In his latest novel, Deutermann returns protagonist Cam Richter to the scene of the crime featured in his previous novel, The Cat Dancers. Back in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Richter is responding to a request from Ranger Mary Ellen Goode, a woman who narrowly escaped death by mauling in his last adventure.
There has been a violent attack on a young park ranger, the girl nearly killed and certainly traumatized, left in the wilderness barely alive. It is unknown whether the crime took place in the park or in neighboring Robbins County, a haven for methamphetamine dealers and various criminal endeavors.
Since Richter has given up his career as a policeman and become a private citizen-P.I., Ranger Goode hopes he will be able to infiltrate where the various agencies have run into a roadblock. In any case, the local police are reluctant to investigate, hampered by Sheriff MC Mingo, who runs his department in Robbins County with an iron fist.
The local criminal mastermind in Robbins County is Crinny Creigh, her mountain family providing the cover for their illegal industries, aided by her cousin, the sheriff. The local law and the various alphabets - FBI, DEA - have been unable to find a way into Robbins County and hope that Richterís investigation into the Rangerís attack will provide a way in.
Since his last experience in the Great Smokies, Richter travels nowhere without his two well-trained German shepherds, the dogs more reliable than many of the people he works with. After a few territorial scuffles with local agents, Richter throws his lot in with Carrie Harper, an SBI agent, and DEA Special Agent Greenberg, avoiding the law whenever possible after an unfriendly visit with Mingo, who tells him to get out of Robbins County or suffer the consequences.
Carrie joins forces with Richter as the two make their way into dangerous territory with very little backup. Grinny Creigh, the Ma Barker of Appalachia, has more than drug dealings in her repertoire, likely some child stealing and other unsavory crimes. In spite of serious obstacles and a few injuries along the way, Richter prevails with Carrieís effective backup, especially when determined to rescue innocent children caught in the crossfire.
What ensues is a veritable stew of government alphabets, frustrated by a lack of evidence but anxious to take Grinny and her enterprise down. In spite of shoot-outs, beat-downs, vicious dog attacks and kidnappings, Harper and Richter take no prisoners, although they are taken a few times themselves, always managing to escape by a hairís-breadth.
Grinny Creigh is a formidable enemy, a black widow spider spinning her evil web on the mountain, her relatives a silent army with packs of wild dogs. Driven by action rather than by character development, Spider Mountain is a tale of evil festering in the dark, even in the most majestic of landscapes.