30 May 2015

J. A. Jance,J. A. Jance

I'm sitting in front of the lake in the little cabin called Sidetrack. Pardon me if I get distracted because the lake's eagles are flying around and doing a little fishing at dusk. Bald eagles nearly ceased to exist in my lifetime. I grew up thinking I'd never see one. But they're back. Right outside my window here and even along the Cannon River in Northfield and around the urban lakes in Minneapolis. Human behavior can make a difference.

I don't pick up a book by J. A. Jance for great literature. Of course, I rarely pick up a book because it's supposed to be great, or even good literature. That stuff is hard to read. I think I do enough hard work.

If I don't want good literature, what do I want? I want an engaging story that doesn't confuse me -- so it's got to be clearly told. I want to read about primary characters who are interesting and straight forward. The characters can have internal conflicts and self doubts. He, she, or they can suffer from the slings and arrows of forturne, but I don't want to read a story about duplicitous or smarmy people.

J. A. Jance tells stories well. Her characters are well defined, if not deeply etched in her pages. Her stories are appropriately complex without being unbelievable. (However, several of her characters, like other authors' characters and several TV mystery "stars" are conveniently very wealthy. That wealth makes it possible to "buy" ways out of inconvenient roadblocks, like cross-country or international travel, the need to make a living, or distribution of Franklins for information.

Well, I picked up two books by J. A. Jance in the past several months. Once was a paperback that cost $10.00. The other was a hardback that cost half that. (The second one was in a big bin in the grocery store.)

In the first, Second Watch, I got to check up on the knee replacements that detective J. P. Beaumont got. He's hobbling around pretty well, but his pain-killer-induced dreams seem to be leading him toward finding a killer in a 30-year-old case that was Beaumont's first homicide case. Because of his medications and his handicaps, Mel Soames is a vital part of the case. (I've forgotten whether Mel is J. P.'s latest wife or just his partner. Jance books are forgettable.)

Together, they probe into old open murder cases and new ones that seem to have connections to the things in J. P.'s dreams and his memories of events in Vietnam in the early '70s. It's all sort of believable -- except perhaps for J. P.'s undefined wealth. I remember little fo the details of the story. I remember feeling, "That was pretty good" when I finished.

The other book was Moving Target. The characters in this one are Ali Reynolds and her long-time "butler/caretaker/private secretary" Leland Brooks (guess which of them is unreasonably rich), and Ali's fiancé, B. Simpson. Oh, and a bunch of Leland's friends and relatives from his days as a subject of the queen 50 years ago.

B. gets involved in finding whomever tried to kill a young hacker who had taken down his school district's network. He got help in protecting the young miscreant from Sister Anselm, a taser-carrying nun who was a friend of Ali. Off in the UK, Ali got involved in sorting out the suspicious deaths in a rich family known to Leland. The trails of these deaths went back a couple generations. Both stories were engaging, and inspite of their complexity were not confusing. I recall liking this one better than the previous one.

According to list in Moving Target, J. A. Jance has written 50 books. You've probably read one or more along the way. What did you think of it (them)? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you think.

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