The death of her long-estranged mother drags a Silicon Valley techie back to upstate New York and reminds her forcefully of all the reasons she left in the first place.
Sydney Lucerno ran away from home as a teenager after Randy Jaquith, the longtime lover of her mother, Leslie Graham, got her hooked on drugs and pressed her into helping him sell them. Now Leslie’s death has brought Sydney back to Oriska (population 208), where she’s promptly mistaken for a drug dealer by two ruffians who leave her with their product and remind her that they expect prompt payment. No sooner has she taken the opportunity to tell Randy, the shipment’s presumed target, how completely he’s ruined the lives of her mother and himself than he’s visited by condign punishment, shot to death by the returning duo, whom he takes out with him. No mystery here and no loose ends—except for all the unresolved issues from Sydney’s past. And there are plenty of those: the vanishing of Caleb Elway, Sydney’s first love, a drug-money collector she’s convinced has been dead for 13 years; the death of Homer Carver, the sheriff Caleb was suspected of killing, whose son, Michael, is now chief of the Hartwell police; the continued bad blood between Sydney and Zile Jaquith, Randy’s scary father, whose stash Sydney ransacked on her way out of Oriska all those years ago; and mainly Randy’s demand, hours before his death, that Sydney take care of Maude Jaquith, a 19-year-old wild child who turns out to be not Randy’s kid sister but a daughter he had with Leslie, and therefore a half sister Sydney never knew about or wanted. Felonies will continue to multiply, but the big story here is the knotty relationship between the two sisters bound together by blood and uncomfortable personal similarities they’d both prefer to deny.
Hearts thaw slowly but rewardingly amid subzero temperatures and hard-won bromides about drug abuse.