Kiss of the Bees

J. A. Jance, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (389p) ISBN 978-0-380-97747-5
Jance takes time out from her popular series featuring lawyer J.P. Beaumont (Breach of Duty) and Sheriff Joanna Brady (Outlaw Mountain) with this many-layered but overplotted suspense novel, set in the Arizona desert and suffused with the mystery and otherworldliness of Papago Indian folklore. Ex-con Mitch Johnson takes revenge on prize-winning author Diana Ladd Walker and former Tucson sheriff Brandon Walker by abducting their adopted teenage Papago daughter, Lani . (Years earlier, Brandon arrested Mitch for killing two illegal aliens; Diana blinded and maimed Mitch's prison cellmate when he attacked her.) Just as the vicious Apaches were the Papagos' most feared enemies, so the unredeemingly vile Mitch is the Walkers' relentless waking nightmare, prone to torture. As the search for Lani accelerates, the interplay among the large cast of Anglo and Indian characters, bound together by kinship, upbringing and respect or animosity, increases. The baggage they bring to the story and their interlocking relationships could overwhelm a less accomplished writer, but Jance has a sure hand. As she cuts from one set of characters to another, as well as from past to present, she creates a coherent and engrossing novel that uses the dreamlike Papago creation myth to artfully combine magic and reality; each chapter is introduced with a pertinent portion of the legend. Unfortunately, a few clunky clues stand out like beacons and when justice finally prevails, it's tied up in a package whose neatness seems more magical than real. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
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