St. Martin's, Mar 2003, 23.95, 256 pp.
Post Oak, Texas is a very tiny town where everyone seems to know one another, even their darkest secrets. To the surprise of the locals, the single father of a teen, Judge Jackson Crain, is seeing a visiting outsider preservationist out in the open. However, the county magistrate, like everyone except one person, has no idea who strangled his sister-in-law Dora Hughes and a transient. Jackson investigates, as he needs to know.
Still, in spite of the two murders, the women continue to meet at the Knit Shop to share tidbits about anyone who is not there. On the other hand the men never gossip except over coffee at the Wagon Wheel. While chitchat seems to be the cottage industry of Post Oak, the killer has struck at least twice but will the law figure out the identity in time to stop the culprit before he or she kills again.
RESTORED TO DEATH is an interesting small town regional mystery that brings to life the townsfolk (and a few corpses) so that the reader understands down home Texas. Jackson is a delightful main character, but even he seems overwhelmed by the obvious typecasting that engulfs him. The who-done-it pales next to the ensemble cast so that Nancy Bell's tale is not quite a Biggie.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner