Jexville, Miss., is a quintessential sleepy southern town whose beauty, a newspaper publisher learns, covers a lot of ugly secrets.
Dixon Sinclair has returned to her ancestral hometown to ride herd on the local newspaper and try to forget the murder of her journalist father and her subsequent bout with alcoholism. She’s already running up against the good-old-boy mentality when two teenage girls disappear while sunbathing on a river sandbar. The suspect is a Mexican whose religious mania leads him to destroy images of the Virgin Mary. After hearing part of the story from high-flying reporter Robert Medino, Sheriff J.D. Horton makes a quick trip to Mexico. The bodies of the teens turn up horribly mutilated in a way that is based on the old Mexican tradition of the Judas burning. A wealthy couple accuses their mentally fragile daughter Camille’s live-in, J.D.’s friend Eustace Mills, when one of the bodies is found on his lawn. Dixon and J.D. stir the pot, unearthing more secrets, until the appalling truth behind the murders is revealed, along with the sordid facts behind the murder of Dixon’s father.
Sympathetic characters and an unblinking look at the banality and breathtaking evil below Jexville’s surface make this latest from Haines (Hallowed Bones, 2004, etc.) a must-read.