Tough-talking, softhearted Sheriff Milton Kovak, of Prophesy County, Oklahoma, is shaken by what he finds at 312 Grapevine Road in Long Branch--home of bankteller Lois Bell, her mechanic husband Bill, and their three young children. Not only is the whole family dead, apparently of carbon monoxide poisoning, but the house is incredibly filthy. A search for next of kin presents another enigma--no record seems to exist of the family's life before the last two or three years. But Kovak's discovery of some crucial receipts and the appearance in town of federal agent Jackson Taylor and freelance reporter Marv Bernblatt add new facets to the puzzle--as well as the first clues to the Bell family's earlier years. Meanwhile, Kovak's having a rough time--coping with his nagging, widowed sister Jewel (Houston in the Rearview Mirror), whom he'd invited to share his mountainside home; trying to keep girlfriend Glenda Sue happy; fending off developers who want to buy up the mountain and, in the middle of it all, surviving a tornado and leading the touch-and-go rescue of elderly neighbor Haywood Hunter. Still, his interest in the Bell case never flags, and when the claimant for the bodies eventually arrives, Kovak is able to put together a bitter past and the new transgressions that produced a final tragedy. Crisp, raunchy, off-beat, and steadily engrossing.