John Gates, Author . Walker $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3363-4

In Gates's engaging second Brigham Bybee mystery, a sort of X-Files meets Friendly Persuasion (the classic Gary Cooper movie about Quakers), the people and places of modern Utah seem as otherworldly as, well, another world. Defense lawyer and motel owner Brig is helping his girlfriend, Zolene Swapp, who had a major role in the author's first novel, Brigham's Day (2000), restore her historic house in Kanab, Utah. He's also helping to prosecute a member of the United Order of the Christ Brethren, Rampton Crowe, for polygamy. Brig's one witness, a former "wife" called Faith, is in a safe house to protect her from Crowe's "Blood Disciples." One night another wife, Mercy, comes to the motel badly beaten: Crowe caught her with a man who she claims later suffered a brutal end. Brig takes her to the same safe house as Faith, her "sister wife." Soon after Faith is found murdered, suspicion falls on Mercy. Brig is excoriated in the press, and fanning the flames is an evil little weasel, Darvis Gant, whom he defeated in an election years before and who has thirsted for his blood ever since. Cornered, Brig extricates himself in an ingenious ploy that results in a suspenseful climax. Unfortunately, the author fails to provide a plausible motive for "the real killer." In addition, Brig's having sex with Mercy in Zolene's bed stretches credulity, though Zolene's off-the-wall reaction may be worth the contrivance. Gates's contemporary Utah is a fascinating place, however, and his mystery is an entertaining one. Agent, the Philip Spitzer Agency. (July 5)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!