A North Dakota farm wife–turned-indexer who’s cared for her husband ever since an accident left him unable to take care himself takes on still another job—amateur sleuth—when someone begins cutting her neighbors’ throats.
It's 1964. Ever since a freak accident with his shotgun left Hank Trumaine blind and disabled, he’s been wholly dependent on his wife, Marjorie, who ekes out some income by indexing books for far-off H.P. Howard and Sons, and their friends and neighbors for his care. Things take an abrupt turn for the worse when Dickinson Sheriff Hilo Jenkins tells Marjorie that her neighbors Erik and Lida Knudsen have had their throats slit, leaving their college-age sons, Peter and Jaeger, suddenly orphaned. The day after Jenkins asks Marjorie to help him learn more about a mysterious amulet clutched in Erik Knudsen’s dead hand brings an even bigger shock: the sheriff's wife, Ardith Jenkins, disappears from Hank’s side, where she’d been helping Marjorie, and turns up behind the Trumaine barn with her own throat cut. Nor will she be the last casualty. Sweazy (The Devil’s Bones, 2012, etc.) establishes a quiet atmosphere that’s somehow never broken by the horrific series of murders. There’s not much of a small-town feel to the proceedings, though the tale is sensitive to the rhythms of the Trumaine farm. Nor is there any detection to speak of: after carefully researching the amulet’s significance, Marjorie leaps to a conclusion—“It’s just a gut feeling,” she says—and identifies the wrong suspect.
A distinctive bonus, however, is that Marjorie, an indexer to the tips of her fingers, includes a draft index to her own first case. That’s got to be unique in the annals of the genre.