Fire Chief Colleen McCabe is enjoying a quiet summer and her budding romance with Sheriff Bill Dorman. However, her peaceful start to the tourist season is shattered when a tropical storm blows through Corolla and unearths a body buried under a vacation home boardwalk. When callous land developer Denny Custis dies in a suspicious fire, Colleen has a hunch the two deaths are linked.
As she and Bill investigate, they discover that virtually everyone, including Colleen, has had a beef or run-in with Denny and a motive for murder. When Pinky Salvatore becomes the primary suspect, Colleen is determined to clear his name. Despite his and Denny's well-documented housing development rivalry, Colleen is convinced that the real killer is still out there.
While digging through an ever-widening list of suspects, Bill and Colleen become embroiled in a vicious battle between those committed to saving Corolla’s wild horses, those protecting the endangered piping plover shore bird, and a greedy tour company who would destroy their habitats.