Littlejohn has created a memorable character in Detective Gemma Monroe of Cedar Valley, Colorado. With her newborn daughter Grace, her fiancé Brodie, and a colorful tribe of co-workers--tall and serious Chief of Police Angel Chavez and new intern Jimmy, as well as Gemma's partner, Finn Nowlin--Gemma has proved herself time and again, attempting to solve the difficult murder investigations that seem to be increasingly common in this small, isolated community.
When retired judge Caleb Montgomery confides to Gemma that he's receiving death threats and is later killed on Halloween night in a car explosion, Gemma and her team tackle a dark energy that seems summoned from the past. Cedar Valley will never be the same again. Hours before he was killed, Caleb had declared that the malignant and twisted death threats started coming just after he left the bench. Gemma's friend was subjected to a gruesome Halloween trick concocted by a madman, an empty wish that became "as real as the heat of the fire and the smell of the smoke." Gemma is certain that the same person who sent Caleb the threatening letters killed him.
At first Finn suspects Caleb's wife, Edith: "'Divorce can make people do strange things'...Murder is never easy, but it's ten times harder when the victim is a friend." Gemma suspects Edith's actor son, Thomas Gearhart, who is currently staying with his mother. One clue leads to another, from death threats and noises in the dark to the hooded man in the burlap mask, the one who Gemma would chase in the days to come. Finn scoffs that a covert operation would have targeted and assassinated Caleb, "a small-town two-bit judge." Also, just days away is the opening of the long slumbering Shotgun Playhouse, where Shakespeare's cursed play Macbeth is débuting. This tale of murder and deception is a fitting symbol for Gemma's current case.
Gemma has a heavy heart in this thriller. It's been growing more difficult for Gemma to remember the early days. As Finn and Jimmy watch over the Shotgun Playhouse, Gemma attempts to trace the killer back to a 1980s comic book chronicling the adventures of the "Ghost Boy," a supervillain born in Japan and skilled in martial arts. And why a car bomb? What was the significance of killing Jacob that way? The action heats up after a robbery, the event perfectly timed. Gemma is curious about Caleb's death now; the two crimes are obviously unrelated, but subtle similarities lurk beneath the surface.
Police Chief Chavez is on top of his game in this mystery, unwilling to let Gemma catch a break when she takes on ex-con Gordon Dillahunt, who may hold the clue to the murderer's identity. Cedar Valley is hardly the headquarters of an evil arm--there's something else going on here, as though ghosts from the past have touched down in Cedar Valley. The killer "can't stay hidden forever; sooner or later, masks will come off." Gemma's vision of Caleb's killer drifts before her eyes and then he was gone. Like the comic book character Ghost Boy, the killer seems impossible to grab hold of.
While Gemma's constantly shifting homelife remains constant, particularly on the romantic front, Caleb's murder and the associated crimes prove to be far more rooted on the past than Gemma could ever have imagined. In a tale grounded in the authenticities of small-town life, Gemma surprises us when she reveals more of her insecurities about marrying Brodie and her career as her police detective.