cover image The Witness

The Witness

Sandra Brown. Grand Central Publishing, $30 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51631-0

Through a mosaic of tantalizing clues, premonitions and withheld identities, Brown (Charade) has created another page-turner to ensure her phenomenal popularity. This story pivots on the relationship between Kendall Deaton Burnwood, an idealistic public defender, and U.S. Marshal John McGrath, who is returning her to Prosper, S.C., as a material witness when their car crashes into a ravine in Georgia. With her three-month-old in tow, Kendall tries repeatedly to abandon John, who's hobbled by temporary amnesia and a leg injury. Kendall fears the town of Prosper for good reason: it's where she witnessed her husband and father-in-law, ringleaders of a white-supremacist vigilante group, ritualistically execute one of her clients. Evading Matt and Gibb Burnwood as well as the FBI, Kendall is also pursued across the South by the Crook twins, vengeful brothers of a disgruntled client whose idea of a celebration is a drinking binge and the deflowering of a 12-year-old niece. The push-pull generated by John's memory loss and Kendall's terror sparks a sexual tension that is deftly and vividly consummated, and secrets keep popping out until the last page. Brown's forte is glitch-free, all-over-the-map plotting, and her take on white-trashy behavior pushes just the right buttons. Major ad/promo/author tour. (July)