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Finally, an authentic mystery for Jo Beth Sidden—though one as remote as ever from her bloodhound-raising skills (A Brace of Bloodhounds, 1997, etc.). This time, she’s to check out the claims to innocence of Samuel Debbs, who was convicted 30 years ago for kidnapping two babies and murdering one of them (and their nursemaid to boot) but who’s now been freed on a medical parole so he can die at home. Most of the witnesses to the crime are long dead, of course, and Jo Beth’s in no hurry to get around to the others, especially when there’s her ex-husband Bubba, still as homicidally frisky as ever, to worry about, and a brand-new kidnaping that’ll take her and one of her beloved hounds into Okefenokee Swamp for a heartstopping chase. The new kidnaping doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the story, but it utterly outclasses the lackadaisical Q&A it interrupts, especially since the solution to the ancient mystery is cribbed from an even more ancient American classic. Readers who aren’t partial to dogs will appreciate the way Lanier’s canines, the real detectives here, actually earn the regard that lesser authors’ dogs are paid; others may wish that Lanier could either integrate her gripping tracking sequences into a more suspenseful plot or dispense with detection altogether and commit herself to a full-dress chase novel. Other bonuses for readers who stay the course: Jo Beth’s unsentimental toughness and her endless network of down-home Georgians. Not everybody will consider this last plus a plus.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-017547-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998


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