Sheriff Joanna Brady is on her way home after making funeral arrangements for her mother, Eleanor, and her step-father, Dr. George Winfield, who were victims of a teen-aged binge killer, when she gets a call from her chief deputy, Tom Hadlock, about two female bodies that could possibly be a double homicide or murder/suicide. After a quick trip home to change clothes and eat, the pregnant sheriff is off again and upsetting her husband, Butch, because she’s working too hard.
The victims were either pushed or jumped off of Geronimo, a double humped limestone peak, and are laying one on top of the other. The bodies were discovered by two young boys who slipped out of their house to go climb Geronimo, which is a tradition in Bisbee. The coroner declares the women were dead when their bodies landed on the ground, and pronounces this is a double murder. Investigation shows that the women weren’t acquainted. Desiree Wilburton, a graduate student, had been camping and looking for a rare cactus. Susan Wilson lives and teaches in Sierra Vista and is married. Her husband, the good Reverend Wilson, has nothing good to say about his wife. With little clues here and there, Joanna Brady is able to find the dark and dirty killer that is hiding in plain sight.
As usual, J. A. Jance leads us on a merry pursuit of chasing shadows and red herrings, while enjoying every bit of time spent. Joanna has a lot on her plate, and the fact she hasn’t slowed down is causing some friction in the marriage. She hasn’t grieved properly over the loss of her mom; her daughter, Jenny has just started college; and, Joanna has some strong issues concerning her newly found half-brother, Bob – he and his wife, Marcie, will be coming to Bisbee for the funerals. Add the fact she is taking care of her job and her five-year-old son, Denny, while expecting a baby girl in a few months, and anyone can understand why Butch is exasperated!
Ms. Jance always delivers a superb mystery starring a core of boldly drawn repeating characters readers care about. DOWNFALL delivers the good with the bad situations, and it is also emotionally beautiful. This is a terrific, evenly paced and gratifying read.