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In this, the second Jim Stanton Mystery, the retired community journalist is confronted by two mysteries, one trivial, the other fatal, but in the end they combine to remind him that even in perfect stories, everything doesn't always "work out" for all concerned.
Lucja Rantford, matriarch of the James Ranch and Sheep Co., near Pendleton, Oregon, goes missing as the city prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its rodeo.
As Stanton shows off his city and its rodeo the Lawton family visiting from Michigan they take in the Round-Up museum where one of the children in the family points out the resemblance of a man in a 1933 photo to Stanton.
Stanton assures everyone that to his knowledge no other Stanton had lived in Pendleton, but neighbor Jack Nelson, a retired soil scientist and avid local historian, launches a massive search to determine the identity of the person in the photo.
Another friend, Randall Albright, introduces Stanton to Able James, Lucja's grandson, and recruits the journalist to assist the young man in solving her mystery.
The two investigations lead Stanton into a maze of contradictions over land use laws, future development and historical treasures.

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