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The longer Joanna Brady’s cases get, the less there seems to be to them. This time, the killer whose first homicide was just a warm-up for a spree that runs from Pomerene gun dealer Clyde Philips (beaten and smothered) to anti-oleander activist Ashley Brittany (shot and scalped) to dude ranch paper-shuffler Katrina Berridge (ditto and ditto) sounds like a meaty meal for the sheriff of Arizona’s Cochise County. But the hints of survivalist hysteria go nowhere; the rumors of a small-scale range war between rancher Alton Hosfield and transplanted insurance exec Martin Scorsby go nowhere; even the war signals between Joanna and substitute medical examiner Dr. Fran Daly go nowhere. There are more killings, but Jance (Skeleton Canyon, 1997, etc.) seems less interested in them, certainly less interested in the killer behind them, than in Joanna’s romance with restauranteur Butch Dixon or her friend Rev. Marianne Maculyea’s medical tribulations with her adopted daughter. The result is less a police procedural’still less a mystery or suspenser—than a novel of manners about a heroine whose career happens to be in law enforcement, and whose idea of bonding with the bereaved is to tell them that since she’s a widow herself, she knows how they feel. All of which would be fine if Joanna and her intimates were interesting enough to make up for what’s missing. As it is, Jance makes you appreciate how hard the best Faye Kellermans work to integrate her characters’ domestic and professional lives, instead of simply serving them up on the same plate.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-380-97499-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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