Joanna Brady has hardly settled into her new job as sheriff of Cochise County when she's called out to a training course at the Arizona Police Officers Academy for six weeks of hitting the books. It sounds like a drag, especially after Joanna meets her chief instructor, woman-baiting windbag Dave Thompson, but it's not a bore--because Joanna's walked into the middle of a string of thrill-killings. The latest victim is Serena Grijalva, whose ex-husband, Jorge, is about to plead guilty to Serena's murder to keep her sordid private life from her kids. Unknown to Joanna, though, Serena's been preceded by at least five other victims, most of them incorrectly identified--by the naive, opportunistic Maricopa Anti-Violence Empowerment Network (MAVEN)--as victims of domestic violence. When the evidence starts to come in, however, it'll implicate someone a lot closer to Joanna than Jorge Grijalva. Veteran Jance's third in a new series (Tombstone Courage, not reviewed; the paperback Desert Heat) doesn't shirk some tough political argument--and it's also unusually sensitive about the politics of Joanna's complicated family life. Only the mystery itself is less than tough and smart.