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The hardworking single mother of a young daughter, Joanna Brady still feels the acute pain of loneliness and loss, and the hole that was left in her heart when her policeman husband was brutally murdered. But Sheriff Brady is the law in Cochise County, and she will never allow her private trials to interfere with the job she was elected to perform -- especially now that murder has shattered the small town's fragile peace. A local gun dealer has died violently, and his stock of high-powered weapons has been cleaned out. When two more slayings follow soon after, suspicion falls upon rancher Alton Hosfield, an embittered ,man at war with the federal government, environmentalists, area newcomers, the local law--with anyone, in fact, whom she perceives as a threat to his home, his family, his freedom, and his isolation. Sheriff Brady suspects, however, that the solution is not cut-and-dried. An incendiary situation is getting hotter by the minute, and the last thing Joanna wants is another "Ruby Ridge" in her jurisdiction. But her preoccupation with bringing a cold-blooded killer to justice could take a terrible toll on her personal life. . .and unravel threads of family, love, and responsibility that might never again be retied. Rattlesnake Crossing is J.A. Jance's sixth novel in the acclaimed Joanna Brady series (readers may also be familiar with her Seattle-based J.P. Beaumont series). Brady is no tough-talking V.I. Warshawski or Kat Colorado; her appeal lies in her willingness to admit that her Cochise County sheriff's uniform is often an uneasy fit. As the single mother of a young daughter, Brady is prey to the pain and loneliness that have resulted from her husband's brutal murder, and she struggles to prove to herself and others that she is capable of bringing a cold-blooded killer to justice.
When Clyde Philips, a local gun dealer, dies violently, his stock of high-powered assault weapons vanishes, and two sniper slayings follow soon after, suspicion falls upon Alton Hosfield, an embittered rancher at odds with the federal government, the environmentalists, and anyone else he sees as a threat to his isolation. Sheriff Brady, however, suspects that the solution may lie elsewhere, and her investigation takes her into the bizarre practices of a local resort whose appeal is equal parts New Age spiritualism, Native American pantheism, and cold-blooded materialism.
Jance has a talent for weaving prosaic threads into a gripping mystery narrative. As a result, Brady must--in addition to tracking a vicious killer--cope with the impossibly high standards of her insufferable mother; the spiteful comments of Marliss Shackleford, an old high school rival and current gossip columnist for the Bisbee Bee; and some rather unexpected news from Butch Dixon, her would-be ardent suitor. As with earlier Brady mysteries, the domestic context provides a deliciously ironic backdrop for the game of psychological cat-and-mouse being played in the Arizona desert. --Kelly Flynn