Choctaw, Alabama, May 1962. Ben Wade, now the town's respected doctor, looks back from a generation later to the events that led up to a savage attack on golden Kelli Troy atop the local landmark Breakheart Hill. He recalls her arrival from Baltimore the autumn before as a high-school senior, traces her stint as coeditor with him of the school newspaper, describes the passion for civil rights that a demonstration in neighboring Gadsden awoke in her, and lingers over his own awakening to a hopeless love. This march toward calamity is punctuated by flash- forwards to the day of the attack, the police investigation, and the years beyond, creating a disturbingly three-dimensional view of the town and the high-schoolers who thought their every trivial gesture would live foreverand now find that it has. If the pace of Ben's reminiscences is a little too measured, even at times becalmed, there are ample rewards in the mingled mourning, horror, and genuine affection with which he recaptures the past. Cook (Mortal Memory, 1993, etc.) uses the what-will-have- happened structure of Barbara Vine's thrillers to produce something finer and more delicate, with an altogether less insistent narrative pull.