Barra’s protagonist in A Death in the Hills is a former NYPD detective who moves to the Black Hills after a traumatic episode in New York. After settling in as a teacher for a few years, George Bosco is importuned by the town fathers of Quickwater, South Dakota, to spend his summer building a legal case against a bully who is terrorizing the town.

In Part II, during a Shane-like confrontation, the bully is assassinated and Bosco must now solve the murder. Although the shooting occurred in town on the busiest shopping day of the week, no one will admit to being a witness. Bosco’s investigation uncovers secrets and intrigues in the lands of the Lakota, from the gaming industry in Deadwood to greenie activists to the private affairs of ranchers and townsmen and the women of the Hills. It all comes crashing to an end during a dramatic denouement in an animal sanctuary.