The Faults of the Owens Valley is both a murder mystery and reflections on the history of the Owens Valley. A serial killer disrupts the lives of the major characters, but the landscape and the history of the Valley are also major forces, including the water wars, tensions among tribal communities and waves of later immigrants, and conflicts between the environment and economic development. The major characters-two sheriff's deputies, a local businessman and restaurant owner, a minister, a truck repairman, and a high school teacher-respond in different ways to the killings, which eventually threaten their own lives and livelihood. The killer skillfully plays on Valley residents' hopes and fears, leading to an explosive conclusion.
The historic events of the Bishop Creek battle of 1862, the Aqueduct, and Manzanar are all highlighted in the book's geography. An afterword by the author explains the interweaving of fact and fiction in the novel.