Twenty years ago, a darkness rose up out of the blistering heat of the Arizona desert and descended upon the Walker family of Tucson. A personified evil, a serial killer named Andrew Carlisle, brought blood and terror into their world, nearly murdering Diana Ladd Walker and her young son, Davy. Now much has changed. The family has grown larger. There's Lani, the beloved adopted daughter--a beautiful Native American teenager "kissed by the bees" and destined, according to Tohono 0'othham lore, to become a woman of great spiritual power. And now that the psychopath Carlisle has died in prison, Brandon and Diana Walker believe that their long nightmare is finally over.
They are wrong.
The monster is dead, but his malevolence lives on . . . in another.
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.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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January 08, 2001
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Excerpt from Kiss of the Bees by J.A. Jance
There were three of them -- a viejo -- an older man -- and two younger ones -- trudging up the sandy arroyo, each lugging two gallon-sized plastic containers of water. Mitch Johnson watched them through the gunsight on his rifle, wondering should he or shouldn't he In the end, he did. He shot them for the same reason Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest -- because they were there.
The older one was still alive and moaning when Johnson stopped his Jeep on the rim of the wash to check his handiwork. It offended him that one shot had been so far off, hitting the man in the lower spine rather than where he'd meant to. The Marines had taught him better than that. He had the expert rifle badge to prove it, along with a Purple Heart and a bum leg as well.
He slid down the crumbling bank of Brawley Wash. The sand was ankle-deep and powdery underfoot, so there was no question of leaving a trail of identifiable footprints. Besides, as soon as the rains came, the bodies would be washed far downstream, into the Santa Rita, eventually, and from there into the Gila. When the bodies showed up, weeks or months from now, Johnson figured no one would be smart enough to trace three dead wetbacks back to the son-in-law of a well-to-do cotton farmer with a prosperous place off Sandario Road.
The three men lay facedown in the sand. The one who was still alive lay with his fist clasped shut around the handle of the water bottle. In the hot mid-June sun, water meant life. Approaching them, Johnson held his rifle at the ready, just in case. He walked up and kicked the bottle, shattering its brittle white plastic. The water sank instantly into the sand, like bathwater disappearing down a drain. Then slowly, systematically, he kicked each of the other five bottles in turn, sending their contents, too, spilling deep into the parched earth of the wash bed.
Only when the water was gone did he return to the injured man. The guy was quiet now, no doubt playing dead and hoping there wouldn't be another shot. And there wouldn't be. Why bother The man was already dead; he just didn't know it. Why waste another bullet
"Welcome to the United States of America, greaser," Mitch Johnson said aloud in English. "Have a nice day."
With that he turned and walked away -- limped away -- leaving the hot afternoon sun to finish his deadly work. What he didn't see as he scrambled back up the side of the wash to his waiting Jeep was that he was not alone. There was one other person there in the wash with him -- another wetback -- armed with his own two gallons of water and with his own unquenchable belief that somehow life north of the international border would be better than it was back home in Mexico.