Tammi Randall, a pretty young attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Patsboro, Teal County, Georgia, has mostly recovered from her rape attack of a year ago (A Strange and Bitter Crop, 1994, not reviewed), thanks to therapy and strenuous self-defense training. Now, she's been asked by Professor Gatlin, a respected mentor, to handle the legalities of the sale of Warrendale, a nearby town, to movie actor Lawton Fletcher. A meeting with Fletcher is arranged—at the town's old mill—but Tammi, accompanied by Mitch Griffith, black businessman and trusted ally, arrives to find Fletcher shot to death. Soon after, local punk Freddy Meadows, with Fletcher's wallet in his possession, is charged with the murder by redneck police chief Donald Lee. Tammi, in her Legal Aid capacity, undertakes Freddy's defense but soon realizes there are other forces at work here. A trip to Los Angeles turns up many oddities about Fletcher—eccentric behavior, fading career, hefty fortune, impoverished lifestyle, frequent trips to Mexico, some connection to stripper Florina Harvey—but no obvious reason for buying the town in which his sister Charlotte still lives. Back in Georgia, Tammi, coping with threats on her life, meets attractive real-estate hotshot Jeff Warren, who owns Warrendale's defunct stores and still active bank. Meantime, Freddy Meadows is out on bail—probably through the influence of local mafioso Billy Ray Cunningham—and another murder victim has been discovered. A glut of puzzles to solve, with the identity of Fletcher's killer providing a surprise. A smaller shoal of red herrings would have lessened the confusion here, but Wyrick keeps the loose ends suspenseful, sustains his heroine's likability, and, along the way, gives the reader a penetrating look at the sleazy world of county politics.
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