The Sleek and the Strong

On a fine November day, a man visiting the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Virginia is killed by a bullet from a black-powder muzzleloader. Thirteen-year-old Shane Buckley, hunting with his father in the woods nearby, mistook the man for a deer. The police investigation is brief: Accidental death. 

The man’s 24-year-old daughter, Morgan Knotts, doesn’t buy it. She believes her father was deliberately killed because he was black, and she’s not so sure the kid was the one who pulled the trigger. The monument’s two park rangers reluctantly agree to investigate. The only problem? They can’t stand each other. 

Valerie Bowe was an unloved country kid who grew up in the dark, forced to lead tours of her grandfather’s show cave. Danielle Paxton was the cherished child of two Baltimore college professors. Val, still unloved at 42, is weary of managing the monument, which is facing closure by the feds. She dreams of the desert in Joshua Tree. Dani’s the one who fiercely loves Booker T. Washington. She knows she deserves Valerie’s job, and she’s determined to save the monument at any cost.

As the two begin, separately, to seek the truth, they get an unwelcome surprise. Shane is busted for vandalizing the monument and is sentenced to community service there. He’s an ugly, sullen boy, and silent — until one day, he opens his mouth, and everything Val and Dani thought they knew falls away. With the help of a born-again biker, an apathetic newspaperman and other unlikely allies, the two are called not to right a single wrong, but to uncover a century of sins.