New York Times bestselling author Robert K. Tanenbaum delivers his grittiest, most ethically challenging thriller yet, as New York chief assistant district attorney Butch Karp fights for his family in the wilds of West Virginia's coal mining country.
While New York City sizzles beneath a blanket of early summer humidity, the Karp family is happily taking refuge in their renovated farmhouse on Long Island's north shore. Karp's battles against the City's corrupt politicians are never-ending. His wife, Marlene, is training guard dogs on their picturesque acreage; Lucy is enjoying her summer break from Boston College and playing the part of the dutiful daughter, assisting with the running of the business and tending to her rambunctious twin brothers.
The tide quickly changes, however, when Marlene befriends her beachside neighbor, Rose Wickham-Heeney, a northeastern aristocrat turned wife of West Virginia coal mine union leader Ralph ³Red² Heeney. Soon after the fun-filled weeks of family barbecues and lazy afternoons with the Heeneys, the Karps discover that Rose, Red, and their daughter, Lizzie, have been brutally murdered back home in McCullensburg. Irresistible force meets immovable object when the West Virginia governor appoints Karp as special prosecutor to bring justice to the corrupt town, its union chieftain, and his band of merry thugs. Marlene joins Karp as he searches for the killers and works to save his own family from an evil that runs as deep as the mines that fuel it.
The Karps kick the rubes, but don't emerge unscathed in the 14th installment of the successful Karp/Ciampi series. As in previous novels, the ball gets rolling with the meddling of the brainy and unstable Marlene Ciampi, who against her better judgment ("Don't get involved, tattoo it on your forehead, Ciampi!") falls for a New York neighbor's sob story about a long-simmering family feud in a West Virginia coal town. The sudden savage murders back in West Virginia of the neighbor and her daughter and her labor-agitator husband bring both Marlene and her husband, Butch Karp, down to the boonies in their legal capacity. Their teenage daughter, nun-in-training Lucy, falls hard for the neighbor's son, and the 10-year-old twins, Zik and Zak, now growing into distinct personalities, come along for the ride. As in other novels in the series, Marlene's antics bring danger to her family's doorstep and beyond this time resulting in a real Karp family tragedy. When disaster strikes, the ever volatile Marlene goes over the edge and calls in her trusty Vietnamese thug, Tran, and his gang of gold-hungry goons, with grisly results. While the novel displays Tanenbaum's trademark humor and adept plotting, the series has definitely taken an ominous twist with this book. Marlene (never a model of sanity) is, per usual, talking to her dogs, but now they're talking back to her. The author (who seems to greatly enjoy his book-length ruminations on the dynamics of long-lived marriage) has pulled off a coup: fans of the series will breathlessly await his next book, just to see if the Karp family can actually stand itself any more.