Laird (Bowman's Line, 1995) returns with a new hero but the same emphasis on the wonders and dangers of the desert reaches of Arizona and New Mexico. Botanist Gray Napoleon, a Vietnam vet, is a loner, as well as a passionate defender of flora and fauna, with an old adobe house in Tucson and an undemanding job at the Desert Museum. His friend and war buddy Ryder Joaquin, a member of the O'Odham Indian tribe, has died in L.A. (shot to death, it transpires), and Napoleon has promised to bring the body back to Ryder's family for burial on the reservation near Tucson. Along the way, he makes a stop at a desert gas station, and, in a few short minutes, the casket disappears from the flatbed of his Land Cruiser. Looking for answers, Napoleon finds Ryder's family and their visitor Caroline, a Frenchwoman who had lived with Ryder in L.A. She rides back to Tucson with Napoleon, who's more determined than ever to find the body and complete his mission. That determination and all of his survival skills will be tried to the max, though, as he fends off hired goons and motorcycle gangs, is pursued across the desert, finds his house ransacked, his lawyer/sometime lover Maria held hostage, and more. The not-too-convincing motive behind it all carries echoes of many adventure-romances from the past, but the exotic venue, a prose style that ranges from lean to lyrical, plenty of suspense, and the fresh, intriguing character of Gray Napoleon are definite pluses.