Author Stephen L. Carter returns to the New England university town of Elm Harbor, where a murder begins to crack the veneer that has hidden the racial complications of the town’s past, the secrets of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence. At the center - Lemaster Carlyle, the university president, and his wife, Julia Carlyle, a deputy dean at the divinity school African Americans living in 'the heart of whiteness.' Lemaster is an old friend of the president of the United States. Julia was the murdered man’s lover years ago. The meeting point of these connections forms the core of a mystery that deepens even as Julia closes in on the politically earth-shattering motive behind the murder.