fter college graduation, Heck Prigusivac heads home to New Pristina, Montana, to get a few things before driving to Seattle to teach Latin. His mother's alcoholism (she needs care Heck can't afford) and his gene pool get in the way: Heck's father was executed for murder, his brother Chick is on death row at the local penitentiary, and Heck's rare personality profile suggest he'd make an excellent executioner. He reluctantly takes the job as prison "closer." There, his life-long sibling rivalry continues, and he's attracted to Dori Dumchovic, Chick's high school girlfriend and the only woman on death row. Will Heck have to put his lover and his own brother to death?

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