A fragile child-woman witnesses her long-lost mother’s murder in the Montana woods behind her isolated house.
Grace Adams, not quite 18, is living with her recently widowed aunt in the remote town of Collier and convalescing from a heart transplant when she calls 911 to report that her mother, Leanne, is being attacked by a strange man. When Jared Peterson and his fellow paramedic arrive, however, they find Grace, dressed in a babydoll nightgown, in the snow next to a bloodstained kimono and Leanne’s body. Grace was only 7 when Leanne abandoned her in a trailer, and since then, the two hadn’t seen each other until the day of Leanne’s death. The murder brings Detective Macy Greeley from Helena to investigate the killing and its connection to the trucking company of Arnold Lamm, Leanne’s brother-in-law. In addition to still being frustrated by four murders she couldn’t pin on Arnold and Leanne in the past, Macy is heavily pregnant, unmarried and uncertain about how she’ll deal with the baby. As if she didn’t have enough trouble, she has to work with former flame Jared—and he’s romantically caught between a nurse and a woman married to an abusive husband. He also takes Grace under his wing, especially when more sad facts about her childhood emerge. As Grace recovers her health and grows in confidence, however, she’s determined to follow up on Leanne’s last words to her, even though they may send her into the clutches of her mother’s murderer.
Despite a style that’s much flatter than its setting, Salvalaggio’s debut deftly intertwines a town without a future and citizens without hope, people in need and people who need to be needed, and a new murder that brings closure to four unsolved cases.