Jonathan Stride’s best friend, Steve Garske, makes a shocking deathbed confession: he protected Stride by covering up a murder. Hours later, the police dig up Steve’s yard and find a body with a bullet hole in its skull.
Stride is pretty sure he knows who it is. Seven years ago, an out-of-town reporter disappeared while investigating anonymous allegations of rape against a prominent politician. Back then, the police believed that the reporter drowned at a dangerous swimming hole called the Deeps... but the discovery of the body changes everything. Now Stride’s partner, Maggie Bei, is forced to ask Stride an uncomfortable question: Did you kill him?
Stride is obviously hiding things. He was the last person to see the reporter alive. And he admits lying to Maggie about that meeting, but won’t tell her why. With suspicion in the murder pointing at him, Stride finds himself off the case and on leave from the Duluth Police.
His only ally in clearing his name is his wife, Serena, who retraces the reporter’s investigation into the explosive allegations. The clues all point to a hot Duluth summer years earlier that everyone in town would prefer to forget.
When a freak accident kills a driver on the remote roads outside Duluth, Jonathan Stride is disturbed to discover that the victim appears to be a “ghost”, with a false identity and no evidence to suggest who he really was. What’s worse, the man has a gun locked in the trunk — and it has recently been fired.
The next day Stride learns that a Duluth college student has vanished and worries that the two incidents are related. But what would have put an ordinary young woman in the crosshairs of a man who has all the hallmarks of an assassin for hire?
Stride’s investigation of the girl’s disappearance leads him onto the set of a film crew in Duluth, where a movie based on a case from his own past is being made. The actor playing Stride is Hollywood royalty, an award-winning icon who has charmed his way to the top of the box office.
But Stride soon hears whispers that his alter ego has a dark side and, in trying to expose the truth, discovers that he has made a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to protect his reputation.