cover image Do Unto Others

Do Unto Others

Jeff Abbott. Fawcett Books, $7.99 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38948-0

Abbott's debut mystery is a bright, often funny portrayal of the social mechanics of a small town, where, as the narrator/accused/detective quickly discovers, everyone has something to hide. Jordan Poteet has left a thriving publishing career back East to return to his home town in Mirabeau, Texas-a town as backward and insulated as any cliche-to care for his ailing mother and work as the local librarian. Quickly, Jordan is accused of the gruesome murder of a nasty, churchgoing town elder who is at odds with the library's ``liberal'' policies. With a redneck assistant D.A. on his heels, Jordan tries to prove his innocence. Abbott is highly skilled and at ease with the twang and tone of Texas folk and often seems in control of his story. The problem is Abbott has stuffed his relatively short book full-too full. He covers almost every hot topic from censorship to religious fanaticism to Alzheimer's to blackmail. The cast of characters is so vast that Abbott is forced to rehash his hero's suspect list more than once, and though the sweetly handled and satisfying romantic subplot stands out, more often readers will find themselves lost in a sea of personalities. While often engaging, Abbott simply weaves too large a web for a small-town tale. It's a little hard to imagine how this once-in-a-lifetime will translate into the series promised by the cover. (Nov.)