In south-central New Mexico, six people—all campers—are shot to death within the space of a few hours. A maniac on a killing spree seems the obvious conclusion, and the local cops leap to it. A little too eagerly, Kevin Kerney, chief deputy of the New Mexico State Police, decides. The sixth murder appears different to him. To begin with, why two shots instead of the one sufficient in the previous cases? In addition, the victim is retired Judge Vernon Langford, who has the kind of history conducive to the casting of a wider net. It just might be, Kerney thinks, that they're dealing with some macabre razzle-dazzle, that a clever and ruthless killer has perpetrated multiple murders for the sake of covering up one. But what a desperately difficult thing that would be to prove. Moreover, Kerney has other thorny issues to deal with. There's his recent marriage to Lt. Col. Sara Brannon—under strain because separate careers keep them so often apart. There's the ugly incident involving a fellow police officer and the violent end to it that leaves Kerney shaky, uncertain of his future, uncertain of himself. Maybe his razzle-dazzle idea is nothing but blue sky, a theory without substance. But Kerney can't help being relentless, and as his investigation brings him into closer contact with Judge Langford’s highly dysfunctional family, he begins to realize that no conjecture about them is too far-fetched.
Chief Kerney is, as always, attractively stalwart (Hermit's Peak, 1999, etc.): solid work from one of crime fiction's trustier hands.