Albuquerque lawyer Neil Hamel (The Other Side of Death, 1991, etc.) usually finds herself embroiled in environmental issues that erupt into murder. And this time--when the wolf that Juan Sololobo uses as part of his education campaign to reintroduce the endangered species to New Mexico is stealthily removed from its cage--Neil has her hands full: angry ranchers screaming that they'll kill the wolf before it decimates their herds; local trackers eager to pinpoint it for rich, jaded hunters; and a feisty client, Juan, soon accused of reckless endangerment, and more--since he becomes the prime suspect when federal biologist Bartell, on the trail of the wolf, is murdered. Reconnoitering among some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet, Neil runs afoul of renegade wolf-breeders, drug traffickers, Mexican illegals, and several warring factions--the Wolf Alliance, the Wildlife Commission, etc.--but, with an assist from lover Kid, she scares off the worst of the bunch. Van Gieson's Southwest is breathtaking, and her mission seems to be to make us appreciate it while developing an environmental consciousness. That she succeeds so well is due, in large part, to her nonhectoring, clear prose and her strong, unsentimental heroine. Smart, involving, informative. The author's best to date.