cover image Judas Burning

Judas Burning

Carolyn Haines, . . River City, $26.95 (341pp) ISBN 978-1-57966-061-1

Delta mystery writer Haines returns to Jexville, Miss. (Touched ), for the adventures of Dixon Sinclair, a big-city reporter who moves to the small town to stop drinking and start publishing a local weekly. Haunted by doubts about the guilt of the man convicted of killing her father, Dixon stands up to Big Jim Welford of the local board of ed, pursues the teacher he fires then reinstates in secret, photographs a defiled statue of the Virgin Mary, aids Sheriff J.D. Horton in a search for two missing teenagers and still has time for lunch at the diner with the town's nicest woman (a Methodist minister) and its richest (the bank president's wife). Haines's portraits of a Mexican immigrant's religious turmoil and the relationship between the bank president's daughter and her reclusive fisherman lover are complex and touching; the bank president and his wife seem like caricatures in comparison. Haines builds suspense with images of violent crime and the thrill of breaking news, then undermines it by chasing too many leads, stopping only for mind-numbing recaps of suspects and clues. Her uneven storytelling is mitigated, though, by a resilient, likable heroine. (Oct.)