A traveler accompanied by the wisecracking figure of Death struggles to put her past behind her as she investigates new friends in a little Idaho town.
Ever since the sudden demises of her husband and young son some years ago, Casey Maldonado has been literally haunted by Death. Though she’s tried to put her life back together, even trying to commit to Eric VanDiepenbos, her new boyfriend, she’s not ready to start living and wonders whether a road trip might help her find inner peace. While journeying through rural Idaho, she’s roughed up by some young men who don’t reckon with her knowledge of Hapkido. Acknowledging that she can’t continue on until she’s healed, Casey winds up getting a job and leasing an apartment from Armstrong general store owner Vern Daily. Vern was born and raised in the small town; his wife, Dottie Hass, came from outside—a fact none of the townspeople have ever let them forget, especially not Ethel Bernard, the woman everyone thought Vern would marry. It feels to Casey as if Vern and Dottie pay a daily penance, dealing with harassment and vandalism from town residents who blame Dottie for the death of her infant daughter years ago. Though Casey feels protective of the Dailys, she shies away from Dottie, who’s obviously in her final illness. In hopes of stopping some of the bullying, Casey digs into the history of the animosity, learning that something may have happened on a Halloween night many years ago, though she can’t get a straight answer about just what happened or who’s to blame. The figure of Death, which has changed personalities throughout this series (Dying Echo, 2012, etc.), seems divided this time between assisting Casey and trying on movie personalities for one-liners, as if Clemens still hasn’t settled on a role that fits the unearthly creature.
The mystery, which involves transitional characters in the series, heats up only at the very end, making it hard to get more invested in the heroine’s life than she seems to be.