Posadas County, New Mexico, can't be home to more than a few thousand souls, but Undersheriff Bill Gastner evidently knows them all and grieves like a father whenever trouble comes to any of them. This time murder strikes close to home when Posadas Register reporter Linda Real barely survives her nighttime patrol with Deputy Paul Enciâ‚¬os, who's killed by a more accurate shotgun blast. With the help of his observant, intuitive on-call detective Estelle Reyes-Guzman's usual sharp eye for physical evidence, Bill implicates recent DWI alumna Tammy Woodruff, thrill-seeking daughter of the local Republican County Chairman, in the brutal assault. Before he can interrogate Tammy, though, she's vanished; then she's crushed to death after her truck goes off the road while she's full of more alcohol than any driver could have held. Bill's compassion is so generous that you'll end up grieving just as much for the killer, when Bill finally runs him to ground, as for his victim. The down side of Havill's affection for this pack of desert rats is that you meet an awful lot more of them than you can well keep straight. Maybe Bill's fifth case (Twice Buried, 1994, etc.) should include an appended map and phone directory.