Looks like Marjorie Trumaine will have to put aside her indexing duties for a third time to deal with a pair of crimes that traumatize little Dickinson, North Dakota, even more deeply than herself.
Still unwilling to leave her farmhouse three months after her husband, Hank, succumbed to the wounds he’d received in a hunting accident, Marjorie (See Also Deception, 2016, etc.) is roused from her isolation not by Darlys Oddsdatter, who presses her to join Ladies Aid, but by the disappearance of Tina Rinkerman, a teenager with Down syndrome (the locals describe it in much harsher language in 1965) who couldn’t possibly last long on her own in the January cold. Determined to join the search for the girl, Marjorie is riding with acting sheriff Guy Reinhardt, the former deputy who narrowly defeated his predecessor, Duke Parsons, in the last election, when the two of them discover not Tina, but Nils Jacobsen, manager of the Red Owl grocery store, shot to death in his car. The suspects technically include pretty much every soul in Dickinson, but neither Guy nor Marjorie can imagine why any of them would have wanted to kill Nils. Even though Marjorie thinks she glimpsed Tina in a black car that passed her in a blinding snowstorm, the girl continues to be missing. So Guy, who has good reason to distrust many of the locals, sends Marjorie to the real-life Grafton State School, five hours away, where Tina spent most of her life, to pick up documents concerning her stay there. The bulky envelopes entrusted to Marjorie provide a motive for Nils’ murder, link the two cases, and put Marjorie’s life in danger.
Though nobody reads Sweazy for challenging, well-clued mysteries, this is his best-plotted yet. Mostly, however, it’s a sensitive dramatization of both the value and the sometimes-high cost of being a good neighbor.