In the sulky summer days of a Virginia Eastern Shore town, a current of guilt and repression flows beneath the placid surface of respectability. In this year after his mother’s death, with girlfriend problems and his father’s flirting with a new romance, 16-year-old Isaac faces not only the mysteries of his coming of age but also the mysteries of a twisted communal past.
A summer job at Chum’s Hardware introduces Isaac to Crazy Eddie, an acerbic 82-year-old who is outspoken about everything except the string of bizarre vandalisms pulling down big headlines in the weekly paper. Someone is flooding the houses of Rooksville’s leading citizens and leaving a signature of painted flames on the walls. A clutch of self-righteous vigilantes who gather at the hardware store offers a $5,000 reward for the conviction of whoever is responsible—and they have their eyes on Isaac.
Isaac quickly discovers that small towns where everybody knows everybody else’s business often hide the most vicious secrets. A lost ledger at Chum’s and the unmoored rantings of the town’s recluse about the Klan are the first clues to the unexplained puzzles that swirl like dust motes at the hardware store. By laying bare the stains of history and facing down the town’s hatemonger, Isaac resolves the question of where he belongs in the world.