Joanna Brady--widow, single mother and sheriff of Cochise County, Ariz.--is the star of Jance's fine series of police procedurals. Joanna has grown and changed over the course of six novels (the most recent being Rattlesnake Crossing), and in this up-to-snuff seventh she's considering remarrying. She's also heading up an investigation into the murder of an elderly woman found riddled with cactus spines in the desert. The victim is Alice Rogers, mother of the erratic and blustering mayor of Tombstone, Cletus Rogers. At the same time, Joanna and her deputies must sort out a skirmish between construction workers and environmental protesters over the development of homes on pristine mountain land. Joanna is an appealing heroine, a talented, hard-working woman who must manage a department with its share of stubborn and strong-willed men--while she tries to meet the demands of her personal life. She inevitably works long, unpredictable hours and struggles to find enough time to do her job well and still see her with family and friends. Though Joanna's boyfriend, Butch Dixon, is sometimes too perfect, and in this outing, the motivations of some of the major characters tend to be murky, the strongly evoked settings and Joanna's natural charisma will carry fans along happily. $150,000 ad/promo; author tour. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.