There are real ghost towns near Cochise County, Ariz., where Chloe Newcombe lives and works as a victims' advocate in this darkly satisfying mystery, Thornton's third (after The Cowboy Rides Away and High Lonesome Road). And there are people and families that are metaphorical ghost towns—abandoned, decaying, begging to be rescued, but perhaps beyond rescuing. The searing heat and brilliant sunshine of the desert are nearly absent. Instead, there are the storms, rain and clouds of autumn. Chloe, asked to visit the family of murdered Judge Cal Thomas, finds a seriously dysfunctional family—some asking for her help, others trying to drive her off. At the same time, her seemingly stable relationship with her boyfriend takes a strange turn, and her young reporter friend, Nate Pendergast, disappears before he can tell her about a hot story he's pursuing. Chloe's personal and professional relationships are pulling her in all directions at once as she struggles to understand what's happening. The author movingly probes the festering secrets that can make strangers of those we think we know best. The smalltown desert setting proves as dangerous as any asphalt jungle, teeming with betrayals, unhealed wounds and unsettled scores. A skillfully crafted ending leaves the reader with much to ponder—and eager to see where Chloe's next adventure will lead. (Feb. 18)
Forecast:Too dark to be a cozy, too cozy to qualify as noir, this hard-to-categorize mystery could benefit from good word of mouth.