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Welcome back to New Royal, Ohio, where the last descendent of its founding family, ninety-seven-year-old Viola Horup, has been bludgeoned to death in her mansion on an icy December night, leaving behind boxes of treasure and garbage. Detective Steve Rasmussen isn't a stupid man, but he likes simple solutions, meaning he's destined to butt heads with Crocus Rowe, a punk ex-con alumna of the University's Crime Writing Program, who doesn't believe that Viola's murder is just a "robbery-gone-wrong." Crocus' theory is proven correct in the most gruesome way possible when she discovers the broken body of an estate agent in Viola's cellar. Against the backdrop of a community obsessed with a mysterious game involving the sudden appearance of words and phrases scattered all over town, Crocus seeks answers in the dark history of New Royal where all roads lead to Crybaby Lane.