The complex case of a back-alley murder and a coverup raises the low crime rate of a remote Montana town.
When John Dalton, a decorated veteran and the son of a wealthy rancher, is shot to death next to a bar in Wilmington Creek, the captain of the state police, Ray Davidson, appoints Detective Macy Greeley as a special investigator. Davidson, the father of Macy’s young son, has yet to keep his promise about leaving his wife. Macy’s single-mother status helps her bond with John’s twin sister, Jessie, a former drug addict with a 6-year-old daughter by a man she doesn’t remember. John’s murder devastates Jessie, whose twin was her bulwark against a bullying father and a mentally unstable mother. Unfortunately, the sole witness to the murder has bad vision, and a text to Jessie’s mother that apologizes for the murder makes the case even murkier, as do a poisoned dog and John’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Davidson’s visits from Helena to oversee the case complicate Macy’s investigation further, especially when the town sheriff reminds her that sleeping with her boss is a bad idea yet wants to spend a night with her himself. Macy doesn’t know that receding lake waters threaten to reveal criminal evidence that John and two childhood friends wanted to stay hidden. The past catches up with the present in a death by fire and a near miss for Macy in an explosion meant to kill someone else. The disappearance of the leader of a local militia, relationships ranging from ill-advised to obsessive to deadly, and a plot that depends on key players hiding their true selves add to a Gordian knot of a plot that could have been just as good with fewer threads.
The dense web of characters contrasts with the spare style in this sequel to Bone Dust White (2014). Salvalaggio devotes as much attention to personalities as to the events that pull people together and drive them apart.