The tendency toward mayhem that follows Jack McMorrow like a shadow finally sends his girlfriend Roxanne fleeing to the relatively stable urban center of Portland, leaving Jack to nurse a sore heart and mull an ultimatum alone in the wilds of Maine. In an effort to clean up his act, Jack takes a job as a courthouse reporter for the Kennebec Observer. What seems like a safe choice becomes dangerous when Jack is drawn into a domestic abuse case that leaves a woman dead and McMorrow tangled in a messy web of innuendo, conflicted emotions, and mortal danger. It’s time for Jack to grow up, but can he do it? Is it his destiny to follow his subjects into a life of rancor and violence, or will he be able to escape the call of his darker side and find some measure of peace?
Jack McMorrow, seen before in Bloodline and Deadline, is a former New York Times reporter now working for a small paper in Maine. Covering the courthouse, he senses a good story in Donna Marchant, a young woman complaining of domestic abuse but ignored by the autocratic assistant district attorney, Linda Tate. McMorrow writes about Donna's plight, arousing the wrath of her loutish boyfriend, Jeff Tanner. When Donna is murdered, suspicion falls not only on Tanner but also on McMorrow, whom police suspect of having become too close to his subject. Looking for answers, McMorrow gets puzzlingly little cooperation from Donna's sister, who cares only about taking over as mother to Donna's little daughter, Adrianna. Then some local toughs, perhaps Tanner and his friends, rough up the reporter and torch his home. During his investigation, McMorrow is dealing with the absence of his true love, Roxanne Masterson, who is offered a new job in Portland. Boyle, a Maine newspaper writer himself, makes McMorrow a credible crusader, equally comfortable in the quiet woods and small-town courthouses. The narrative moves briskly as McMorrow eliminates several suspects on his way to a surprise solution.