In Deutermann’s gripping tenth (Firefly, 2003, etc.), an ugly crime sparks outrage and a look at what is and isn’t justice.
A North Carolina gas station is held up by a pair of inept thugs, and in the process, three people are killed. The perps are easily caught. They confess and are brought to trial, their conviction assured—except it isn’t. Lieutenant Cam Richter of the Manceford County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office—in court that day as a spectator—gets the kind of hollow feeling he’s had too often before: technicality looming. He’s right. Judge Annie Bellamy, who happens to be Cam’s ex-wife, bounces the case, devastating the victims’ families, infuriating the cops and delighting the mindless murderers, who can’t quite believe their luck. Enter vigilantism. The sheriff’s office receives a video recording in which Kyle (“K-Dog”) Simmonds, strapped in a homemade electric chair, meets his maker. At the end of the tape, a voice announces, “That’s one.” Soon enough, Deleon (“Flash”) Butts endures a similar fate. “That’s two,” the same voice says. Is the third meant to be the judge? Answers are hard to come by, and the hunt for them takes Cam to places he never expected to go.
Somewhat over-plotted, but the besetting conflict is substantive, and the characters are credible and sympathetic.