LAPD homicide detective Buddy Steel finds himself detoured from his own life when his ailing father, Sheriff Burton Steel, calls him home to Freedom to take over as deputy. Though relations between father and son have always been strained, and Buddy reluctantly agrees to the arrangement.
When he begins investigating the possible disappearance of a famous local televangelist’s wife, he is met with outright antagonism. While the highly-secured husband insists that his wife is simply visiting a relative, the housekeeper who reported her missing fears she may have been murdered. And no one, from family members to ministry security and staff to the prosecutor’s office seems inclined to help Buddy in his investigation. In fact, many go out of their way to stop him.
But the more he pokes and prods, the more he realizes that the Bible-thumping family and their television empire may be an elaborate cover for a less-than-holy enterprise. This is far more than a typical missing person case. But how far up does the corruption reach—and will Buddy pay the ultimate price for refusing to look the other way?
Michael Brandman is a new-to-me author and he captured my attention with this story right away and kept me glued to the page till the end. Set in a small town on the coast of California, I instantly felt at home. Also, if you’ve been around for a while, you know I have a particular interest in stories with a cult connection.
Buddy Steel had me a little flummoxed at first because he is so conflicted about his new role as Sheriff. He did grow on me quickly though. I really enjoyed the interplay between him and his deputies. The author did a great job of incorporating Buddy’s personal conflicts into the story so that you can relate to him as a complete person not just a stereotype.
The story itself was original and had some great twists before the end. I enjoyed the author’s direct writing style which gave the narrative an added punch. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this first in a series book and will definitely pick up more books in this series.