A real estate agent is unwittingly drawn into a murder mystery that involves political intrigue in this debut novel.
Imogene Byrne is a controversial woman in the small town of Conrad: twice widowed, with both of her former husbands dying under circumstances considered by many suspicious, and both leaving her considerable life insurance payouts. She runs a successful real estate firm and raises two sons—one from each of her marriages—and regularly rails against what she perceives as the decline of the country into complacency and mediocrity. She even establishes an organization—St. Jude Today—designed to draw attention to her remarkably broad and shrill caterwauls of complaint. A local religious leader—Bishop Daniel B. Lamping— dies suddenly of what seems to be natural causes, but his personal physician, Sawyer Paine, suspects that an insect bite on the bishop’s arm was actually caused by a tiny dart allegedly used in CIA assassinations. Paine’s only real evidence for that fantastical conclusion is his recollection of the dart’s discussion during Senate hearings in the 1970s. Meanwhile, a trio of outlaws kidnaps Imogene and her son Connor to extract a significant ransom. Their plan is thwarted by Imogene’s other son, Carl—a police officer—and it turns out one of the perpetrators is responsible for the murder of Bishop Lamping, contracted by an ex-CIA operative. The FBI opens an investigation into the matter. McGrath flashes back to Bishop Lamping’s life to slowly—the pace of the book is akin to a leisurely stroll—furnish insight into why he came to be a target for assassination in the first place. The plot suffers no shortage of action, though it does splinter under the weight of both implausibility and convolution. In addition, the dialogue is halting and leaden. Consider this line delivered by Connor regarding his upcoming vacation with Imogene: “ ‘Mother, I know you well enough to know that our visit to these locations will be worth our time from a purely personal enjoyment standpoint,’ Connor answered while chuckling.” No one talks like that in real life, but everyone does in McGrath’s novelistic cosmos.
An action-packed thriller, marred by a lumbering plot and mechanical prose.