There are more tricks than treats when a quiet college town bursts into violence on Halloween.
Grace Adams changed her surname to Larson before enrolling as an art major at a liberal arts college in Bolton. On Halloween she chooses another identity, Carrie, from Stephen King’s eponymous horror novel, at a costume contest in a local bar. On a long, drunken walk home, she falls asleep on a stranger’s lawn and awakens to the smell of a burning house—the nearby mansion belonging to bestselling author Peter Granger and his wife, Hannah. Grace had once been almost a member of the family, until Peter kicked her out of his writing workshop and Hannah stopped giving her painting lessons. Now she’s a person of interest in the matter of the ruined mansion and the two burned bodies found in the conjugal bed. When Detective Macy Greeley, a special investigator for the Montana Department of Justice, is called in to supervise the case, not only does she know Bolton well from her college days, but she also has a history with Grace and knows better than almost anyone why Grace was so resentful of Peter for basing a crime novel on her traumatic past (Bone Dust White, 2014). As Macy interviews the Grangers’ devoted personal assistant, as well as Hannah’s lover, the evidence—revelations about Peter’s manipulative relationships with the young female students in his workshop, a set of compromising photographs—indicates that the burned house was definitely arson and one of the corpses is Peter. Also missing is Grace’s threatening letter to Peter, his laptop, the draft of his crime novel, and paintings worth millions. But the biggest question is not who killed Peter before setting his house on fire but who’s the woman whose burned body was found next to his?
Salvalaggio’s fourth installment (Walleye Junction, 2016, etc.) lives up to her talent for dropping unhappy souls into grim circumstances and handing them over to her flawed but capable protagonist to save or arrest.