Cochise County, Ariz., sheriff Joanna Brady (Partner in Crime, 2002, etc.), nine months pregnant and almost too big for her Kevlar vest, solves one of her father’s old cases.
Although his pregnant wife’s body was never found, Bradley Evans, who thought he might have killed her in a drunken blackout, confessed to her murder and spent 25 years in prison for it. Released, sober and a lay member of the prison ministries, Evans lasts only two years on the outside before someone kills him and cuts off his fingers. The homicide falls to Joanna, but she’s short-staffed—one deputy has prostate cancer, another’s in ICU from a near-fatal beating—and sidetracked by the nasty O’Dwyer brothers’ dog-fighting ring, the swarms of illegals crossing the Mexican border and her mother and mother-in-law, who brandish words like swords in disapproval of her. When she discovers Evans had been stalking a young woman who was the spitting image of his wife, she exhumes her father’s case files and journals. Was Mrs. Evans alive? Did she give birth to a daughter? Was Bradley Evans framed? The resolution will involve DNA testing for Huntington’s disease, a close look at several marriages and divorces and a marginally plausible baby swap.
Typical Jance fare: lots of plotting, not all of it well-thought-out, and a generous helping of schmaltz. Congrats are in order, however, on the birth of Joanna and Butch’s son Dennis.