A bad marriage makes a good murder suspect but a somewhat ramshackle plot.
The cops in Cochise County, Ariz., can hardly wait for Jenny Williams’s memorial service to end so they can arrest her husband Jackson, an intellectual, a professor, a poetry lover and undoubtedly the killer who slipped aconite into his wife’s health-store pills, causing her to crash her car and die. Motive? He had several: The pair barely spoke anymore; she was having an affair with one of his colleagues; and he might have had something going on with their neighbor Ruth. Even Stuart Ross, his lawyer, thinks he’s guilty, but he has two champions, Ruth and Mara, the daughter from his first marriage who’s come to town to reintroduce herself to him. With the help of the alcoholic p.i. Ross hires, they uncover unsettling tidbits about Jenny’s past, bump up against do-gooder Ken Dooley and Jenny’s best friend Anita, and search for Jenny’s long-lost brother. More murder and scandal, and much nattering from the local eccentric known as The Magician, follow before a confession frees the accused just in time for a family barbecue.
Victim Advocate Chloe Newcombe (Dead for the Winter, 2004, etc.), who makes a cameo appearance, is, like most of Thornton’s women, interesting and believable. Now if only Thornton would learn to animate her men.