Detective Absalom “Abbie” Kearney has returned from Miami to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, where she works for the police department. She and her partner Zangara, or “Z,” an old friend who grew up with her in South Buffalo (aka “the County”), are assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a man found mutilated in a church basement. The killing turns out to be only one of many to come, all linked by the appearance of a small, plastic toy monkey on each victim’s body.
Abbie, who returned to Buffalo not only for the job, but to look after her adoptive father, a retired cop who’s developing Alzheimer’s, knows she has work cut out for her, because in the County, secrets run deep and distrust of authority is the order of the day. A woman of black Irish ancestry, Abbie knows these people all too well, even if she doesn’t remember her own family. Her sharp tongue is matched only by her strength, intelligence, and courage. The County is largely made up of Irish immigrants, many of whom have ties to the old country. The murders turn out to be linked to an old secret society, who backed the Irish rebellion. The more Abbie digs, the dirtier the truth gets for all concerned. As Abbie gets to the bottom of things, she turns to Z for guidance, and finds the truth hits closer to home than expected.
Stephan Talty paints a bleak picture of South Buffalo and immigrant ways gone awry in her well-crafted debut novel. The final revelation not only solves the murders, but forces Abbie to face facts about her own blood relatives and their transgressions.