It's 1946, and Joshua Rabb is the new lawyer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs' San Xavier del Bac Papago Indian Reservation. Rabb is a Brooklyn Jew who lost his left arm in World War II and his wife in an accident, and he has come to Tucson for his health. In his first days on the job, Rabb encounters anti-Semitism, a corrupt senator, and a murdered nun. When the chief's grandson is accused of murder, the Papagos hire Rabb to defend the young man--and thus begins the tale. This novel's Southwestern setting and Native American characters will lead some readers to compare Parrish with Tony Hillerman. But while Hillerman's books are steeped in Navajo culture, the success of Parrish's debut hinges instead on the strong characterization of Joshua Rabb--which is good enough to overcome some first-novel awkwardness. Parrish has already written a sequel, and readers will be glad to meet Rabb again.-- Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, Ind.
A criminal lawyer in Arizona, Parrish draws on the history of his home state to provide a colorful backdrop for his absorbing second novel (after Our Choice of Gods ), a brisk, tightly plotted thriller/courtroom drama. In 1946, after his wife is killed in an accident, Jewish lawyer and wounded war veteran Joshua Rabb takes a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and moves with his two children to Tucson, Ariz., hoping that the arid Southwestern environment will restore his body and soul. He finds a squalid town of 25,000 Mexican Catholics and 15,000 ``redneck Baptists,'' none of whom want to mix with the nearby Papago Indians, whose reservation is separated from Tucson by a narrow irrigation ditch--the ``dividing line'' of the title. A 13-year-old girl's corpse was discovered in that ditch two days before Rabb's arrival, and soon other bodies are unearthed. The New York-bred lawyer finds himself ostracized by the town's residents for defending a Papago man charged with murder and rape; then he becomes embroiled in a plot involving blackmail, crooked politicians and land grabs. Energetically told, the narrative provides an interesting, well-rounded protagonist in Rabb, whose return is promised in a sequel to be published in 1994. ( Mar. )