Cutting loose from his white-shoe Mobile law firm hasn’t sent Tom McInnes back to his family home in Coopers Bend, but hearing that his kid brother Hall has died does. His parents are as remote from each other, and mostly from Tom, as ever, but he does get to know his brother better than ever. Item: Hall didn’t drown in the Alabama River: he was shot to death. Item: the good-time drug supplier was involved with some serious felonies and some serious bad guys. Item: Hall’s girlfriend Christy Shores hardly waits till he’s cold before coming on to Tom. When the case file the local sheriff has loaned him is stolen from his family’s house during Hall’s funeral, Tom decides to follow the trail that leads from Hall to the shadowy higher-ups behind his gambling and drug-dealing. It’s a decision that’ll send him first to seek the help of Mike Gerrard, the most dangerous man in Alabama, and then to battle Gerrard’s endless supplies of curveballs and underlings. Before long, Tom’s quest to find out the truth about Hall’s death has turned into a life-or-death struggle to avoid the lassos Gerrard’s tossing around his neck—and Stewart, in a brilliantly plotted curve of rising suspense, is stripping away Tom’s allies by implicating them one by one in the murder as Tom swims through murky layers of deception, laying down a few himself. An atmospheric setting, evocative family background, Chinese box of a plot, and a hero tough and clever enough to surprise you as much as the bad guys—it all makes for the most accomplished debut of the season, an obvious Edgar contender, and a serious threat for the title of Compleat Suspense Novel.