A freelancing lawyer investigates a cold case involving a new friend’s grandfather, who disappeared after a dispute over Native American lands.
Philip Lone Deer has a habit of calling his friend Cal Claxton before daybreak to arrange fly-fishing trips on the spur of the moment. Cal’s usually game; that’s the kind of luxury being a self-employed lawyer affords you, just as Portland is a far cry from his job as a prosecutor in LA. The two are enjoying the waters when Philip invites Cal to a 50-year commemoration of the flooding of Celilo Falls and the building of the Dalles Dam. At the celebration, Philip introduces Cal to his cousin Winona Cloud, who implores Cal to look into a cold case involving the day the river was closed. Winona’s grandfather Nelson Queah hasn’t been seen since that day, though there was a report that he drunkenly stumbled into the river and drowned. A proud war hero and member of the Wasco tribe, Queah left behind a series of letters to his wife that humanize his desire to save the river and tell Cal that Winona’s suspicion of foul play may be right. Agreeing to take the case, partly because he’s drawn to beautiful, intelligent Winona, Cal’s thrust almost immediately into an unresolved battle over the land and the money related to it. It doesn’t matter that 50 years have gone by; someone is determined to kill those connected to the original construction of the dam, and Cal too, if he gets in the way. Cal has to use the survival skills he’s honed in his short time in Portland (Never Look Down, 2015, etc.) to protect himself and maybe solve the mystery of Queah’s death as well.
Since so many characters have skin in the game, it’s virtually impossible to invest heavily in any of the players: too many suspects leaves little room for human connection.