When Michael Iver Peterson, a successful novelist and aspiring politician in Durham, North Carolina, finds his wife Kathleen's body on the staircase, bloody but still breathing, he calls 911 in panic. His son Todd confirms his parents were in true love, would never harm each-other. However the police, notably Detective Joe Castel, and D. A. Jim Hardin, holding a grudge for a column the author once wrote against the incompetent force, disbelieve their postulation she fell from the stairs, notably because her blood was found very high. Adoring step-daughter Caitlin, who privately shows suspicious pleasure in the jewelry inheritance and is named executor of Kathleen's estate, was all night at her Cornell sorority. The female coroner excludes her trainee's preliminary theory of a fall, bluntly stating multiple blows and at least two hours painful death-struggle. Wine - and blood traces suggest Michael may have staged her having drunk too much wine and tried to wipe her blood. The family ...