January, 1951, while the country is in the grip of war in Korea, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and Senator Joe McCarthys Red Scare, the residents of St. Adele, Michigan, are more concerned with staying warm and shoveling snow until a bizarre ice storm brings down a towering pine. Entangled in its roots is evidence that leads Constable John McIntire to the abandoned farmstead of a young couple who had supposedly left the community years before, part of an exodus of Finnish-Americans gone off to build a workers Utopia in the Soviet republic of Karelia. McIntires fears are realized when he discovers two bodies, buried sixteen years in an unused cistern.
In his zeal to uncover the truth, McIntire brings the scrutiny"and the suspicion"of a Red-hunting government agent upon his neighbors and himself. It is only the beginning of his mis-calculations. Each step in investigating the deaths seems only to bring more misery to the living. Old wounds are opened, old terrors rekindled, and old wrongs exposed. McIntire himself is not immune. He struggles to solve the two-decades-old murders, while a part of the past he hoped to bury forever threatens to destroy his new life.