1967: A brutal murder in the midst of an anti-Vietnam War group sparks an investigation by Sam McCain, in Ed Gorman’s most politically charged mystery yet.
When we last saw Sam McCain he had been drafted to fight the war in Vietnam. But Sam’s military career ended in boot camp when he was accidentally shot in the head and forced to spend three months in a military hospital to recover.
Sam returns to his hometown of Black River Falls, where he works as a lawyer (and part-time investigator) for the court of the snobbish but amusing Judge Esme Ann Whitney.
Two of Sam’s oldest friends are caught up in this same battle. Veteran Steve Donovan brutally belittles and finally savagely beats his old friend veteran Will Cullen when Cullen announces he’s joined the anti-war group.
When Cullen is found murdered, the obvious suspect is Steve Donovan, but Sam has serious doubts about the man’s guilt. At least three people had reasons to murder Cullen, and Sam begins to suspect he’ll discover even more as his investigation heats up, in this dynamic new politically charged mystery novel by a veteran of the form.
Gorman's formulaic 10th Sam McCain mystery (after 2011's Bad Moon Rising) focuses on the domestic conflict over the Vietnam War. Steve Donovan, an Iowa congressional candidate, savagely beats his fellow Vietnam veteran, Will Cullen, after Will announces he's joined an antiwar group. When Donovan is found dead in a Black River Falls parking lot the next morning, everyone except for Sam, a lawyer cum investigator, assumes that Will took his revenge. Gorman skillfully depicts Vietnam veterans' complex, often contradictory feelings toward the war from rabid patriotism to rage toward the government but is less subtle in the way he presents his female characters, who are all mysterious, arousing, and wear clothes that "love" their bodies (e.g., "A gray skirt that loved every inch of her lower body as the turquoise blouse loved the upper"). The cynical, detached, and plainspoken Sam, a detective in the classic noir tradition, redeems the paint-by-the-numbers plot.