A tornado bears down on Nichols County, Indiana, just as things are already getting stormy for Deputy Marty Hopkins (Bloodstream, 1995, etc.).
The backlog in the county sheriff’s caseload begins with bank teller Stephanie Stollnitz, found dead in her office building. The obvious suspect is abusive ex-husband Clay, but Marty can’t imagine how he managed to kill her without leaving a mark on her, even if he’d planned a departure from his customary more hands-on style. Returning one step ahead of the storm is Coral Turley, 16, who ran away from home to join a rock group and found that the Lily Pistols made only her worst nightmares come true. When the tornado hits—and its brief duration after all the ominous portents provides both a heightened sense of realism and a major anticlimax—it leaves Lily Pistol lead singer Hoyt Heller dead in its wake, apparently (but only apparently) killed by flying debris. Working patiently, despite the nerve-shredding distraction of her estranged husband’s strident opposition to their divorce, Marty links the two deaths to a third. But can she bring the killer to book before Steffie’s grieving father takes the law into his own hands?
Though that tornado is a mite too metaphorical and its damage too generously distributed—you can see why the sheriff has “just about OD’d on the multiple tragedies”—Marty’s third ends by tying its outbreak of mayhem into a satisfyingly neat package.