Wisconsin winter weather plays as important a role as any individual in this nicely paced tale of domestic abuse and murder. Claire Watkins is still adjusting to life in little Fort St. Antoine when she notices the bruises and stiff gait of a local woman named Stephanie Klaus. Small town or big city, Claire knows the signs of abuse when she sees them. Stephanie, however, won't talk, even when her new boyfriend, Buck, is tied into his car, driven out on the treacherous ice of Lake Pepin and left there to sink and drown. When Stephanie, accompanied by Buck's delightful dog, Snooper, tries to leave town, she is once again beaten; this time, she barely survives. . . .