The Deputy Sheriff of Pepin County, Wisconsin, fends off weariness, a marriage proposal, and whoever’s out to avenge the July 7, 1952, atrocities of the Schulers, a farming family of German extraction.
Claire Watkins (Glare Ice, 2001, etc.) puts her pheasant-breeder boyfriend Rich on hold while she deals with the theft of two potentially lethal pesticides from the Farmer’s Cooperative. The nasty stuff is soon used to hose down the garden outside the sheriff’s office, decimate the chicken population at the old Schuler homestead (now leased by the Daniels clan), and lace the lemonade at the annual Fourth of July picnic, sending Andy Lowman, the son of the deputy who discovered the Schuler bodies, into a coma. Bits of desiccated finger bone deposited at each site and letters left at the local newspaper office indicate that everything’s tied to the 50-year-old unsolved slaughter of Otto Schuler, his wife, and five kids. Will Claire make sense of it all? You betcha, but not before misidentifying several local oldsters as suspects and misreading the initial crime scene, while the plot tumbles this way and that, thumbing its nose at logic, until it falls down an old well and hits rock bottom.
The liveliest critters in town are the mosquitoes.