by J. A. Jance brings into focus two riveting sub-plots. What
the stories have in common is the interplay of the family
dynamics. As with all of Jance’s novels she explores
some kind of societal issue at the same time creating a thrilling
The first plot involves the daughter-in-law of the main character,
Ali Reynolds. The girl’s grandmother, Betsy, is in danger.
She’s been receiving anonymous threats, culminating
with someone breaking into her home, and turning on the gas
burners in an attempt to kill her. Unfortunately, the local
police do not believe the elderly woman’s conjectures.
They regard her as someone with dementia. The second plot
has Sister Anselm returning as she solicits the help of Ali
to determine the identity of a pregnant Jane Doe who has come
under her care, a woman who appears to have escaped from a
dangerous cult. As Ali works on both cases she learns that
the victim’s families cannot be trusted. Both situations
have women who are marginalized and are betrayed by family
An interesting aspect of the plot is how Jance has women initially
portrayed as subservient, while other women are very dominant.
The cult depicted in the story is based on the real life cult
centered in Colorado City, Arizona that has basically been
given autonomy for approximately the last sixty years. They
force pre-teens into marriage, do not allow most to be educated,
and refuse them freedom of action. What comes to mind is the
treatment of women under the Taliban rule. The other plot
has the grandmother depicted as being old and someone who
can no longer fend for herself. The author appears to make
the point that not all seniors should be stereotyped, put
under lock and key, seen by the younger generation as incompetent,
and no longer considered a value to society.
These women are contrasted with Ali, Sister Anselm, and the
Arizona Governor Virginia Dunham. All these women are no nonsense
who would not hesitate to kick-a--. They are independent,
courageous, and intelligent. Jance noted, “I am offended
by the ignorance of some women who dub themselves as feminists.
They should take a look at what is happening not only in Arizona,
but across the globe. In this day and age they are absolutely
ignoring the whole issue. Here is an idea, how about treating
all people as people. This is one of my core beliefs.”
She also explained why Ali is not officially a private investigator.
“In Arizona no one can get an investigator’s license
without spending years in some form of law enforcement. I
could not turn Ali into a private eye because it would be
illegal. I did not want to turn her into a law breaker.”
Jance gave a heads up about the novella, A Last Goodbye,
written as a shout out to her dog. It is a mystery about
a stray miniature dachshund, Princess, found by Ali’s
grandson. The author based this fictional dachshund on her
own dog, Bella. “We found Bella abandoned on a street
four plus years ago. We figured she had been raised in an
apartment because she is totally cool with an elevator and
would not go out in our backyard unless she was on a leash.”
Both Jance’s latest book and novella are very interesting
reads. The novel will make the reader think about how the
elderly and women are treated within some cultures in the
context of a thrilling plot.
of other titles in this series
of Evil #1