Lott is a storyteller of the highest caliber, one who spins his tale from the authentic lives of relatable characters. Twenty-seven-year-old Huger Dillard drifts in indecision since a violent confrontation that has since lingered, unresolved, in his nightmares. Currently without focus, Huger is happy to spend his time ferrying his blind father, Unc, from place to place, indulging the older manís eccentricities since the fire that took his sight and the life of his beloved wife.
Huger grew up poor, his mother, Eugenie, the center of his universe as the recovering Unc joins mother and son under the same roof for practical reasons (thereís a complicated family dynamic at work here, one that explains the deeply loyal unit of Eugenie, Huger and Unc). Unexpectedly enriched by Uncís smart investments and the natural bloodline to an exclusive tract of South Carolinaís Lowcountry plantation, Landgrave Hall, the familyís new residence is exclusive to the heirs of established families. The Dillardís cottage, though legally theirs, is a blight on the distinguished society.
Sneaking onto Landgraveís pristine golf course in the dark of night (Unc prefers to hit balls when no one can see him), Huger and Unc encounter a womanís body submerged in the finger of water where they pull their jon boat to the marshy shore. A gruesome face exposed in the lenses of night-vision goggles Unc won in a weekly local poker game, Hugerís mind is seared with the dead womanís damaged visage. Calling for assistance, the pair is suddenly exposed in the bright lights of a number of competing law enforcement agencies, most vocal among them two sailors from the nearby Naval Weapons Station across the marsh. Accused of trespassing on Navy land, Unc and Huger find themselves at the center of an escalating drama, the quiet routine of their days abruptly altered by their discovery and the realization that they are in the crosshairs of a situation far beyond their experience.
In a landscape steeped in history, Lott defines his characters by their histories and personalities. The scars of old battles of North and South shadow a fast-changing world where economic disaster, 9/11, and the threat of terrorism have redefined the environment. A new and deadly threat hovers on the horizon, the extended Naval installations in South Carolina a constant reminder of an accelerating global reality. Balancing his stunned protagonists with the surge of investigative agencies when the body is found, Lott propels his novel by private agendas, a nascent conspiracy and the greed of opportunists, revealing not only the untrustworthiness of the major players but the tangled history of a family tethered to the place of their birth, defined as much by geography as experience.
This is an utterly compelling novel. Lott seduces the reader with his mastery of language, intimate knowledge of the Lowcountry, and great affection for characters suddenly caught in the maelstrom of other peopleís criminality. Filled with shocks and revelations, this is an E-ticket ride that begins with deceptive calm only to be upended by the unpredictable actions of hero and villain alike.