Sherryl Woods, . . Mira, $6.50 (400pp) ISBN 978-1-55166-955-7

Political murder shakes up a small Virginia town in the final installment of Woods's Trinity Harbor series (Ask Anyone, etc.). As sheriff of a community so idyllic that traffic citations are big cases and folks curse by saying "Geez-oh-flip," Tucker Spencer leads a pleasantly peaceful existence with little more than a matchmaking dad to trouble him. Life as usual comes to an abrupt end when he returns home one night to find his ex-childhood sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth Swan, half-naked in his bed. Liz jilted Tucker six years earlier in favor of Larry Chandler, a techno-millionaire with political dreams. Now Larry is dead, and Liz, fearing she'll be suspected of his murder, has come running for Tucker's help. Much to his family's disapproval, Tucker rushes to Liz's aid, motivated by a complex mix of chivalry and attraction. As the two join forces and investigate the murder, they try to resist the love their reunion instantly rekindles. The protagonists and the colorful townspeople are appealing, and Liz's attempts to win back the Spencer family's trust are portrayed deftly. Unfortunately, the homicide investigation that gives rise to much of the book is so amateurish and unbelievable that it weakens rather than complements the burgeoning romance. (Dec.)