This harrowing thriller is also a character study of generational allegiances and values. Two rootless city boys, Ryan and Jack Rutter, leave Pittsburgh on the run, heading for an isolated country cottage they remember from their youth at Sugar Lake. In a quiet rural community, such small homes are often vacant, so the boys have a reasonable chance of finding shelter. Flying down a country road in the middle of the night in a red truck, Ryan, the driver, is also flying from the drug cocktail that has fueled his chronically intemperate actions and paranoia that the cops are after him in the city. Thinking to scare a young woman crossing the street at a red light, Ryan miscalculates, the womanís body tossed into the air like a rag doll. Now the Rutter brothers must find the cabin and keep the damaged truck hidden.
From the beginning, the contrast between the half-brothers is significant: Ryan a slave to his impulses and the immediacy of drugs, Jack less inclined to prey on others but too easily and too often swayed by the larger-than-life personality of his older brother, who reverts to bullying to get his way. The bond of family is strong, the boys grafted together emotionally in mutual need. Their mother favors Ryan, indulges in her own vices and is only to happy to pass any blame along to Jack. Their pattern is clear - Ryan dominant, but Jack grown increasingly weary of life on the road, sleeping in the bed of the truck, stealing what they need to get by, Ryanís insatiable appetite never assuaged.
A mile down from Tom Jensenís empty cabin, the Rutterís destination, eighty-three-year-old Addie Ward finds joy in the simple things - in the bounty of her carefully-tended garden, the delicious meals she prepares in spite of the enforced frugality of her circumstances. George paints a vivid picture of the elderly making do, with fistfuls of coupons and few dollars between checks, proud old folks who have fought wars and survived the Depression, clinging to marginal existence in a world of diminishing accommodation. (In contrast to the profligate waste of the younger generation, this image is stunning and worrisome.) Addie had given Jack a few hours work for compensation the day before, taking pity on a young man clearly in need but trying to do the right thing. Though Jack was tempted, he was relieved Addie had so little he might steal.
Itís ironic, really: these hand-to-mouth brothers prey on the weak, robbing people of wallets and petty cash hardly worth the risk. Easy victims, the elderly have nothing worth the taking, a fact that seems unimportant to Ryan. Whatever someone else has, he wants. This makes Ryan a very dangerous man. The desperate brothers are on a collision course with dire consequences, as events pull Addie into a life-threatening situation that will demand all her willpower and resources to survive.
Law enforcement arrives in the person of Pittsburgh Homicide Detective Colleen Greer, her commander and her fellow detectives, who have followed the brothersí trail to Sugar Lake, many of them familiar from a prior novel. The petty rivalries, professional jealousy and romantic entanglements raise these characters from supporting actors to more interesting individuals, but the star of the piece is Addie Ward, with her generous and compassionate heart and the wisdom born of experience. George delivers a satisfying thriller with real substance, a seven-course meal that doesnít skimp on emotion or intensity.