Selma Newquist understands that her husband, Tom's carelessness about diet, smoking and exercise led to the heart attack that killed him. But she can't accept not knowing what had him so stressed out in his last months of life that he was losing weight, not sleeping and constantly nervous. She hires detective Kinsey Milhone to find out.
Kinsey soon discovers that virtually everyone in Nota Lake County idolized Tom and dislikes Selma. Most people in town see Kinsey's job as digging up some kind of dirt on Tom, and they are wary of her. One night, a mysterious assailant attacks her in her motel room and dislocates two of her fingers.
As she digs into Tom's last few months, she finds he was working on a double murder – one killing in Nota Lake and the other near Kinsey's home town of Santa Theresa. Investigating that side of the case gives her an excuse to go home for a few days and enjoy familiar surroundings and the company of friends.
In Santa Theresa Kinsey discovers enough about Tom's case to return to Nota Lake, where she is now so unwelcome even the gas station attendants refuse to serve her. It seems the whole town is united to keep the secret of what Tom knew about the murders and why it might have upset him. Kinsey realizes that someone in town may be afraid enough of what she'll find to kill her – and he nearly does.
This report prepared by David Gordon