Fever Develin has been lost in the sleep of the dead. He was certifiably deceased, revived only by the quick-witted actions of his fiancť, Lucinda Fox, head nurse at the local hospital in Blue Mountain in the Appalachias. Shot by an assassin, Feverís comatose months have swirled with images: scenes of the Jazz Age in Paris in 1923; a woman named Lisa; a musician, T-Bone Morton, putative son of Jelly Roll Morton. How these shifting images take up residence in the slumbering Feverís subconscious is a mystery, but upon his miraculous recovery, Develin is determined to investigate his near-murder, certain that the killer will return to finish the job. Against advice, Develin leaves the hospital in a weakened state, given to odd episodes, literally falling into slumber, a side-effect of the long-term coma.
Develin has had time to think since his return to the living, hours of reflections on his childhood, his parentsí strange carnival-like careers, and his motherís irritating secretiveness, her tendency to speak in riddles and to hide her private treasures throughout the family home. Belatedly, Fever realizes that a precious box of these treasures has disappeared from his home, likely the night of the attack. Now he is wracking his memory for clues about the items in the box, old photographs, letters, the key to a long-buried family secret and his connection with an assassin.
Ensconced in his rural Appalachian hamlet for most of his life, Develin follows a familiar trail, one littered with the remnants of his history: family associations left to wither over time, the need of a woman to hide her darkest secrets, the intrusion of T-Bone Morton and Jazz Age Paris, a shadowed past that has somehow delivered Develin to this new threat.
In this literary and unusual mystery, DePoyís protagonist relies on the collaboration of his English friend, Dr. Winston Andrews. The two educated men wax philosophical as they apply Shakespearean wisdom to their discoveries, boldly striding into a past that includes a subversive group that practices ancient rituals and a profound loyalty to blood ties. Since this is Appalachia and Develin a familiar face, his curiosity is excused to a point. As ever, though, he is an outsider and unwelcome in the bosom of a proud and exclusive heritage, a group of men who find solidarity in silence, strength in hate, and are willing to protect their organization at any cost.
Peppered with eccentric characters, Feverís world has been shattered by violence, his comfortable memories shaken, dislodged and scattered to reveal half-truths and lies, damning evidence secreted in boxes hidden under floorboards, an unexpected history that expands Develinís perspective in a whole new direction. The old ways versus the new sensibilities are at war in this novel, the poison of the past versus the more temperate expectations of the future, Fever catapulted into a world made brighter by its very linkage to the past.