An animal sacrifice is prelude to human murder in Montana.
The dead and dying should be all in a day’s work for Harold Little Feather and his lover and boss, Hyalite County Sheriff Martha Ettinger. But the moaning, broken bodies of bison that left the protected herd on federal property and stampeded over the cliffs guarding the Madison River are heartbreaking. Though Harold’s own Blackfeet ancestors used to drive the bison over these cliffs and then kill them in an age-old ritual, he doesn’t like having to destroy the first bison to return in 150 years to his people’s old hunting grounds. Worse yet, a blood trail he and Martha follow leads to a human body. While Martha tries to learn the identity of the dead man and wrangles with the Montana Department of Livestock over the fate of the stampede’s sole surviving bison, her ex-lover Sean Stranahan is getting friendly with a mermaid. Ida Evening Star, one of the swimming attractions of a local bar, hires Sean, who’s a private eye (Crazy Mountain Kiss, 2015, etc.) when he isn’t a fishing guide and a watercolor artist, to find her childhood sweetheart, John Running Boy. Sean’s quest overlaps with Martha’s when they learn that John was one of four young men who drove the bison over the cliffs. As Sean and Martha join forces in professional camaraderie and personal regret, the search widens to include an old arrow maker, a bison advocacy group, and a white man called the Great Tatanka. Sean increasingly suspects that the masterminds behind the jump and the murder don’t share his respect for the land, the wildlife that inhabit it, and the people who first lived on it. And he’ll put his own life on the line to stop the culprits.
The fifth case for McCafferty’s fly-tying detective is as rich in history, local color, and unique characters as the first four. You can’t help hoping that the two leads will solve the problems of their relationship as readily as all those crimes.