A Whole New Life

Betsy Thornton, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-35759-7

Like Thornton's Chloe Newcombe mystery series (Dead for the Winter , etc.), this wonderfully old-fashioned stand-alone is set in Cochise County, Ariz. When Jackson Williams, an unambitious and washed-out poet, is arrested for the murder of his restless, dissatisfied wife, Jenny (who dies in a car accident after someone apparently spiked her "probiotics," i.e., herbal pills), Jackson's good friend and neighbor, Ruth Norton, hires ex-big-city lawyer Stuart Ross to head the defense team. Other supporters include an on-the-wagon, bright yellow Cadillac–driving, ex-cop PI; Jackson's recently returned, long-lost daughter, Mara; and Ruth's 11-year-old son, who may be harboring dangerous evidence. As the investigation proceeds, revelations about Jenny's secret life spill suspicion on several colorful locals. The plot corkscrews toward a surprising, satisfying conclusion that allows this motley alliance to move forward with their bumpy, imperfect lives. Seamless prose and intriguing characters whose complexities are presented with plenty of delicious ambiguity and occasional unexpected slaps of humor make this a stand-out. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/18/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
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