An open-and-shut case of murder leads Virgil Flowers, of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (Rough Country, 2009, etc.), to a twisted, century-old conspiracy.
Despite his efforts to pass off Jacob Flood’s death as an accident, it’s no secret that Robert Tripp, 19, killed the farmer with a baseball bat. The wounds that were supposed to have disabled Flood had obviously been inflicted after death, and Bobby all but confessed to Warren County Sheriff Lee Coakley. But the case turned darker the night that Coakley arrested her suspect, whose apparent suicide in his cell is pretty clearly murder as well. Jim Crocker, the overnight deputy who was supposed to guard the prisoner but who killed him instead, didn't kill himself, since despite a death scene staged to suggest that he ate his gun, it’s obvious to a trained investigator like Virgil Flowers that Crocker was enjoying the favors of a female visitor only a few seconds before he departed this life. As if three murders weren’t enough, Virgil swiftly, if intuitively, ties them to a fourth: the sexual violence that claimed the life of high-school student Kelly Baker, who was found naked, violated, but conscientiously scrubbed clean of DNA 14 months ago in a cemetery just across the Iowa border. Once Virgil’s begun to question everyone in the town of Battenberg, he’s immediately struck by the involvement of so many of the town’s citizens—from the parents who home-schooled Kelly Baker and insist that their daughter had no time for boys, to Emmett Einstadt, Jacob Flood’s monumentally creepy father-in-law—in the World of Spirit, a Bible-based church that follows a very different path to salvation than Virgil’s father, a Lutheran minister, ever preached. The mystery, which is resolved early on, leads to an extended series of cat-and-mouse games between Virgil and the people he knows are guilty of some truly heinous crimes.
Lurid and overscaled.