cover image Defiance County

Defiance County

Jay Brandon. Pocket Books, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-53654-1

An unexpected twist energizes this exemplary legal thriller: the reader is thrown right into the middle of the story, along with special prosecutor Kelsey Thatch, when she arrives in Galilee, Tex., to investigate a double murder and a kidnapping in which the main suspect, Billy Fletcher, is the brother of Galilee District Attorney Morgan Fletcher. Like many small-town crime novels, this one features a tangle of family relationships, as well as a matriarch who runs the place--here, the imposing Alice Beaumont, who owns the factory that dominates Galilee. Beaumont's daughter Lorrie was one of the murder victims; her granddaughter Taylor is missing; her daughter Katherine is Morgan Fletcher's wife, and so the accused's sister-in-law--which, in Beaumont's mind, gives her more than enough right to tell Kelsey how to run her prosecution. But there are many skeletons in the Beaumont family closet, and Kelsey discovers them in a series of revelations that draws the reader inexorably into an increasingly complicated plot. While the solution to the murder/kidnapping doesn't quite balance the buildup, all the other plot elements are well matched, from the skeleton in Kelsey's own closet to her romance with a police assistant who may or may not be trustworthy. Ex-DA Brandon (Local Rules) shines in the trial scenes, and throughout infuses vitality into an overworked genre. (June)