Dunne, Feb 2002, 23.95, 272 pp.
Cochise County, Arizona Victim Advocate Chloe Newcombe knows that in spite of the relatively small population and the isolation of the mountains she has plenty of clients assigned to her. Local Deputy Sheriff Hector Estrada turns to Chloe to inform Lee Thomas that someone killed her husband, State Supreme Court Judge Cal Thomas, in the nearby ghost town Windy City. Chloe is shocked to observe Lee as an antisocial shell of the once civic-minded individual she had been and her family totally ripped asunder.
As Chloe tries to help Lee, reporter Nate Pendergast, who was working on a story about Judge Thomas, has disappeared. Chloe's lover Craig Williams another person linked to Thomas also vanishes. Rationalizing what she is doing as part of her job to help victims, Chloe investigates the late Judge and his links to the missing people starting with the Thomas family. Chloe is unaware of the danger she places herself in by stretching her job beyond the limits.
Once the audience accepts Chloe's definition of her job to include “police” investigation, the story line is an engaging amateur sleuth tale. However, by going down that path, readers lose an opportunity to see what a victim advocate must fully deal with, as that role serves as a secondary plot to Chloe's inquiries. Elizabeth Thornton provides an entertaining mystery, but needs to place Chloe on the fringe of the case because her official work should serve as the lead theme of the plot. In other words, leave the crime busting to the pros, but make that a subplot. Amateur sleuth fans will delight in Chloe's antics, but feel a bit gypped.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner