Confronting her department’s latest homicide, Lt. Julian Palmer, a cop on the rise, sees in it all the aspects of a potential career-breaker. The Ryans are prototypically middle-class, clean as a whistle, solid-as-they-come citizens of Troy, New York, so that when Francis Ryan, the young head of the family, is murdered, Julian knows the media will swarm. And that her gimlet-eyed boss, who dislikes her—along with her entire gender—will be all over it, too. He’ll be mining every Julian Palmer screwup for material to spike the Julian Palmer fast track. Lacking anything that even resembles a lead, she badly needs help. It just so happens that it’s suddenly available in the person of Winston (“Bear”) Edwards, the legendary ex-detective who was once her mentor. The trouble is, the ex-cop is also a fearsome ex-con just out of the slammer—despite the testimony of Julian, who five years ago had tried her hardest to put him away for good. Soon enough, the odd couple of Palmer and Edwards discovers skeletons in the spotless Ryan family closet. But Julian has secrets, too, eerily paralleling those the Ryans are hiding. And, clearly, Winston Edwards is exactly the instrument appointed to disinter them. Given his history with her, though, what will he do with what he digs up?
The plotting is overly complex, the prose occasionally over the top, but Stone (The Cold Truth, 1999) creates the kind of people who can make a reader turn pages.