On the far side of 50, Don Robak (Robak’s Witch, 1997, etc.) finally seems to have left hard liquor and hard times behind him. For five years now the former defense attorney has been a circuit court judge in Majeff County, Indiana, performing admirably. People like and respect him. No one much doubts he’ll trounce the lackluster opposition in the upcoming election. Most importantly, he’s found a good woman—beautiful, sweet-natured Jo, who makes his life the sensible thing he never imagined it would be. And then Jo comes down with an illness so mysterious that a small army of doctors can’t put a name to it, though all agree it has an excellent chance of proving fatal—an illness so devastating that after a while Don begins to believe it man-made. In some obscene way, he becomes convinced, an enemy of his has manufactured a killer disease and custom-fit it to Jo as a particularly sadistic form of payback. Two names stand out on Don’s long list of enemies. Damion Darius Wolfer’s monster of a son, convicted of a grisly double murder, is parked on death row, awaiting the execution to which Don has sentenced him. Libbie Macing is the rich and ruthless lover Don discarded. An alliance between Libbie and Wolfer would be unholy indeed.
Or it should be. The story starts well enough, then stumbles, doubles back on itself repeatedly, wanders about in philosophical thickets, and ultimately loses its way.