It was springtime in 1974, and Chance Albright, a recent Harvard graduate, and his wife, Charlotte, a former Boston College cheerleader, arrive in Columbia, Mississippi. Chance will serve as the chief financial officer with Bud's Bargain Stores, a five and dime store chain based in the small South Mississippi town. During a party on their first Saturday night in town, Charlotte and Chance, along with members of the chamber of commerce and their spouses, learn of the tragic death of Brent Foxworth, a popular charismatic high school student found dead from a gunshot at Red Bluff. Charlotte and Chance soon befriend Becky Sanders and Craig Ashley, two close friends of Brent's who say their friend did not commit suicide as everyone suspects. Instead, his stealing marijuana from drug dealers who brought the weed up the Pearl River from New Orleans caused his death. While at work, Chance discovers an inexplicable spike in company earnings that began eighteen months earlier. Chance's suspicions, along with his and Charlotte's friendship with the murdered boy's friends, draws the ire of Joe Don McDaniel, a longtime Bud's Bargain Store employee and a key player in both the pot running business and the nefarious activity responsible for the anomalous increases in Bud's company earnings. Joe Don's covert experience in the CIA's clandestine war in Laos during the 1950s and early 1960s makes him a dangerous man to cross.