Mike Stewart, Author . Putnam $24.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-14804-0

Stewart's third mystery featuring attorney Tom McInnes (after 2000's Dog Island) again combines the suspense, richly textured plot, picturesque Alabama settings, double-crossing characters and sparkling writing that set his first two books apart from the pack. Here, Sheri Baneberry hires Tom to discover the truth behind the death of her mother, who was serving on a jury when she supposedly died of food poisoning. As Tom and his two investigators dig into the Baneberry case, they immediately run into nightmarish trouble. Tom's menaced by an elusive stranger, violent ex-con Zion "Zybo" Thibbodeaux, one of the most complex, frightening characters in recent mystery fiction. Sheri's father and his business partner try to stop the investigation. Influential politicians try to buy Tom off, wrongly accuse him of murdering another lawyer and threaten him with disbarment. The bright spot is Dr. Kai-Li Cantil, an Auburn University psychology professor, whose research contributes to Tom's case and whose friendship and physical allure boost his morale. Eventually, Tom identifies Mrs. Baneberry's murderer, but can he prove the killer did it? Then the enigmatic Thibbodeaux vanishes, perhaps to reappear in another book. A cast of devious characters, most of them hiding secrets that may or may not help Tom, populate this many-layered plot in which answers just lead to more questions. Stewart throws a curveball in the surprising conclusion that will leave mystery fans eagerly awaiting the fourth in the series. Agent, Sally McMillan.(Jan. 7)

FYI:The author has recently left his position as a corporate attorney to write full time.

Reviewed on: 11/26/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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