18 March 2011


After slogging through the muck of the rough draft of Mark Twain's autobiography and then working, soporifically, through David Brin's universe of multiple sentients, I was worried I'd never get back to really enthusiastic reading. During the fortnights with Twain's book, I avoided reading. I did crossword puzzles. I played solitaire. I watched TV. I mindlessly surfed the web. I didn't want to go back to that book. During the fortnight with Brin, I kept falling asleep. I was on airplanes and I did come down with a blue ribbon of a head cold, but nonetheless, I kept falling asleep with the book in my hands.

Before I left for California, I not only checked out a book from the library, I also bought one from the best seller rack. Usually, reading a couple books in a week would be no big deal -- even when around little granddaughters. But I never got J. A. Jance's Trial by Fire out of the backpack during the trip.

Yesterday, after writing about my reading experiences with Twain and Brin, I got the book out and began reading.

Yipee! I can still read enthusiastically.

I know, it's mindless eye candy. Jance is an entertainer. She creates identifiable characters. She writes realistic dialogue so the characters talk to each other. Her characters aren't terribly deep, but the main ones were parts of earlier books, so there's background. They react in understandable ways within the realm of what's expected of people. She tells stories that are paced well. All these things are distinct contrasts to the books I most recently read.

I was half way through the book before I put it down last night. This afternoon I finished it. The good guys won again, with some suffering. The bad guys got their due. The scene was set for another story about some of the same characters. I enjoyed the experience. Just like I've enjoyed most of the other Jance books I've read. (She's written 40 so far -- a regular Mickey Spilllane. I don't know how many I've read.)

Trial by Fire considers the ways in which people react to fortune, good and bad. It's not profound, but it's got half a dozen telling anecdotes to relate. If I really wanted to think about it, I could ponder human nature, personality, and fate. But I only got as far as agreeing with the protagonist that I'm damn lucky and very grateful for it. Not everybody is as lucky and some who are aren't grateful. "So it goes," to quote another of my favorite authors.

Trial by Fire is an "Ali Reynolds Mystery." It's good entertainment. Try it out. Or try out something else by Jance. All the ones I've read have been worth the time I spent with them.

Or write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

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