Science teacher Will Buchanan meets more murder in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
A month after fashion industry MBA Jeanne Conroy’s body is found along a well-traveled trail, searchers for a lost boy turn up a human hand that swiftly leads to the discovery of a second corpse. The victim, probably killed just before Jeanne, is Samantha Rayley, a single mother who came a long way from her Connecticut home and her leukemia-stricken son to die. State Police Sgt. Art Macomber politely asks Will (Deadly Kin, 2003, etc.), who found both Samantha’s hand and the rest of her mortal remains, to quit poking around. But Will can’t leave the case alone, especially after somebody—presumably Nelson Carpenter, a returning Saxton Mills local whose long-ago affair with Samantha may have made him a father—wounds Will’s skittish ladylove, police chief Laurie Eberly, during a convenience-store robbery that screams setup. Will can’t stop his dogged pursuit of Nelson for anything, it seems, except repeated counseling sessions with his advisee Celia Hatcher, a high-school senior who may or may not be using drugs. None of this intrigue really matters; it’s just an excuse for the wilderness cliffhangers Eslick and his fans love.
Unlike Nevada Barr, Eslick seems uncomfortable with mystery and uninterested in developing his characters; he gives his killer a motive that would have taken a lot more preparation to be convincing. But when school’s out, he runs some great field trips.