It's midwinter and the Shenandoah Valley is poised on the brink of an unusually icy and snowy season. Alexei Kamarov's body is discovered in a forest within the Picketsville town limits. His driver's license identifies him as Randall Harris. The last Sheriff Ike Schwartz heard of Kamarov, he was reported missing - presumed dead in Russia - the victim of intelligence game-playing.
Ike is not happy this piece of his past has resurfaced. Especially when Ike's former CIA colleague and friend Charlie Garland asks Ike to keep a lid on the investigation.
Slowly, interagency rivalries emerge as local petty criminals vie with international assassins and plotters for attention. All the while, Buffalo Mountain looms in the background...
In this subpar third outing for Picketsville, Va., sheriff Ike Schwartz (after 2006's Secrets), deputy Whaite Billingsley finds a corpse bearing the ID of Randall Harris, a member of "one of the meanest families" in the backwoods locale of Buffalo Mountain. But Schwartz, a former CIA agent, immediately recognizes the body as that of ex-KGB spy Alexei Kamarov, and the mystery deepens when he contacts Charlie Garland, an ultrasecretive government figure, for help. Despite outwardly approaching the case as a routine and decidedly local homicide, Schwartz is too willing to tell his staff and friends about what is supposedly a top-secret "black program" operation. The layers of intrigue and duplicity are both difficult to follow and impossible to believe. Ramsay exerts considerable energy juggling his convoluted plot with a large number of marginally colorful ancillary characters, all while trying to convey a sense of place. But he has too many balls in the air, and the result is a rarely convincing or credible mystery.