Charles Winecoff
August 13, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

You may be surprised at the affection you feel upon reaching the last page of this follow-up to Cimarron Rose, as you realize how imperceptibly Burke has drawn you into every dark, intimate corner of the small, racially ruptured town of Deaf Smith, Texas. Outwardly, Heartwood, which brings back attorney Billy Bob Holland, concerns bad blood between local gentry and an indigent worker, spoiled rich kids and rival Mexican gangs. But beyond the unfolding violence, the book hauntingly illuminates the muted regrets and tender dreams of a flawed but colorful community you’ll be sorry to leave.

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