DEAD TO RIGHTS
A fourth outing for Joanna Brady (Shoot, Don't Shoot, 1995, etc.), who's not only the sheriff of Arizona's Cochise County--and that means administrator, investigator, crisis manager, grief counselor, and on-call patroller--but also a full-time mother, daughter, and daughter-in-law. Joanna's biggest case this time is the torching of unloved veterinarian Amos Buckwalter's barn with him inside. Everything points to Hal Morgan, whose wife was the victim of Bucky's lethal binge of drunk driving a year ago, as the killer. But Joanna's impressed by Morgan's claims of innocence and appalled by the Widow Buckwalter's unseemly lack of mourning (a round of golf and a makeover the following day), which contrasts so vividly with Joanna's continued grieving for her own husband. Besides Bucky's murder, there are other cases--the death of ancient Reed Carruthers, a smuggler's fatal car crash--but more important are the endless domestic intrigues of Joanna's circle. What's holding up her friend Marianne Maculyea's adoption of a Chinese orphan? How can Joanna prevent her daughter from bullying her into buying Bucky's horse? What can Joanna say to the wife of a deputy who's leaving her husband over Joanna? And why does Joanna's long-lost adult brother get along so much better with their difficult mother than Joanna does? Jance's portrait of Sheriff Supermom and her world is painted in broad, soapy strokes--perfect entertainment for anybody who wonders how J.J. Marric's George Gideon would've made out as a southwestern American female.