When Clara Darner retires from a career illustrating children’s books for a Chicago publisher, she buys a house sight unseen from a magazine ad and returns to her Southern Appalachian roots in the Carolina mountains. Settling into her new home, a small cabin on a mountain overlooking Slick Rock Creek, Clara becomes increasingly intrigued by the previous occupant, Martin Youngblood, who, according to the neighbors, drowned when his pickup plunged into a flood-swollen river eight years before.
In her efforts to uncover Martin’s secret life, Clara unwittingly stirs up old ghosts and long-buried scandals that unsettle the small tight-knit mountain community, and especially trouble the local Baptist preacher, Wilson Redding. Mayhem and murders ensue. Clara herself becomes a suspect, and almost a victim by the time Sheriff Wilma Longshadow and her deputy, Fred Wilkie flush an elusive killer into the light.