No one remembers how the body of Josie Fortune was found deep inside Lues Creek Canyon twenty years ago. No one remembers how corrupt police officials framed an innocent man and handed the victim's daughter into the state's welfare system. No one remembers, no one but a killer left to carve out a brutal legacy of torture and murder with absolute impunity in this rural southern Illinois college town. When Josie Darling returns to Lues State to assume a teaching position and come to terms with her mother's murder, she takes every precaution to hide her tainted past from her colleagues. But someone close remembers, and the shadows of history close in. Threats come, intimate promises of violence written in a desperately psychotic scrawl, invading every aspect of her life. Confronted by personal and professional jeopardy at every turn, Josie must face her terror and expose the identity of her mother's killer - a killer who is now stalking her. If you think you can sleuth this thing, I'm afraid you're in over your head, warns a local investigator, but Josie's stake in this case is all too personal and all the more immediate as she uncovers other murders. Her list of potential suspects includes her deranged ex-husband, her outlaw stepfather and any of his rogue clan, several manipulative English professors, and a host of corrupt local lawmen. Struggling against an unseen but ever-present enemy and with few allies to counsel her, Josie embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery. Using her wellhoned research skills, the academic becomes the detective and sets out to recover her birthright. Josie transforms herself from tormented victim to relentless avenger as she takes on the intense willfulness of her namesake. But even her renewed strength of character may not help Fortune's Darling save herself and find the elusive killer's true identity in time, an identity heard only in the whisper of leaves.