Joanna Brady is the no-nonsense sheriff of a border town in Arizona, and she is thoroughly delightful in this story of murder in the treacherous canyons near the Mexican border.
The recently widowed mother of a 10-year-old girl, Joanna cannot help but be moved by the vicious murder of Brianna O'Brien, the beautiful and popular daughter of the town's most prominent family. The reader, too, is drawn into Brianna's all-too-brief life, and is there with her in Skeleton Canyon as she joyously awaits the arrival of her secret lover, Ignacio Ybarra, equally young, beautiful, and deeply in love. Brianna does not live to meet her lover--but who killed her? And why? It's up to Joanna to find out, and her job is much hampered by the arrogance of Brianna's father, whose distrust of the local law enforcement community is matched only by his racial hatred of Mexican-Americans.
Brianna and Ignacio were involved in a forbidden love affair, at least by the senior O'Brian's lights. Did he find out and have his own daughter killed? It seems highly unlikely, since Ignacio is very much alive--and a suspect. But why would he murder his beloved? What secrets in the O'Brian family coalesced to cause this inevitable tragedy?
While Joanna and her crew struggle to find the answers, the reader is treated to magnificent descriptions of the rugged Southwest, whose beauty masks murderous dangers such as killer flash floods. Equally interesting is the supporting cast: Joanna's friend Angie, a former hooker turned straight; two old and entertaining drunks in the bar where Angie works; Joanna's indomitable mother, who has a secret of her own; and more.
This is the 5th in the Joanna Brady series, and the first I have read. It stands alone beautifully, but got me so hooked that I must get my hands on the next book immediately! Highly recommended for mystery lovers looking for a good, strong, read.