During the height of a particularly brutal Vermont winter, a woman's body is found one morning hanging high above the interstate. The woman, found with the word dyke carved on her chest, is quickly determined to be the victim of a brutal murder. That alone is enough to bring in Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team. But when the victim is identified not only as a state senator but as an intimate friend of the governor's, it unleashes a publicity maelstrom that makes a difficult investigation even more challenging.
While the antilesbian message is an obvious feint meant to mislead investigators, it does reveal that the governor is gay and forces her to publicly acknowledge that fact. In the meantime, while the publicity rages on to even greater heights, the police begin to focus intensely on the dead senator's life. One thing they uncover is that she had a fondness for recreational marijuana. In Vermont, however, neither lesbianism nor marijuana use justifies murder. It's up to Gunther and his team to find out not just who but why?
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