In Cochise County (Ariz.) sheriff Joanna Brady's ninth outing, bestseller Jance verges on soap opera, but avoids the worst excesses of the type. Mother-daughter relationships get a real workout, as Joanna's brittle connection with her mother is always testy and the emotional fulcrum between Joanna and her 12-year-old daughter, Jenny, is always shifting. But plenty of other combinations of blood and bonding get a workout, too. Jenny and a camping partner discover the body of a naked woman while Joanna and new husband Butch Dixon are out of town to attend a sheriffs' convention and a wedding. Joanna's personal and professional lives collide heavily as concerns for her daughter, her department, her husband and her future intertwine. With a mix of old and modern police work (interviews, crime-scene analysis, sophisticated forensics) and intense personal problems (Jenny may be targeted by the killer, Butch may have cheated on Joanna, Joanna's mother's meddling may have gotten a girl killed), Jance keeps things roiling from start to finish. With more than two dozen mysteries to her credit, the author has learned a great deal about pacing and it's evident in this page-turner, which nicely builds suspense and throws in some nifty surprises as well. Jance's sense of place remains strong, whether here in the beautifully rendered rural Arizona setting or in the rainy Seattle of her J.P. Beaumont mysteries. (Aug. 7)
Forecast:With a one-day laydown and strong marketing backing, including a 12-city tour and radio and print advertising, this book will hit the lists fast.