Just because Sheriff Joanna Brady has a newborn baby in tow doesn’t mean she can’t do her best to take charge of a case of serial kidnapping, rape, and murder.
Sure, Eleanor Sage Dixon takes her mother away from election night when she makes her arrival just as the citizens of Cochise County, Arizona, are returning Joanna to office for the third time. And her birth paves the way for chief deputy Tom Hadlock to assume the post of acting sheriff. But teenage poacher Jack Carver’s discovery of a skull in the desert, miles from any home, unleashes a case that’s too big for Tom, especially when a return to the site reveals the remains of several dead girls As Latisha Marcum, abducted from the streets of New Orleans by a man she knows only as the Boss, prays for the survival and deliverance that have eluded her fellow captives, Joanna (Downfall, 2016, etc.) tries her best to keep her distance from the investigation. Despite her best intentions, the reckless interference of her old antagonist, Bisbee Bee reporter Marliss Shackleford, pulls her back from the sidelines with the rueful confession: “I’m not very good at maternity leave,” even though professional honors will go to rookie deputy Garth Raymond. Veteran Jance, who still thinks the best way to bring even her minor characters to life is to share every possible detail about their life stories, their formative years, and their ancestors, provides more backstory than a family reunion. Long before the end, her summaries, flashbacks, journal entries, and reminiscences have pulled off the impossible feat of draining the suspense from what might have seemed a foolproof story of women in extreme peril.
On the plus side, Jance's heroine does get to hear the most suitable compliment imaginable from a hard-used victim: “I never knew cops could be so nice.”