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Fire and Ice by J.A. Jance

I am a great fan of J.A. Jance, largely because of her very three-dimensional Joanna Brady character.  The sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, Joanna Brady, almost seems like a real person, and not the figment of a very fertile imagination.  I like how Jance has explored Brady’s life and work in a holistic way so that we get to know how she is feeling and what she is thinking in all aspects of her life.  We also get to know her family, friends, work mates and community very, very well. 

By contrast, I have never really gotten in to Jance’s J.P. Beaumont character, Beaumont is a detective with the Seattle Homicide Investigative Team (unfortunately abbreviated SHIT) working for a lead investigator named Harry I. Ball. That, I have to admit, raised my interest in J.P. and his wife-partner Mel. There is a sense of humor in Beaumont and his escapades that often eludes the very serious Joanna Brady and her crew at the Cochise County Justice Center.

This book is different from the other combined Beaumont-Brady mysteries.  This time it is not just a visitor hanging out in the other character’s book.  The book is fully integrated with chapters that relate to each character.  When the storyteller is Beaumont, then the story is told from his perspective in the first person. When the storyline takes us to Arizona, the viewpoint is from a third person narrator.  I was surprised at how well these two perspectives meshed and helped to keep the context straight for the reader.

Basically, the story follows a series of murders in Washington of women who are burned beyond recognition in tarps.  A mistake on the part of the killer of the latest victim leads to her identification as the sister of Cochise County detective, Jaime Carbajol and the crime eventually encompasses a drug cartel that extends throughout the western U.S. and northern Mexico.

While it took me awhile to warm up to the characters and the style that makes up the J.P. Beaumont series, I soon began to appreciate the contrast in style and viewpoint in following up on the same story from two locations and with two different investigative teams.  In the end the plot comes together in a well executed whole and the book very nicely marries two different sets of characters and scenes very deftly as only J.A. Jance could do.

Liz Nichols

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