Wolfe is on intimate terms with her protagonist, Detective Hazel Micallef of Port Dundas. In rural Canada, Micallef has run the police department her way, entrenched in the methods that have worked for many years, including a strong sense of intuition when solving a case. But the modern world is closing in. Port Dundas has recently been tapped for an infusion of funds and the implementation of cutting-edge technology, as well as the appointment of a new supervisor: Ray Greene, with whom Hazel has a fractious history.
Awaiting the changes that move inexorably closer, Micallef thrusts herself into a new case with a vengeance. Popular local businessman Henry Weist is found dead outside a smoke shop on the nearby Indian reservation. She has the enthusiastic assistance of Detective Constable James Wingate (a familiar figure in Wolfe’s Micallef mystery series) as well as a policeman hoping for a promotion to detective. Hazel sets up ongoing surveillance at the edge of the Reservation near the smoke shop, deeply uneasy about the manner of Henry Weist’s death and his reason for being so far from home.
Disgruntled and unhappy at the thought of the new regime and her supervisor in particular, Micallef is most familiar in her curmudgeonly persona. When another death occurs, this one violent, at least it produces a good description of the suspect. Hazel is even more convinced that the key is somewhere near the reservation. Wingate goes undercover to infiltrate the suspicious “membership” acquired only through registration at the casino. The surveillance yields a pattern of unusual behavior by smoke shop customers. A nefarious plot is gradually uncovered that has shocking ramifications—the exploitation of the helpless at the hands of jaded men who can afford to indulge their most extreme fantasies. Slowly piecing together the pieces of a disturbing puzzle, Hazel is distracted by concerns for her aging mother, the elderly woman exacerbating Micallef’s already oversized sense of doom.
Wolfe adds to the texture of her novel by including chapters describing the activities of the suspect-at-large, who has continued unabated on a killing spree that strains the resources of a department already involved in a massive plan to expose a ruinous scheme. Wingate stays undercover at great personal risk. Her protagonist moving with the steady rhythm of a detective as stubborn as she is effective at her job, Wolfe sets the pace not only for her thriller but for the conflict of old versus new. Micallef only grudgingly accepts a fate that will demand more tolerance for new methods and the enthusiasms of young detectives far beyond her comfort level. While Hazel faces the inevitable, she finds that private choices often call for a particular sense of integrity when the actions of men are more brutal and damaging than the rigors of the wilderness. Hazel Micallef isn’t quite ready to go into that dark night—at least, not yet.