Rusty, as millions of readers will remember, endured a searing murder trial in the earlier book. While he won an acquittal, he lost almost everything else. The rape and murder of Carolyn Polhemus, Rusty’s co-worker and former mistress, rocked his marriage and family.
Tommy presided over the explosive case against Rusty, navigating a maze of wobbly investigation and situational ethics before being censured himself for mishandling evidence. Although Rusty later helped Tommy get his job back, animosity lingers on both sides. Rusty resents Tommy’s continuing belief that he got away with murder while Tommy seethes over the acquittal and the collateral career damage it caused.
History, or, in this case, bitter history, repeats itself two decades later.
This time, Rusty is accused of murdering his wife, a miserable but brilliant woman who never recovered from the earlier trial – or the effects of her husband’s affair. For many years afterward, Barbara Sabich controlled and manipulated her husband and smothered their son Nat. Now Nat is out of the house and husband and wife live in a state of uneasy détente.
Six weeks before voters decide whether Rusty wins a spot on the state supreme court, Barbara dies. At first, her death is ruled to be of natural causes.
Soon enough, though, whispers abound. When Barbara died, Rusty sat in their bedroom, next to the corpse, for 23 hours before alerting anyone. He claimed shock and grief. Barbara’s unexpected, unexplained death fuels suspicion for other reasons as well. She was blessed with youthful looks and was known for her dedicated exercise regimen.