October 1982. The Kootenay Mountains receive another early autumn snows. On the highway just north of Mason, British Columbia, a pick-up truck misses a curve and finds a ravine. This is not the weekend’s first tragedy, but Billy Gibbon will be jailed for the other and implicated in both. No stranger to adversity, his mother, Marie, seeks solace in correspondence. Thirty years later Jeff Whittaker draws her letters from the bottom of a box. They are addressed to his mother. It’s left to him to open many of them—to loose a surge of memory, trigger a mid-life pre-occupation, stir up the past.
Whittaker is a former government policy-pusher. He’s a career fixer with a quick lip and a life that begins to unravel. His family suffers a tragic blow. His relationship with screen actor Margaret “Terror” Torrance continues on its doomed trajectory. His effort to downsize to an urban apartment is thwarted by a rural house that won’t sell. Yet Whittaker can’t pull himself away from the mystery surrounding Billy Gibbon. He was Whittaker’s closest childhood friend. They’d been brothers, navigated and survived adolescence together. But after moving west during high school, Gibbon fell out of touch and was caught up in a grim criminal case that traumatized the small British Columbia town of Mason where his family had settled.
Now Gibbon’s ghost has risen from his mother’s letters, teasing at Whittaker’s angst, transforming him into a reluctant investigator. Whittaker digs back into the Gibbon case, driven with growing momentum to discover what happened to his friend and confront his guilt about a friendship neglected and lost. Was Gibbon guilty or innocent? At first, it doesn’t matter to Whittaker. Gibbon is simply like a lost set of keys that must be found. Yet the more Whittaker learns, the more he believes his friend may have borne the brunt of a miscarriage of justice. And an innocent Billy Gibbon would be a much heavier load to carry that a guilty one.
As Whittaker pokes around the BC interior, he is welcomed by some, shunned by others. To many in the Kootenays, Billy Gibbon is part of a past best forgotten. But some residents share Whittaker’s inkling of errant justice. A few live in fear, having witnessed the punishment even curiosity can earn.
What Whittaker lacks in investigative skill, he makes up for in mulish tenacity. It’s a quality he’ll need as he gets under the skin of drug kingpins in the Kootenay Mountains, home to some of the most sought-after cannabis in the world.