Cover image for Ghost towns
Ghost towns
Thornton, Betsy.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur, 2002.
Physical Description:
260 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery

On Order



Victim Advocate or Victim Witness? Chloe Newcomb defines her job in the County Attorney's office as "helping victims of violent crimes through the criminal justice system in any way I can." Actually, there's much more to that than meets the eye. The description of "victim" stretches to include not only the muggee or even the murderee. In Chloe's past experience the people she is assigned to help in "whatever way that she can" includes those affected by a disaster, even an innocent bystander who has witnessed the event. And since she moved to the small desert town of Dudley, Arizona, she learned very well that disasters aren't limited to the cities.

Chloe's current assignment is to notify the family of a local judge, who has disappeared, and whose body is subsequently found at the ruins of a deserted hotel in a ghost town near Dudley. She finds the family to be a living illustration of the description "dysfunctional." The widow seems to have been on the verge of collapse before her husband disappeared, her live-in mother is an evil-tongued shrew, losing no opportunity to worsen the atmosphere. The couple's daughter, away at college, has cut off all communication with her family (something Chloe can hardly blame her for), and the pre-teen son is a bewildered, angry child. A victim advocate doesn't seem to be what this bereaved family needs. However, Chloe feels she can stretch the definition somewhat and see what she can do to solve the mystery of the judge's murder --not only who killed him and why, but why in such strange circumstances? She has her own reasons as well - her friend Nate, a young journalist has disappeared from Dudley after telling Chloe that he had uncovered some information about the judge that would "blow this town apart." Now she fears for his life. Meanwhile, she is beginning to feel that she needs a victim advocate herself, because not only Nate, but her lover Craig has vanished. The county police are investigating the judge's death; it's Chloe's job to be her own victim's advocate, seek out the late judge's estranged daughter, and more important, locate lover Craig and friend Nate, both of whom, she learns have secrets of their own.

Thornton has been lauded for the quality of her writing, the reality of the atmosphere in her tales of the Arizona desert, the subtlety and solidity of her characters and the excitement of the action. Ghost Towns takes all of these one step higher.

Author Notes

Betsy Thornton lives in Bisbee, Arizona, where she works for the Cochise County Attorney's Victim Witness Program as a victim compensation advocate and a victim advocate.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Victim advocate Chloe Newcomb's third adventure in Cochise County, Arizona, involves the murder of a prominent judge. When she appears at his home to notify the family, she finds an extremely dysfunctional group of relatives who are anything but grief stricken. Then her friend, Nate, a reporter working on a potentially explosive story involving the judge, disappears, and her boyfriend checks himself into a drug-rehabilitation program. Searching for clues to make sense of these startling events, she uncovers tragic secrets that have caused long-term family rifts. This solid series entry overcomes a disappointing finale with nicely drawn small-town characters and the vividly evoked desert setting. Recommend Thornton to fans of J. A. Jance's better-known series starring Cochise County sheriff Joanna Brady. --Barbara Bibel

Publisher's Weekly Review

There are real ghost towns near Cochise County, Ariz., where Chloe Newcombe lives and works as a victims' advocate in this darkly satisfying mystery, Thornton's third (after The Cowboy Rides Away and High Lonesome Road). And there are people and families that are metaphorical ghost towns abandoned, decaying, begging to be rescued, but perhaps beyond rescuing. The searing heat and brilliant sunshine of the desert are nearly absent. Instead, there are the storms, rain and clouds of autumn. Chloe, asked to visit the family of murdered Judge Cal Thomas, finds a seriously dysfunctional family some asking for her help, others trying to drive her off. At the same time, her seemingly stable relationship with her boyfriend takes a strange turn, and her young reporter friend, Nate Pendergast, disappears before he can tell her about a hot story he's pursuing. Chloe's personal and professional relationships are pulling her in all directions at once as she struggles to understand what's happening. The author movingly probes the festering secrets that can make strangers of those we think we know best. The smalltown desert setting proves as dangerous as any asphalt jungle, teeming with betrayals, unhealed wounds and unsettled scores. A skillfully crafted ending leaves the reader with much to ponder and eager to see where Chloe's next adventure will lead. (Feb. 18) Forecast: Too dark to be a cozy, too cozy to qualify as noir, this hard-to-categorize mystery could benefit from good word of mouth. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In her third mystery, Chloe Newcombe, victim advocate for Cochise County, informs a judge's wife that police have located her missing husband shot to death in a nearby ghost town. Chloe's sleuthing, and reporter friend Nate's less subtle questions, soon penetrate the thin veneer of propriety surrounding the couple. But Nate's periodic disappearances and propensity to jump at rumor, a fight between Chloe and her boyfriend, and an ambitious county attorney provide suspenseful delays. Colorful Arizona descriptions, polished prose, and unique characters complement the Western locale and appealing plot. For Southwestern mystery collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.