It's 1958 in Black River Falls, Iowa (pop. 26,750), and at Bill Malley's barber shop and the lunch counter in the local Rexall, there's a lot of talk, a lot of it negative, about communism, fluoride, civil rights marches, a guy named Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. And even at twenty-six, with a law degree and a private investigator's license, Sam McCain thinks nothing of driving four hours of two-lane blacktop (with the radio forecasting major snowfalls) in his '51 red Ford ragtop for a performance, on February 3, by his personal favorite rock-and-roll idol, Buddy Holly.
The next morning brings McCain more than the bad news of Buddy Holly's fatal plane crash. The dawn's barely cracked when McCain finds the dead body of Susan Whitney in the living room of her huge Tudor-style mansion outside of town, and upstairs, within the same hour, her bully of a husband, Richie, remorsefully confesses to murder and kills himself with his rifle. But all of McCain's instincts tell him that Richie didn't also shoot his wife. Then, before the day ends, in a canoe on a frozen pond, McCain uncovers another corpse, this time a pregnant teenage girl, that only seems to be unrelated to the Whitney case.
Social and racial tensions in Black River Falls are meanwhile rising as suspicions begin to fall on a failed black football star, not to mention the pressure that's building on McCain himself, whose sometimes employer- the imperious Jude Esme Anne Whitney and the deceased Richie's aunt- expects him to prove his instincts right, and fast.
Original title: The Day the Music Died
Genre: Fiction→ Crime and Mystery→ Detective Story and Detectives