—an awful lot of people who’ve accused the Big Lick people of soring have died prematurely, including someone whose bones Jared finds in the loft of the Underwoods’ burned barn—but confounds others. It’s up to Jared to figure out which are which, assuming of course that he can tear himself from the unsought embraces of Rhonda Lister long enough to try.
After a tense prologue, Terrell settles into a relaxed rhythm that allows all the complications you’d want from a 40-year-old conspiracy without ever breaking a sweat.