Many changes come to Sparta. Virgil Tibbs has left the Sparta Police Department and he, Althea and their twins have moved to Jackson, MS so Virgil can complete his law school studies. Bill Gillespie has been voted out as chief and is replaced by Inspector Hampton Forbes from Memphis, TN. Forbes inherits the case of a reclusive man who is murdered as he is awaiting trial for manslaughter.
Gillespie gets the last laugh against the city council when he is named Newman County Sheriff to replace an ailing Will McComb, who has suffered a heart attack. As county sheriff, Gillespie's first case is that of a triple murder, where the investigation points to a good natured, mentally challenged teenage boy.
Gillespie and Forbes become fast friends when both police forces team up and solve the triple murder. Attorney Wade Hatton returns to Sparta and hopes to rekindle a romance from the past with Sarah Hallisey.