In the wake of family tragedy, does an oldest sister’s disappearance point to something even more nefarious?
As a child in Bartonville, Oregon, Emily Mills saw something terrible that she hasn’t been able to forget for 20 years. Even worse than seeing the body of her father, who was white, hanging from a tree in the backyard was seeing her older sister, Tara, at the scene of the crime. Tara leaves town and isn’t heard from again, so Emily can’t ask what she was doing there the fateful night their father was murdered. When their mother takes her own life shortly afterward, Emily and her youngest sister, Madison, never recover from the multiple traumas. Although they do their best to go on running Barton Diner, the family restaurant, Emily fears that her questions may never be answered. Though Chet Carlson was caught and eventually confessed to the crime, he’s still in prison when history seems to repeat itself through a double murder of interracial couple Sean and Lindsay Fitch, with Emily once again cast as the person who finds the bodies. Sean has a KKK sign carved into his head, which reminds Emily of whisperings about her father's racist connections. How else might the crimes be related? Rightfully not trusting the police to do a thorough investigation, Emily calls the FBI, which dispatches agents Zander Wells and Ava McLane to investigate. Elliot (Bred in the Bone, 2019) seems less interested in setting Emily up as part of the crime than in pairing her romantically with Zander. That’s just as well, because the who and why of the crimes feels almost incidental rather than displaying a deeper connection to any larger theme.
Part budding romance, part compelling backstory, part prescient tale of racism: provocative on all fronts without being quite satisfying on any.