Sheriff Bill Gastner, now in his late 60s, well-padded around the middle, and sweltering through another patch of the torrid weather in Posadas County, New Mexico, has two problems concerning young deputy Tom Pasquale. Carla Camplin, the deputy’s wacky landlady, wants him evicted for damages, and anonymous notes sent to several of the county commissioners accuse him of stopping Mexans on the highway and shaking them down. Before Gastner even has time to send the notes for fingerprinting, there's worse news: Plumber Jim Sisson is dead in his garage, and although someone went to a lot of trouble to make it look like an accident, Gastner and Undersheriff Bob Torrez, tracking blood trajectory and backhoe tread marks, know it was murder. In a place like Posadas, it's not long before the rumor mill swings into action. Sisson's bickering wife Grace was having an affair with a county commissioner; her jailbait daughter Jennifer was pregnant, possibly by the commissioner's son; and the checkout gal at the commissioner's supermarket had cited him for sexual harassment the year before. As Gastner and his deputies close in on the truth, there’s another murder, a solution to the anonymous notewriter on a hard drive, and enough small-town sympathy to let one killer off the hook.
The likable Gastner (Out of Season, 1999, etc.) is caught up this time in a plot that breaks down more frequently than his ancient sedan.