Beach book of the Week
A teacher turned writer, Judith Jance has a field day with this one. Favoring flawed heroes over supersleuths, Jance burdens her heroine of nine mysteries, Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady, and crusty Seattle detective J.P. "Beau" Beaumont—a veteran of 15 previous novels—with troubled romances, problem children and nagging self-doubt. In their first grudging partnership, these two earthy protagonists work as hard cleaning up messy personal lives as they do solving the murders of an artist and her bohemian agent.
The intricacy of the murder probe, which unfolds in the dueling points of view of the leads, would be a dizzy mess in less deft hands, but Vance's inner dramas are roiling, never soapy or maudlin. The detectives pick their way through poisonings (which employ a common compound), a corruption scandal, stationhouse politics and political deception. As their hate-hate relationship warms, they face an ever-lurking emotional minefield: insanity, loneliness, jealousy. Frailty dogs our heroes, but courage inspires them. Beau and Brady may wonder which side will win out. We have no doubts. (Morrow, $24.95)
Bottom Line: Perfect pair of gumshoes