One morning as she comes back from a long run, Jane is met by an unusual sight: all eight clan mothers, the female leaders of the Seneca clans, parked in her driveway in two black cars. A childhood friend of Jane’s from the reservation, Jimmy, is wanted by the police for the murder of a local white man. But instead of turning himself in, he's fled, and no one knows where he is hiding out. At the clan mothers’ request, Jane retraces a walking trip she and Jimmy took together when they were fourteen in hopes that he has gone the same way again. But it soon becomes clear that the police aren’t the only ones after him. As the chase intensifies, the number of people caught up in this twisted plot multiplies, and Jane is the only one who can protect those endangered by it.
The titular string of beads is not so much jewelry as it is a token of obligation, similar to the unbreakable vow in the Harry Potter world but with spiritual more than supernatural magical powers. Jane embarks on her journey not just to help her childhood friend, but also to honor her parents and particularly her Seneca father. The story takes many twists and turns as she seeks and finds Jimmy, and then they literally crisscross the northeastern United States trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. The police are looking for him in connection with a misdemeanor offense that escalates when the primary witness is killed, and it turns out that other folks are looking for him as well with more sinister intent. Jane draws on tribal knowledge and her shared history to find him and then to keep him safe. Along the way she ruminates to herself at times about previous cases, but I didn't feel like I was missing vital information by not having read any of the earlier books in the series. She is a complex and compelling character with a unique combination of experience and skills that enable her to do what she does. I was dismayed by the introduction of the particular flavor of sinister characters, but I enjoyed other aspects of the book such as Jane's contemplation of the various relationships in her life and the no-nonsense way she conducted herself. This was from my library's summer reading list.