1967: a fifth trip back to Center Springs, Texas, focuses on one regular’s attempt to bust out of the place for good.
“Focuses” may not be the best word, since once all the cylinders start firing, Wortham interleaves four different stories. Pepper Parker, still recovering at 14 from the traumas visited on her by earlier installments (Vengeance Is Mine, 2014, etc.), yields to Baptist preacher’s son Cale Westlake’s suggestion that the two of them hit the road together, bound for San Francisco. Pepper’s same-aged cousin, Top, tells his own story of missing her while he tries to stay out of the way of all the grown-ups looking for her and convinced that he knows where she’s headed. Pepper’s father, James Parker, and his own father, Constable Ned Parker, fan out along the winding road to California looking for the missing girl, making new friends and enemies at every turn. Anna Sloan, the new deputy Top’s uncle, Sheriff Cody Parker, has brought from Houston, makes increasingly pointed inquiries about the hit-and-run death of inoffensive farmer Leland Hale. The first story, in which Pepper fights off both menacing bikers and the folks who rescue her from them as she chases the Summer of Love, is the one most deeply rooted in the period; the second is the one most obviously calculated to appeal to series fans; the third, tangling Ned with a Comanche who calls himself Crow, is the most eventful; the fourth packs the most mystery and, despite all indications, the biggest surprises.
Once again, Wortham supplies something for everyone—especially fans of summer movies who love chase sequences so much that they don’t care who’s chasing whom.