Barrett Raines is a black detective on an isolated police force in Deacon Beach, a sweltering enclave on the Gulf Coast of northwestern Florida. Barrett's worked all his career to live up to the faith Romana Walker, Deacon Beach's eternal Homecoming Queen, showed in him when she pushed Barrett onto the all-white force in the face of local and bigoted opposition. Seven years later, Raines has made a place for himself and his schoolteacher wife in the hard-bitten community--to all appearances they are accepted.
But affections can be fickle, as Barrett discovers when his despised elder brother, Delton Raines, becomes the chief suspect in the investigation of the brutal rape and murder of Ramona Walker. It's a no-win for Barrett. If he cannot find the much-loved Ramona's killer, locals will say he's shielding his brother. But if Barrett nails Delton for the crime, the detective's neighbors will say that he has used his badge to hang a brother he hates.
There's a lynch mob brewing on The Beach, and the only way to calm the ugly waters is for Barrett to bring Ramona's killer to justice.
There are a lot of things Barrett hates about this case. But what he hates most is that the only lead he has in the investigation comes form a prevaricating, hell-raising brother whom he has to trust.