(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Joan Hess's Arly Hanks scores again in this new tale set in Maggody, Arkansas, a little country town of 755 souls where everyone knows everybody's business and most folks are relatives. Arly has come home from New York, battered by a vicious divorce, to recover; she keeps herself in burgers by accepting the poorly paid job of police chief in her hometown. Arly's mother Ruby Bee, who runs a restaurant/motel, and her friend Estelle the beautician are on the scene in their usual roles as busybodies when a new computer instructor moves to town to escort the citizens of Maggody into the twenty-first century.

Jim Bob Buchanon, the lusty mayor, and his prim Gospel-spouting wife Barbara cause Arly problems as usual, as do Brother Verber who likes the communion wine, Raz Buchanon, the bootlegger who lives with his companion pig, and Diesel the hermit madman. Much of the action takes place in the Pot O'Gold trailer park where mysterious strangers take residence and stir up the townsfolk while Justin Bailey, the computer expert, tries to show young and old the electronic ropes. Ironically, the Pot O'Gold inhabitants are looked down on by the other residents of Maggody. Another subject for gossip and speculation is young single mother Gwynnie Packwood who is living with her aunt and uncle in Maggody while studying for a GED. In the middle of all this, a body is found, and Arly must sort out the relevant weirdnesses from the irrelevant ones and bring the killer to justice.

The Maggody series is just plain fun, and is no exception. However, the computer element is superficial and vague. Those who enter this world because they like high-tech thrills and skills, and possibly kills, will be disappointed.