Hightower returns from the crossover territory of High Water (2002) to a sixth case for overconnected Kentucky private eye Lena Padget.
Eight weeks after Cheryl Dunkirk disappeared, the Lexington police, including Det. Joel Mendez, the cop Lena’s about to set up house with, are convinced from the gruesome evidence in her car that she’s dead, and almost equally convinced that Cory Edgers, the deputy sheriff on loan to a local ATF task-force, killed her. Even now, however, Paul Ellis Brady, Cheryl’s wealthy Pittsburgh stepfather, and his daughter Miranda are still hoping she’s alive—and what better investigator could they hire than the woman who’s sharing the lead detective’s bed? Although Lena (The Debt Collector, 2000, etc.) doesn’t find any new evidence to bolster their hope, there’s enough to learn about Cheryl’s position as an ATF intern—information disclosed not so much through heads-up investigation as through Hightower’s increasingly frequent cuts away to folks who know a lot more about a vendetta against federal agents present at the Waco inferno than Lena does—to suggest (1) that Cheryl’s disappearance may be more than an routine love quarrel gone bad and (2) that her clients are lying to her. Beyond all the crosscutting is a close-up of as ruthless a killer as Lena has ever faced.
The wholesale violence, often ugly but never gratuitous, satisfyingly confirms Lena’s belief that “there are no good guys, there are no bad guys, there are only guys.”