St. Martin's, July 2002, 23.95, 304 pp.
Purple Sage is a small Texas town founded by nine religious fundamentalist families and even today their influence can be felt. Jolie Wyatt, a newcomer to the town and married to native-born Matt, is hosting a party in honor of retiring Dr. Bill Marchak and Beverly Kendall, who has returned after a three year absence to take care of her ailing father.
The only problem is that most of Purple Sage is flooding and the house where the reception is supposed to take place is underwater. They are forced to hold the party at the home of Beverly's ex-husband Tom who divorced her to marry Leigh. A gracious Beverly insures no one feels uncomfortable. Later that night, Dr. Bill's body is found tightly wedged in a drawn wrenched ditch. Nobody knows the cause of death but rumors abound. Shortly thereafter, Leigh disappears. Julie finds the body believing that the same person murdered both people.
The protagonist, trying to achieve justice for the dead, almost finds herself becoming the third victim of a demented killer. Her bravery and unwavering quest for the truth as well as her loyalty to friends and family are only some of the reasons the heroine is easy to like. Sad to say, the killer's identity is totally believable and raises some interesting legal and social issues. After a two-year absence, it is good to see the Purple Sage gang reunited again.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner