The weekend before Memorial Day, Shasta County Sheriff divers recover two decomposed bodies from Lake Britton, a peaceful vacation resort near Mt. Shasta. The first body is that of Rex Royale, a charismatic Las Vegas casino mogul who is building a controversial Indian casino on Lake Britton. The second body is that of an itinerant woman with no apparent connection to Royale.
A San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Tyler Bonnard, who discovered Royale’s body, links up with freelance writer Hannah Bergren to report on the crimes. Hannah is a young widow raising preteen daughters. She wrote high-profile business stories about Royale and had an affair with him that ended days before he disappeared. Hannah kept their affair secret and fears that, if it is exposed, it will damage her reputation in the community and severely impact her daughters’ social standing with friends at their middle school.
As Tyler and Hannah investigate the double murder, they uncover mysterious arsons, other missing women, and infiltrate a shady clan of rogue backwoodsmen living in a remote hunting lodge. In a violent climax, Hannah and Tyler discover that the crimes are connected to a decades-old murder covered up by one of Burney’s most respected citizens.
“The serenity of far Northern California's Lake Britton (near the small town of Burney) is shaken by the discovery of two corpses in the lake by sport fishermen just before the Memorial Day weekend. Even though the bodies are discovered early in the book the first two chapters have the languid feel of ‘A River Runs Through It.’
Once the sheriff's investigation begins the pace quickens, violence ensues and the feel of the book shifts decidely. We meet the denizens of the Blue Tattoo bar and the secretive hunting lodge/firing range whose patron's love of guns is seemingly the strongest emotion in their lives along with preserving their secretive society. Small town social dynamics are fully on display. Several characters could be the killer and ‘Deliverance’ was the feeling evoked by their behaviour. The rest of the book has that gritty, scary feeling that no one is safe until the murders are solved.
We see the story unfold through journalists Tyler Bonnard and Hannah Bergren. Thrust together by necessity the development of their professional and then personal relationship follows a tension filled path.
Questions abound in the story and are finally resolved in a violent confrontation brought on by the journalistic curiosity of Hannah Bergren that reveals a closely guarded secret long harboured by a respected local citizen.
Rex Royale isn't a perfect read but the juxtaposition of bucolic Burney and the violence lurking just beneath the surface of a small town provide the canvas for an intriguing mystery.”
—Doug Kennedy, Reviewer