cover image Skeleton Canyon

Skeleton Canyon

J. A. Jance. Avon Books, $23 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97395-8

Jance is an expert at writing rich mysteries filled with as much human decency as skullduggery. When high-school valedictorian Bree O'Brien is found dead in the southeastern Arizona mountains, suspicion falls on her boyfriend, Ignacio Ybarra, who refuses to explain his fresh cuts and bruises. But the case isn't that simple, as Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady learns in this fifth adventure (after Dead to Rights). Bree and Ignacio had been meeting secretly because her wealthy father hates Hispanics. When Ignacio is cleared, Joanna suspects that another case may be connected with the homicide. Someone has been smuggling Freon across the border, cashing in on high black-market prices for the refrigerant. Are Bree's parents involved? And would any amount of smuggling money make them kill their own daughter? Why did O'Brien hire an ex-cop with an unsavory past who often leered at Bree? And why did Bree write in her journal, ""My mother is a liar""? Joanna tackles the cases while still coping with the loneliness of her recent widowhood and a startling personal revelation about her mother. This is a solid yarn with strong characters and a full palette of local color. Jance's regional knowledge runs deep, whether she writes about troubled Anglo-Hispanic relations along the border or the surprising power of Arizona thunderstorms. 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Aug.) FYI: Skeleton Canyon will be simultaneously published with the mass market reprint of Dead to Rights.