When an old-school Montana sheriff tries to solve the backcountry murders of four powerful men, he discovers more about his little town's secrets than he ever wanted to know.
Clyde Lovellet has been sheriff in his small Montana town forever. He has no serious crimes to solve, and runs unopposed every election. Pretty cushy job, until five mutilated bodies are discovered at a popular campsite.
To complicate matters, the murders occur during the worst weather his county has ever experienced, making evidence gathering almost impossible. Since two of the dead are judges, Clyde must form an uneasy alliance with the FBI, battle the town fathers, and find out which of his neighbors did the killings.
Through patient questioning and some historical digging, Clyde unravels a tale of greed, unrequited love, betrayal and madness, and solves the case with the help of his 113-year-old, ex-Texas Ranger grandfather.
Death was not the end; death was the beginning.
Clyde shook his head in disbelief as he made his way along the river bank, but he could not shake the eerie vision away. It was more like a hideous joke than a crime scene. He didn’t believe it at first. When Sarah Matthews made the call, Clyde thought she must be wrong. She had to be. The kid probably never saw a dead body before.
“I’m a believer now. It’s as bad as Sarah described.”
Worse. The sheriff of Jericho County was not dealing with just dead bodies. Not bodies in the strictest sense of the word anyway. Not what a normal, reasonable human being thinks when someone says bodies. "Bodies" was not the word The National Inquirer would use once it sank its steely fangs into this story. Its headline in big, bold typeface would read:
BODY PARTS, NOT GOLD, DISCOVERED IN MONTANA!
The victims had been murdered, then mutilated. Chopped up. No, cut up. Dissected, actually, neatly and cleanly. Arms and legs were severed from trunks, hands were amputated at the wrists and feet at the ankles. Even the fingers were cut off. The ends of cream-colored bones that had been sliced smoothly apart poked out from the decaying flesh.
They were also decapitated. And gutted.
Not bodies— chunks of meat.
To Clyde’s horror, that wasn’t the end of it. Mutilation, as hard as it was for him to believe, was not the the part that made him shiver. Clyde Lovellet had seen dead bodies before. He’d seen dissected corpses before, many times, after a judge’s order commanded an autopsy and the coroner’s saw had done what the law required it to do. It was what was done after the men were cut to pieces that made Clyde wonder what the hell the world was coming to.
After the men were mutilated, the killer painstakingly and patiently put their bodies back together. Each limb was put back—though not necessarily with its original owner or in its original location. Each head was repositioned correctly at the top of someone’s trunk, but after that everything went haywire. Hands, feet, even fingers, were cockeyed. That was the part that made Clyde think earlier when he touched Judge Stone’s trunk: if it is his trunk . . .
Of course it wasn’t. Judge Stone had been a thin man. Today the body lying under the judge’s head belonged to a fat man.
Clyde took out the camera. The camera lens brought everything into crystal-clear focus, magnifying the stark reality of it all.
The parts were not permanently connected, not sewn together, they were just placed together, like puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit. The assembled parts made up complete bodies. Each “grouping” had one trunk, two arms, two legs, one head. But the sum of the parts didn’t equal a whole.
- Word Count: 95,000
- Author: Robert Guntrum
- ISBN: 978-1-61937-165-1
- Cover Artist: Kelly Shorten
- Editor: Celina Summers