When Charlotte Kane, daughter of the wealthy Fletcher Kane, disappears on New Year’s Eve in the small town of Aurora, Minnesota, all available hands are called out to search for her, including former sheriff Cork O’Connor.
It isn't until the spring thaw that Charlotte's body is recovered; even then it is unclear whether the girl is a suicide or a murder victim. The discovery of Charlotte’s body gives rise to a slew of accusations, most directed at Solemn Winter Moon, a young Ojibwe Indian known for his eye for the ladies and the girl’s ex-boyfriend. Months later, when a new sheriff takes over, Cork is given the cold shoulder when he makes inquiries as to the disposition of the case.
Inexplicably, Sheriff Soderberg is rude to Cork, hostile even, a fact that dismays and frustrates a man who is only trying to give comfort to interested parties, especially Solemn's mother, who is concerned that her son is taking the brunt of Charlotte Kane's family vendetta, if and when an autopsy determines the cause of death. Solemn makes an easy target, an efficient way to put Charlotte's murder or suicide behind the town.
In her capacity as an attorney, Cork’s wife, Jo, accepts Solemn's case, uncovering a few well-hidden secrets that point to other law-abiding citizens. Jo is able to get Solemn released, and suddenly a number of clandestine relationships are revealed, casting the formerly staid community into supposition overdrive. When the formerly trouble-prone young man experiences a spiritual awakening, he is credited with inexplicable miracles, the subject of local curiosity and, later, the object of outrage.
Throughout this very complicated, if not confusing plot, there is much discussion of faith, the perception of good versus evil. One questioning soul after another confronts his belief in miracles, and one misguided man acts out his disturbing compulsions against nature's stark background, where everything appears clearer, removed from the conventional ambiguities of city life.
The assumptions Cork makes lead him from one suspect to another, slowly picking through the strange motives of a tortured mind. What began as a young woman's disappearance becomes a trail of serial murders inspired by religious fanaticism, crimes committed in the name of God, the denouement of the guilty party illuminated by spiritual, if misdirected, intentions.
Krueger pays particular attention to the special bond between fathers and daughters, the anguished language of loss, the intricacies of human behavior and the personal flaws that hinder our spiritual growth. Joining the mystery genre with Cork's quest for renewed spirituality, the author overrides the logical plot of the novel, faith tested as well as reason, the physical mystery piggybacked with a more personal endeavor, as the protagonist returns to a faith he had abandoned.