After fifteen J.P. Beaumont mysteries (Devil’s Claw, 2000, etc.) and nine Joanna Bradys (Paradise Lost, 2001, etc.), it’s clearly time for a Beaumont-Brady, though the joint case isn’t terribly challenging to either sleuth. The tale begins in Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Brady’s turf, when talented young artist Rochelle Baxter is found dead the night before her first-ever one-woman show. Homicide? Yes, indeed, complicated by the fact that there never was a Rochelle Baxter. The late headliner was actually Latisha Wall, who’d been stashed away in a witness protection program pending a court appearance in behalf of the state of Washington. Enter former Seattle homicide cop Beaumont, currently a special investigator for Washington’s bristling attorney general, a boss who’s hopping-mad over the loss of his star witness. Back when she answered to Latisha, the ex-marine painter had worked for a private prison corporation—until she blew the whistle on her crooked higher-ups. Was it these self-same lowlifes who did for Latisha, or was it a disappointed lover whose fingerprints have turned up in suspicious proximity to her body? Beau’s been dispatched because his big-city masters don’t trust “some little wet-behind-the-ears cowgirl” to conduct a proper investigation. Item: Beau and Joanne don’t like each other. Item: Beau and Joanne operate at cross-purposes. Item: Beau and Joanne have an ah-ha moment after which they perceive each other’s true worth and crack the case.
Soft-boiled stuff, but then that’s the way the target audience likes its eggs.