Welcome to West Texas, where a nuclear plant is being dismantled, a young lady takes a walk in the desert in 104-degree heat, and a corpse is dumped along the route usually favored by drug mules and coyotes.
Artemis Police Chief Josie Gray has her hands full. Rain-fed floods menace the Feed Plant, the abandoned nuclear waste facility Beacon Pathways is cleaning up. Cassidy Harper nearly succumbs to heat stroke but won’t admit why she was reconnoitering the area near the Hollow. And Officer Marta Cruz is having trouble controlling her daughter Teresa, who bails out her meth-addicted boyfriend. Unfortunately, matters are about to get worse. A body is found with no identification but wearing protective boots issued to employees cleaning up the nuclear site. Putrid lesions run up his arms, and an autopsy reveals that his gastrointestinal tract has been eaten away. Diego Paiva, plant supervisor, insists that his safety measures are top-notch, but could there have been a lapse in security for those men working on the vitrification project in Unit Seven? The dead man’s wallet winds up in Cassidy’s car, his last wages turn up in her boyfriend’s secret bank account, and the co-worker who drove him to the job every day develops similar burn marks on his wrist. But the questions of who killed the unlucky Juan Santiago and why will have to wait while Chief Gray illegally crosses into Mexico to retrieve a rebellious teen and returns to deal with the torrential flooding that threatens to demolish the Feed Plant, spewing toxic waste everywhere.
As in Fields’ Tony Hillerman Prize–winning debut (The Territory, 2011): carefully integrated red herrings, a tinge of romance and dead-on descriptions of West Texas weather—oppressive heat, weeklong downpours and earth-obliterating mudslides.