In the crystalline cold of a small Minnesota town one November morning, seventeen year old Jesse Matson and his father Harold head off for a typical deer hunt. With the crack of a rifle shot, the hunting trip is anything but typical when Jesse discovers his father’s head blown apart. Although ruled a suicide, Jesse is convinced his father was the victim of foul play and is determined to uncover what really took place that frigid morning.
Jesse’s mother is no help to the family as she retreats into depression leaving him to wonder why the local sheriff won’t do more. As Jesse digs deeper into the family history, the more convinced he becomes that Clay, his father’s younger brother was the killer. Unfortunately, hard evidence is difficult to come by and Jesse’s life becomes increasingly difficult as his father’s ghost haunts him. Having read Hamlet in school, Jesse is aware of the parallels and is not certain his father’s specter is real or a figure of his imagination as he struggles for a way to achieve justice.
Enger’s edgy, uneven retelling of the Bard’s classic recasts all the main players including an Ophelia, now an immigrant classmate with more then enough troubles of her own. The pacing is frequently bogged down under the weight of an overly descriptive writing style that creates plenty of atmosphere but little forward motion. Jesse’s anger at the situation and frustration with the ineffectual sheriff keep the story believable and leaves readers with hope for better things from this up and coming author.