The offbeat sleuth in this novel is Ellis Portal, once an esteemed judge, who was himself convicted of a felony and disgraced. He now lives as a vagrant in the river valley that is a wilderness preserve running through the heart of the city of Toronto. One day, while working on his hidden vegetable garden, he unearths a severed human hand. On that hand is a ring that Ellis recognizes. Thirty years before, on the day he became a lawyer, he and four of his companions entered into a pact that was sealed by just such a ring. All the participants were white. The hand is black. Ellis' search to identify the victim and investigate the murder the severed hand must represent takes him back into the world that has cast him out. As he inches closer to solving the mystery, he senses he is being stalked. Then one of those who shared information with him is killed, another vanishes. Ellis discovers that one of the city's most prominent attorneys appears to be running a conspiracy that relies on the secret use of questionable medical procedures. Both the attorney and his wife were closely intertwined with Ellis' past. Ellis makes his way to the attorney's office-tower suite, confronting him there with his evidence in a dramatic, moving climax. It involves the loves of the present and the past - and a startling solution to the mystery.
Used availability for Rosemary Aubert's Free Reign
March 1997 : USA Hardback
December 2009 : USA Paperback
May 1998 : USA Mass Market Paperback