Dexter's books are noir at its most bleak, unforgiving, humane and disturbing. At his best, he uncovers a side of American life that is unsung, uncelebrated and perhaps best undiscovered, at least in real life. The deep south has always been an area of darkness - with its slave plantations, its human rights record and the Florida hinterlands where kids don't go to school much, even if they want to. The poor white trash get raw deals as a matter of course and never, it seems to the observer, manage to make the best of things.
In this novel two brothers, the sons of a small county newspaper proprietor, make their way towards truth in the case of a murder. They work for a large paper in Miami and are joined by a woman determined to save a man on death row. Ward, the elder brother, is a respected reporter but has made his name in an investigation case with another reporter as his partner. The younger brother, the novel's narrator, is drafted in as a driver and gofer.
Dexter's strength is in character. Ward is taciturn, obsessive, dysfunctional on a social level, but honest and moral. His partner is altogether more mercurial, a ladies' man, a dissimulator, but a writer at least. Their investigations into the background of the case against poor white boy, Hillary van Wetter, seem unpromising at first, but there are contra-indications and puzzling lapses in police procedure.
The writing is undemonstrative, like the brothers, but astonishingly powerful as high drama unfolds. There are no wasted words and it is compulsive reading. This is a haunting, violent, and deeply disturbing novel.