Former foreign correspondent Lola Wicks is getting a little bored in Magpie, Montana, where she landed at a small local newspaper after being downsized from her job in Kabul. Then Judith Calf Looking, a local Blackfeet Indian girl missing for several months, turns up dead in a snowbank with a mysterious brand on her forearm. The sheriff - whose romantic relationship with Lola provides Magpie with its most delicious gossip in years - thinks Judith probably froze to death while hitchhiking back to the reservation from wherever she'd been.
But Lola hears rumors that Judith had been working as an exotic dancer in the North Dakota oil fields and further discovers that several Blackfeet girls, all known drug users, have gone missing over the past year. She heads out to the oil patch to check things out, only to find herself in a place where men outnumber women a hundred to one, the law looks the other way, and life - especially her own - is cheap.
Dakota shows the frightening underside of a boom-and-bust economy; of the effect on a small town when big-city money washes in, accompanied by hordes of men far from their families; of what happens when the old rules no longer apply but the new ones are yet to be determined.