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MYSTERY IN THE DESERT. Sinclair Browning has lived and ranched in the Sonoran Desert for most of her life.

So perhaps it's not surprising she can tell a tall tale. Well, Rode Hard, Put Away Dead is her third novel and if the reception to her first two is any indication, this one is bound to be good.

Detective Trade Ellis, a Browning mainstay, returns to find the truth behind the suspicious death of a candy heiress. Seems the woman in question was recently married to a bull rider named J.B. Calendar, who was with her when she died during a romantic horseback trip.

Calendar, 32 years younger than his newly dead new wife, correctly concludes that the circumstances look a bit sketchy. He hires Ellis, who is part cowgirl, part Apache and all private eye, to prove him innocent.

Mystery readers who loved Browning's The Last Song Dogs and The Sporting Club won't want to miss a reading from Browning's latest.

Browning will read from Rode Hard at 7 p.m. Friday at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. For more information, call 792-3715.

PREHISTORIC SLIDE SHOW. Learn more about the Hohokam Indians, their contributions and their eventual disappearance.

Archaeologist Allen Dart of Tucson's Old Pueblo Archaeology Center will present Arts and Culture of the Prehistoric Hohokam Indians, a free slide-illustrated talk and artifacts display.

The program will show the material culture of the Hohokams, who lived in Southern Arizona from 650 to 1450 AD. Dart will present interpretations about their origins, their relationship to the natural world and to the contemporary cultures of the Southwest. He'll touch on their time reckoning, religious practices, beliefs and deities, and reasons for their eventual disappearance.

The presentation begins at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, 1000 E. Fort Lowell Road. The program is free but space is limited to about 30 people. For reservations or more information, call 798-1201.

ELEGANT SIMPLICITY. Rudolph Nadler's oil paintings on panels, created with simple tools ranging from wood panels, bright lights and sticks and stones, are among the works of three artists in a new exhibition.

Nadler, who often comes up with a result different from his original idea, creates art that is sometimes dark and brooding.

Photographer Stu Jenks presents his circle and spiral series. Says Jenks, "For the past number of years I have been exploring in my photography these two symbols, creating them in flame, in water, in time."

The third featured artist in the show is Michael Cajero, whose ceramic stoneware sculptures were influenced by the process art movement of the '70s.

The works of Nadler, Jenks and Cajero are on display through March 11 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center Fine Art Gallery, Dodge Boulevard at River Road. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call 299-3000.

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