Ruby Jane Whittaker, both as the eccentric coffee shop owner in Portland and especially as a young girl from a crazy family in Ohio, sparkles on the page. Something terrible happened when Ruby Jane was a teenager in a rural community in Ohio. That something terrible has been nipping at her heels all these years, and now it has taken a big bite. That Ruby Jane should have turned into the self-confident business woman in Portland is a miracle. That the past is now haunting her is a deadly burden.
Skin Kadash is a retired cop in Portland. When he allows himself to think about it, he realizes he is in love with Ruby Jane. When she disappears and he finds the dead body of a bum in her bathtub, he heads off to find her. And save her. He knows above all else that he must save her, but he doesn't know from what.
Skin reconnects with Ruby's old boyfriend, Pete, in California, and we're guessing that Pete still has feelings for Ruby. Ruby's estranged brother, Jimmie, lives in San Francisco, not too far from Pete. Perhaps he knows where Ruby is, because Pete doesn't. Soon there's another dead body.
The trail finally leads back to Preble County, Ohio. The first-person, present tense, present time narrative that begins Bill Cameron's book segues into Ruby Jane's tale of when she was a teenager. That third-person narrative splits into several different time frames, all within a year. There are flashbacks within the flashback, but Cameron does a great job drawing us closer to the terrible event that shattered Ruby's family and dispersed its members. The final section of the book brings us back to the present time and Skin's story.
Cameron has written a thriller that makes you want to turn the page faster and faster. He has also written a sensitive story about a young girl from a dysfunctional family who has more troubles than someone her age should have. Cameron's writing easily and poetically handles the transition from Skin's story to Ruby's, from then to now. This is a story that will linger.