Although football is a main topic throughout this novel, in this small Ohio town (dominated, it seems, by the high school team) it is anything but a game. Typical of many rust belt areas, when the steel plants closed the population dwindled. But life goes on, especially for two estranged brothers, both of whom played for the Cardinals in their youth: Adam Austin, a fullback who was on the last championship eleven, and Kent, who starred as a quarterback after Adam’s graduation, and is now the head coach.
Their subsequent lives have been dominated by an unfortunate occurrence one night when Adam was preoccupied with his girlfriend and Austin couldn’t leave his football duties to accompany their sister, Marie, home from school. It was Adam’s responsibility, and she never made it home. At some point after she went missing the family learned that she had been murdered. Neither brother forgave himself, especially Adam, who maintains the boyhood home with Marie’s room as a shrine. When the culprit is finally captured on a fluke in Cleveland and sentenced to prison time, Kent visits with him in jail and tells him he forgives him, an act which Adam hardly condones.
Thus, the stage is set for a repeat performance when the girlfriend of the star receiver for Coach Kent’s team asks Adam to locate an address for her father who apparently has just been released from prison. Adam gets an address and the girl goes there, only to be brutally murdered. It turns out that Kent had recommended Adam, who has a PI license, to the boy, who had passed along the information to the girl. Each of the brothers feels responsibility, leading to a series of events through which they seek to redeem themselves for present and past actions.
The author has written a suspenseful crime story based on good and evil, selfless acts, and atonement of sins. At no point does the reader know what will happen next, even when it is on the one yard line with goal to go.