A good Samaritan comes to the aid of a dying man, who writes him a check with six zeroes in return for a favor in Beyer’s debut mystery.
Video editor Terry Holbrook witnesses the car ahead of him slide off an icy Michigan road during his nighttime drive home. His own car skids off the pavement, as well, but he manages to climb out of his vehicle and call 911. He stays with the other driver, Mike DeGraaf, who’s seriously injured. At Mike’s insistence, Terry prays for him and agrees to an unusual request—to save the man’s daughter, who isn’t there with them. As payment for this future rescue, Mike writes Terry a $2 million check. Mike, unfortunately, doesn’t make it, and later, his family unsurprisingly objects to Terry taking the check. Mike’s attorney, Abe Cohen, though, is more intent on Terry keeping his promise. However, it’s not clear which one of Mike’s three daughters needs help, or why, although one is estranged, and another may be a blackmail victim. Meanwhile, a dangerous white supremacist named P.J. is searching for the enigmatic Pearce Butler, whom he blames for a double-cross. This quest will eventually put Terry in harm’s way—making him potential collateral damage for someone else’s vengeance. Beyer blankets his tale in picturesque settings, delivering a stunning contrast between a snowy February in Michigan (“The crunch of boots on hard snow”) and sunny California (“The asphalt felt soft and smelled hot and tarry”). Terry is a believable character who’s not without flaws; for instance, he doesn’t immediately tell his wife, Christina, about the check, and, later, in a memorable scene, he lets his temper get the better of him. But he plays second fiddle to the more curious Pearce, who never quite loses his air of mystery. The narrative has a distinct sense of menace, courtesy of the bad guys that crop up, as well as occasional moments of humor.
A rock-solid premise produces an enthralling plot and characters.