It’s never easy hearing from an old girlfriend, but Sheriff Milt Kovak, of Oklahoma’s Prophesy County (Doctors and Lawyers and Such, 1995, etc.), is especially unhappy about Laura Marshall’s call. She’s convinced that her son Trent, 18, who hasn’t come home from a retreat at the Holy Temple of Seven Trumpets, has been kidnapped, maybe by his hosts. A trip to the retreat site, a million-dollar parcel of land Seven Trumpets follower Barry Leventhwart sold spiritual leader Brother Grigsby for a dollar, is even less reassuring: Milt finds the naked corpse of Amanda Nederwald, Trent’s girlfriend. Brother Grigsby, who turns out to have an interesting history with the justice system, naturally stonewalls—what else do cult leaders do?—and Brother Barry and the rest of Grigsby’s followers circle the wagons, but not before Milt and his deputies notice that a lot of the acolytes are female, and a lot of the females are pregnant. Is Grigsby plotting to renew the fallen world literally? And what’s become of Trent Marshall, whom Amanda’s family is convinced murdered her and fled? Trust down-home Milt to work it all out—as soon as he’s taken care of another troubled teen who runs off with her boyfriend, the rape complainant who switches to crying drugs when the sheriff doubts her original charges, and the deputy whose undercover prostitution sting nabs an uppity councilwoman’s daughter.
So many cases are bound to leave a few loose or ragged ends, but veteran Cooper’s unobtrusive mastery of her little patch of Oklahoma makes other, longer whodunits look bloated.