An attorney becomes pulled into the investigation of a murder that may be connected to a dark governmental conspiracy in this novel.
Rainy Morrow’s death marks the eighth unsolved homicide in nine months, a statistically alarming trend in a town as small as Mena, Arkansas, with a population of 5,000, a grim predicament chillingly described by Reynolds (Sanctify, 2011, etc.). Dolby Richards, a local defense lawyer who had a romantic relationship with Rainy, is tipped off by a friend, Dennis, the district attorney, that the police will soon make an arrest. He encourages Dolby to interview and represent the suspect, Paul Bighton. Bighton was found completely unconscious lying next to Rainy’s corpse, and in the absence of other suspects, seems like a credible candidate for her murderer. But when Dolby interviews him, he seems manically incoherent, a “tortured soul,” more discombobulated than violent. Bighton claims—within barely intelligible rants—that Rainy was likely killed because she knew too much about a drug-smuggling operation that involved the participation of military pilots and massive shipments of cocaine by C-130 aircrafts. Bighton dies while in custody—it’s ruled a suicide but Dolby suspects he was murdered, too—and the lawyer dives headlong into his own investigation, obtaining video evidence of the drug deliveries. Once he shoots and kills a man furtively tailing him—according to the victim’s identification, he’s a Marine—Dolby crosses the threshold beyond which there is no retreat. Reynolds convincingly ties the drug-smuggling operation and killings into a broader story about the Iran-Contra scandal, making this a delightfully unconventional combination of murder mystery and historical fiction. The author diligently develops Dolby’s character: A former hippie now disillusioned and divorced, he still maintains a vestige of idealism and is reluctant to acknowledge that the “force of pure evil” exists. But his scrutiny of Mena’s homicides challenges those moral attachments, compelling him to accept the possibility that he lives in an incorrigibly fallen world, a transformation ably chronicled by Reynolds. The author’s prose is self-assured and precise, if stylistically unspectacular.
An intelligently fashioned moral study, realistic and unflinching.