Newspaper editor Garth Ryland, unofficial special deputy of Oakalla, Wis. (Dead Letter, 1991, etc.), is catapulted to responsibility when the sheriff takes two weeks off for a training program and greenhorn deputy Eugene Yuill cracks under the pressure. Not that you can blame Eugene: Anybody would have the willies getting called out to Monroe Edwards's place by his ever- vigilant neighbor Luella Skiles and finding the 400-pound Monroe dead in his private elevator. Eugene's got an easy arrest to make after he finds Monroe's sodden neighbor Tom Ford wandering around Monroe's house, claiming he just opened the wrong door, but he doesn't read Tom his Miranda rights, Tom refuses to talk, and before long he's escaped, sending Eugene into a fit of overwrought weeping. So it's up to Garth to follow the trail of a mysterious painting Tom reportedly bought at a tag sale run by Mose Weidner and his rebellious son Martin, then turned around and sold to Monroe at a fat profit. Has Pembleton Museum curator Lawrence Hess got his hands on the missing canvas, or did Monroe stash it with somebody before he died? If Garth can take his eyes off comely schoolteacher Amber Utley long enough to work together with Dr. Abby Pence-Airhart, the town's new surgeon and pathologist, maybe he can figure out why somebody's willing to kill repeatedly for such a worthless painting. Every surprise Riggs detonates, even the smallest red herring, deepens the sense of the characters and their relations. The result is a story that crackles with authentic small-town tension.