In the Nahella Valley of Appalachia, a rumor is whispered about a man named Eli Pettit and the small fortune in stolen money he supposedly hid on his farm before disappearing, leaving a wife, daughter and sister-in-law to tend the land and guard the money – if the money even exists.
It is a rumor Michael O’Rear cannot resist. A wandering actor from the remnants of the Chautauqua circuit, gifted with Irish gab and charm, he arrives ready to perform his last and most horrific role – that of a murderer.
Yet, it is not simple theater for Michael. In the Appalachia of 1939, he is a stranger in a region that does not easily accept strangers. He first must ingratiate himself to the three women of the Pettit home – Eli’s wife, Rachel; his daughter, Sarah; and Rachel’s sister, Dora, and then he must curry favor with the townspeople of Yale.
For Michael, it becomes an exhilarating performance, acted with patience and with the cunning persuasion of dreamy – often outlandish – tales. One by one, he entices the cast of his drama to embrace him and to do his bidding, but in the wake of his presence, he leaves an imprint of physical and emotional terror that scars everyone who becomes mesmerized by him.
Still, in this tantalizing story of deception and senseless slaughter, of threat and fear, it is the powerful instinct for survival that eventually drops the curtain on Michael O’Rear and restores the quiet secrets of the Nahella Valley to those who know them.