When a man is found dead in an aster meadow near Northford, Saskatchewan, on a lovely fall day in 1975, Sergeant Arnold Powell is tasked with unravelling a puzzling case with entirely too many potential suspects. The dead man in question, Clayton Dalrymple—AKA Ivan Kalik, a corrupt KGB defector and generally unpleasant person all around—was not the town’s most popular citizen. The number of people who might have wanted him dead is extensive, and unfortunately for him, not offset by a list of anyone in particular who wanted him alive.
And then there’s the question of how he died. The bullet wound in his temple and handgun at his side certainly suggest a suicide, but there are also strange traces of yellow powder on his broken Rolex and his forehead, and a plastic mug of health-conscious breakfast drink completely out of place nearby. Not to mention a second set of overly large footprints that did not belong to the dead man. Was this a KGB hit made to look like a suicide? Was the drink poisoned? And what about that yellow powder?
Under pressure from the RCMP, External Affairs, and the Soviet Embassy officials in Ottawa to rule the death a suicide and close the case—so as not to interfere with the upcoming Canada Cup hockey series or damage Canada’s already fragile relations with the Soviets—Sergeant Powell has an abundance of suspects, alibis, clues, and contradictions (not to mention problematically worsening heartburn). The only thing there’s a shortage of is answers.