Even though Thanksgiving’s only a few days away, the woman sobbing hysterically into the telephone doesn’t seem to have much to be grateful for. But Claire Watkins, Deputy Sheriff of Wisconsin’s Pepin County (Dark Coulee, 2000, etc.), can’t get her to say who she is before she hangs up. The next day Stephanie Klaus is walking around town with lumps that shouldn’t happen to a mashed potato, and more tears brim up when her new sweetie Buck Owens is found dead, trussed up in his truck, which has crashed through the ice covering Lake Pepin. Is Stephanie’s ex, a macho cop, to blame? Or her obsessively caring brother? Or Stephanie herself, out for revenge against her attacker? Claire’s pheasant-rancher boyfriend Rich, concerned for her safety, considers asking her to quit being sheriff, but Claire perseveres, even finding time to stop a caregiver from taking advantage of her geriatric charge, settling her daughter Meg’s differences with her bullying teacher, and getting Thanksgiving dinner on the table on time before putting the murderer/abuser in jail—where, inexplicably, Stephanie comes around to visit him, even though makeup can’t quite cover all her bruises yet.
Emotionally acute but predictable, with small-town minutiae rendered so faithfully that city folk are bound to feel stifled—and impatient to move on.