Having developed solid appeal since his introduction in The First Laugh , Garth Ryland, phlegmatic owner and editor of the Oakalla, Wis., Reporter , makes his sixth appearance in this pleasantly malevolent mystery. Several days after a mild earthquake hits the small town's environs, the residents of Oakalla notice that their drinking water has the distinct flavor of rotten eggs, and Garth, together with his old friend, county sheriff Rupert Roberts, searches for the source of the contamination. To their dismay they find an illegal dump containing hazardous waste draining into the town's water supply. Moreover, they discover the body of the land's owner, the highly respected judge Thorton Glick, stuffed into a barrel of toxic waste; someone had tried to scalp him. Garth turns to his greatest asset, his testy housekeeper Ruth Krammes, who, with her infallible network of relatives and town busybodies, is able to ferret out pertinent information. Garth doggedly follows leads that point to a kidnapping, reveal the plundering of Indian tombs and bring him closer to a determined killer who is now on Garth's trail. A complicated and murky romantic triangle muddies the water, yet this easygoing mystery is consistently absorbing. (Jan.)
Set in Oakalla, Wisconsin, shortly after a mild earthquake causes a tainted water supply, this Garth Ryland mystery ( Wolf in Sheep's Clothing) puts the newspaperman on the trail of a missing father and five-year-old son. With the sometime help of the town sheriff, Ryland locates the boy (and the body of a missing judge), uncovers a cache of priceless Indian artifacts, and finds evidence of illegal dumping of toxic chemicals. Much of the important action occurs in a secret cave presumably opened up by the quake, but plenty of small-town scenes remain for filler. Solid, low-key, nongraphic, and mostly nonviolent fare for series followers.