cover image A Flower in the Desert: A Joshua Croft Mystery

A Flower in the Desert: A Joshua Croft Mystery

Walter Satterthwait. St. Martin's Press, $17.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-312-07751-8

After accusing TV heartthrob Roy Alonzo of molesting their daughter, his ex-wife Melissa vanishes, along with the child. In Satterthwait's ( At Ease with the Dead ) vibrant latest mystery, quick-witted and thoughtful Santa Fe PI Joshua Croft agrees when Alonzo's mobster uncle asks him to find the pair and investigate the charges. Croft learns that Melissa's sister was tortured and killed after the disappearance, and that a friend of hers has also gone missing. Seeking information from local authorities, Croft is told that the FBI, in the person of a smarmy agent named Stamworth, is impeding their investigation. The discovery of another torture and murder victim leads Croft to the Sanctuary movement for illegal aliens, the Underground Railroad (a refuge for battered wives and children) and to a brush with El Salvador's death squads. As he deals with unscrupulous characters on both sides of the law, Croft learns something about Melissa and Roy's sex life that makes finding mother and daughter imperative. Satterthwait offers local color, detail and intriguing action along with an appealingly sensitive, slightly cynical series hero. (Aug.)