According to Joy Stinnet, the last of the home-invasion victims to die—and her brutal, tender death scene is the first tip-off that Hightower’s fifth police novel is up to something special—the Stinnet home was broken into by two men and an angel. Evidence piles up at an almost indecent rate against the two men, olive-addicted sociopath Lanky Aruba and his nephew Barty Kinkle. But what is Cincinnati Police Detective Sonora Blair supposed to do about the angel? From her partner, Sam Delarosa, to her boss, Sergeant Crick, to Crick’s ex-partner Jack Van Owen, retired by a gunshot years ago but now back in the thick of this case, nobody agrees with Sonora that there must have been a third man in the Stinnet house, somebody who broke Barty’s tooth and hid Joy Stinnet and her baby under her bed. As the case hurtles on at Hightower’s accustomed breakneck speed, though, it’s increasingly obvious, at least to Sonora, that tracking and watching and arresting Aruba and Kinkle isn’t going to get to the bottom of the mystery. And that isn’t just because the Stinnets’ unpaid debts to updated loan sharks seem a pitifully inadequate motive for the nightmare of their deaths, but because Hightower is drawing close to the other kinds of mystery—to territory most cop novels would blanket with crime-scene tape and ignore.
Even without the hard core of logic that marks Sonora’s best cases, Hightower (No Good Deed, 1998, etc.) evokes a world richer in possibilities of guilt and redemption than most crime novelists’ unqualified successes.