The serenity of Wisconsin’s rugged Door County is shattered by a serial murderer.
Leigh Girard, a former Chicago teacher and now a reporter for the Door County Gazette, has moved into a friend’s trailer for the summer with her dog but without her boyfriend, poetic Gazette editor Jake, who’s taken off for parts unknown. Now she’s drawn into the search for a missing girl. After interviewing wealthy, arrogant land developer Russell Margaris and his wife when their daughter Janell, 15, goes missing from their vacation home, Leigh joins the search. Shortly thereafter, she helps find a body in the woods near the Mink River. The strangled girl, Janell’s friend Stephanie Everson, had just admitted to Leigh that she was covering up Janell’s secret romance with an unknown man. The next to die is a college student working on an endangered-butterfly project in an area Margaris is set to develop. The purple ponytail holder wrapped around each girl’s finger points to a common culprit. Leigh’s determined sleuthing brings her a series of cryptic notes, apparently from the killer. Eventually she identifies Janell’s lover, a 19-year-old who’s arrested for statutory rape and then murder. The police are indifferent to Leigh’s theories, but certain that the lover is not the killer, she keeps digging until she finds an answer in the past.
Leigh’s second (Destroying Angels, 2006) is fast-paced and literate, with a strong protagonist and a puzzle that keeps you guessing.