Miranda Leider is tougher than her little brother, Justin, and fiercely protective. When he’s bullied and abused at summer camp, she sees him safely off the premises then exacts a ferocious revenge, carefully arranged to leave her blameless. But the two children know what really happened, and the ugly bond formed between them is one they can never outgrow nor leave behind.
Fifteen years later, Miranda’s a junior police officer in Sparta, Ohio, and Justin’s hanging out with an Appalachian militia company. When his month-dead body is found in a fallow field, an apparent suicide, she knows something’s wrong. Justin had problems, but he’d never kill himself. The police chief gives Miranda time away from the office for grieving, but she spends it investigating her brother’s final days, locating the militiamen who last saw him alive, exercising her penchant for violence, and repeating her protective sins of the past.
Sam Connor is a Sparta PD detective, smarting from a vindictive divorce and hiding his attraction for the Charlie’s Angel Miranda. With her on compassionate leave, he’s holding the office when bodies start falling in the small college town. As the count rises and the whirlwind investigation draws closer to the brutal serial killer, Sam must face the reality of who he’s hunting before the target falls on him.
Chris Stout’s writing is bare and crisp, almost minimalist. The sparse description sometimes leaves the reader adrift in time and space, depending upon plotline and pacing to propel the story through such vacuums. Technical details are Clancy perfect, but the absence of background description extends here, as well, leaving the reader wondering how a MAC-11 feels against the shooter’s hands as it’s fired on full automatic. An added sentence or even a phrase in places could have deepened the reader’s experience, but might also have interfered with the overwhelming rush of the story. Stout’s decision to keep the writing lean might have been the proper one.