Thursday, January 13, 2011

J. A. Jance's Sheriff Joanna Brady

Sheriff Joanna Brady is another of my favorite crime solvers, but in Paradise Lost she's a prime example of why I would never attempt to write about a crime solver who is married and has a child. In this novel Brady is newly married to Butch Dixon, her second husband, and her daughter Jenny is now 12 years old. Both are struggling a bit with issues that are the result of being married to or the daughter of a county sheriff.

This story begins with Joanna and Butch attending an Arizona Sheriff's Association convention. She is sneaking back into their room at the hotel at 1 am after playing poker with other sheriffs and beating her least favorite one out of about $700. Butch understands but later admits the convention was difficult for him as the only husband of a sheriff. Wives of course have gone through this since the Stone Age but it's different for a guy.

Then Jenny has problems camping with the Girl Scouts and trying to be just one of the kids. Then she and her pup tent mate find a body and the plot is off and running and so is Joanna. It's one of those novels that leaves you breathless because it goes so fast, there's so much danger, and Joanna is also dealing with family issues.

By the way, Joanna's mother, Eleanor, is the most aggravating character ever devised by a novelist. I'd say more but you just have to meet her yourself.

Actually that's the best feature of Jance's novels - the characters. They're unique and they're understandable in their lives and their actions, if a little quirky at times but aren't we all? The characters are really busy in this tale with a short-handed sheriff's department, three murders, and a lot of miles to cover during the investigation. Meanwhile, Butch is in the wedding of one of his former employees, Jenny is upset, Eleanor is very upset, and Joanna needs to be in about three places at once. What a crazy mess, but of course it all tends to work out.

I can't tell you any more without spoiling the book for you, except that a recurring theme is motherhood. I hope you'll read this one. It's a keeper.

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