cover image Murder Among Strangers

Murder Among Strangers

Jonnie Jacobs. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $20 (368pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-540-5

The fourth Kate Austen mystery (after Murder Among Us) will delight fans of the Walnut Hills, Calif., artist and bring new ones into the fold. When Kate stops in a downpour to help a frightened young woman alone in a car missing a rear wheel, she pays a harrowing price. The woman, Sheryl Ann, protests that her friend Bobby, the car's owner, will soon be back with a spare. Kate opens the trunk, where she sees a dead body just as Bobby returns. Bobby knocks Kate out, throws her in the trunk with the corpse and drives them all to a hunting cabin in the Idaho wilderness. Kate manages to escape home to California, only to learn that the police have found Bobby dead in the cabin, but no trace of Sheryl Ann. Suddenly, Kate is the chief suspect in Bobby's murder, unless she can find Sheryl Ann and have the woman clear her. Michael, Kate's police-detective lover, comes to her defense, but he has personal problems at work as well as a full caseload of his own. Determined to absolve herself and discover who killed Bobby and why, Kate finds that her chief clue is an unidentified locker key sent to her by Sheryl Ann, perhaps unlocking the mystery to Bobby's past. Jacobs provides more than a few breathtaking surprises before wrapping up this heart-pounding story. (Mar.)