by J.A. Jance is a riveting mystery that also tackles moral
issues. She is one of those special authors who never disappoints.
While bringing to the forefront some controversial and disturbing
issues Jance also has the reader trying to solve the crime
of how two women fell to their death.
The plot begins with a puzzling case for Sherriff Joanna Brady
when two women have fallen or were pushed to their deaths
at a mountaintop called Geronimo. She must figure out if it
is a double suicide, a murder/suicide, or a double homicide.
During the investigation Brady and her department find clues
of sordid secrets and evil lies. One of the victims is a high
school teacher that had affairs with her students, basically
committing statutory rape. Sent to help with the investigation
is FBI Agent Robin Watkins. This new character is refreshing
and will hopefully be recurring. She and Joanna have a similar
personality and common ground with their personal problems.
Beyond that they make a great team as they pursue all the
clues to what really happened to those women who fell.
In this book the setting plays such an important role that
it is almost like a secondary character. Jance remembers when
"I climbed Geronimo I was eleven. This was my only time.
I did it on my hands and knees going up and coming down on
my butt. I put in the story how every child felt, including
myself, who climbed it. It is a right of passage between childhood
and adolescence. Of course no one tells their parents their
intentions until they are safely back down. When I climbed
it I remember seeing these 'cactuses.' I incorporated them
into the story as well. With the help of people from the University
of Arizona I established what they were, which is why I dedicated
this book to those experts. If it is one of my books you can
count on the fact that I have been there and done that."
Beyond the mystery is the exploration of the personal life
of the main character, Joanna Brady. She faces many obstacles
in this book including running for re-election, having to
deal with the recent killing of her mother and stepdad, her
daughter going off to college, and being five months pregnant.
Sometimes when an author puts in many insights into the character's
personal life, it takes away from the plot. This is definitely
not the case. By highlighting Joanna's personal life as a
mother, wife, and grieving daughter the story is enhanced.
Beyond that she must also deal with the intense sibling rivalry
she feels about her stepbrother who came into her life as
an adult. These events present challenges that almost anyone
can relate to. A quote from the book highlights how women
feel about balancing their professional and personal lives,
"The disappointment registered on Denny's (Joanna's young
son) face represented every working mother's all too familiar
tug of war."
An interesting side issue was how Jance had the female characters
reacting to their mother-daughter relationship. Jance noted
to blackfive.net, "A lot of us have issues with our mothers;
I know I did. I remember after getting my college degree looking
down on my mother with her sixth grade education and just
being a housewife. This was terribly arrogant of me. Once
I had children my mother began getting smarter. What I have
written is not exactly my mothers and my relationship, but
it is certainly related."
She is hoping that readers of the series will see Chief Deputy
Tom Hadlock coming into his own. "Since he was appointed
to the position some books ago, he has been struggling in
handling certain aspects of the job. But in this book it was
really terrific to see how he handled this crisis and to be
at some point solely in charge of the Sheriff's department.
He validated Joanna's faith in him."
Downfall takes readers on a journey that uncovers a
possible kidnapping, hypocrisies, a pedophile, and abuse.
The crime story is explosive and riveting. Readers will be
shocked with the many twists and turns as they quickly flip
the pages. As Jance ends the book, giving a shout out to Dale
Evans, Roy Rogers, and their trusty animals, readers should
also feel a sense of Happy Trails with this story.