Two dysfunctional families in Washington state are sunk in a morass of murder and suicide.
Judith Hough is a war hero who suffers from PTSD. Her father, another war hero, was also a mean drunk and a bully who recently committed suicide. After his death, his son, Russ, returned home to get the family farm in the fictional Latouche County up and running for his hapless mother. Russ, whose mother is a member of the Klalos tribe, which owns land and businesses near the Columbia River Gorge, had left home after he graduated high school and hasn’t been seen since. Not even Jack Redfern, the uncle who pretty much raised him, knew that he went to college, earned several degrees, and landed an excellent job with a major wine company. Next to the Hough farm is the land of wealthy, canny, nasty Frank August, who’s getting into the wine business. Frank turned over his bank to his son, Francis Jr., then took all his money out before it went bottom up, leaving Junior holding the bag. Jane, the daughter from Frank’s first marriage, an artist with enough money of her own to do what she pleases, is staying with her father and his fifth wife, 30-year-old Libby, while looking for a place to live nearby. Jane meets Russ, who already has one artificial leg, when she helps him after an accident in his cherry orchard. When Frank vanishes and his SUV turns up buried deep in brush near the river, Judith would probably be a suspect or a witness were she not in the hospital in a coma after trying to kill herself. Jane and Russ’ burgeoning romantic relationship is stressed by the investigation that follows the discovery of Frank’s body buried in the orchard. Realizing that she and Russ will never have a solid relationship until the mystery is solved, Jane reluctantly investigates.
The forth in Simonson’s Latouche County series (Beyond Confusion, 2013, etc.) marries a story that draws you in with some fascinating characters worth being drawn to. The ending, alas, is a letdown.