Zoe Kergulin is a woman on the run from her past. Having witnessed her closest friend's murder at the hands of an abusive husband, Zoe has fled Washington D.C. for the serenity and solitude of the West Virginia mountains. Here, in a small town whose sole claim is that the local ordinary - or inn - was a stop on the legendary Underground Railroad, Zoe hopes to rebuild her life. But the past threatens to catch up with her when Zoe's neighbor, Susan Rourke, disappears and is presumed murdered by her estranged husband. As Zoe investigates a stormy relationship that ended in the brutal murder of one spouse and the mysterious disappearance of the other, she discovers a close-knit community of rural folk whose members hide secrets of their own - from the illicit production of moonshine to hunting out of season to domestic violence.
Time was when the Underground Railroad was the most important mode of transportation in Bickle County, West Virginia. But now that D.C. shamus Zoe Kergulin has returned to Bickle County to get back to the soil and away from the relatives of the man she killed moments after he murdered his abused wife, she finds that runaway wives have taken the slaves' place. Zoe's neighbor Susan Rourke, who's been too afraid of her estranged husband Patrick to say anything about him to Zoe, has disappeared without a trace. When a search party headed by Zoe's cousin, Bickle County sheriff Ethan McKenna, finds a body, it's not Susan's but Patrick's. Did he kill his wife before she shot him? Did he kill himself after murdering her and hiding her body? Is she still alive, hiding out after killing him? Stung into action by her failure to protect this second victimized wife, Zoe launches an all-out effort to pick up Susan's trail. She doesn't succeed, but along the way she discovers a jeweled ring that loads her back in time to a much older killing - one with surprising links to Susan's disappearance, a host of long-buried local secrets, and, yes, the Underground Railroad. What Labovitz's debut lacks in expert carpentry - Zoe's detection feels driven yet lackadaisical, and the murderer seems to come out of a different book - it makes up for in its feeling for the land and its not-so-simple people. (Kirkus Reviews)