Sheriff Joanna Brady has her work cut out for her as two disparate murders fill her workday in Bixbee, AZ, and another case develops far away on the East Coast that impacts her cases. One murder involves a lovable but retarded man who apparently leaves his home through an open window one night only to be found by Joanna at the foot of an old mine shaft among some dead animals and in the company of a mutilated but live kitten. The other is the ME who is discovered tortured to death when he fails to turn up to do the autopsy on the first victim. The two cases are not related but keep the Bixbee police and Joanna’s Sheriff’s Department hopping.
Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts Liza Machett discovers thousands of hundred dollar bills among books and magazines in her mother’s decrepit and cluttered home when the old lady is taken to a hospice, where she son dies. At the funeral, Liza is told by an old man who worked with her father years before that she might be the victim of some “bad guys.” When she returns home, she discovers her landlady murdered. Then weeks later, after she spends thousands to rehabilitate her mother’s home in an effort to sell it, an arsonist burns it down. Thus begins a cross country trip to meet her brother, the murdered ME (of which she is unaware), in an effort to learn more about the money.
The various cases obviously intertwine, and so the novel unwinds as the police procedural progresses, accumulating facts, analyzing forensic evidence, and simply moving forward on Joanna’s hunches. The plot speeds ahead smoothly and is suspenseful, especially as to its conclusion.