Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book Review: Skeleton Canyon by J.A. Jance

One of the reasons that I started this blog was because I wanted to do something to let the rest of the country know about Tucson and the Southwest. There are so many unique things here to see and do. It's a very different culture than the Northeast where I came from.

It's also the reason I wanted to write a mystery series set in Tucson. By telling stories, I think I can make people see the beauty of this area as well as problems that are specific to the Southwest. I also wanted to write about real people, people who went to church and had feelings about social issues and real relationships.

J.A. Jance beat me to it.

Skeleton Canyon is a book in her Joanna Brady series. Ms. Brady is Sheriff of Cochise County, based in Bisbee, Arizona, but with plenty of journeys to the Tucson area. It's fun to read a book and know the places that are part of the story. As the story opens, Joanna Brady is driving her daughter to the Girl Scout camp on Mount Lemmon. That's not too far from my house.

Meanwhile, a young girl back in Cochise County tells her parents that she's going to spend the weekend with a girlfriend in New Mexico, but is really having a rendezvous with her boyfriend in the Peloncillo Mountains. The secrecy is made necessary because Nacio, the boyfriend, is of Mexican heritage and her parents, particularly her father, are biased against Mexicans. Unfortunately, Nacio has to work and can't join her right away, so she goes up by herself to wait for him.

When she hears a car coming up the mountain, she assumes it is Nacio coming to join her. It isn't. She is murdered by the intruder and it's Joanna Brady's duty to find her killer. Of course, there are other complications.

This is a very enjoyable mystery. It has all the elements of a well put together plot. But what I really liked was the fact that there's a believable cast of characters. One of these is a woman minister. People in this novel go to church, call on the minister for help, and even offer brief prayers when the occasion calls for it. There's tension between Joanna and her mother, but also love. There's the friend with the shady past who's really a decent person. We root for her as she tries to turn her life around and gets disappointed.

I own several of J.A. Jance's novels. I've been to a couple of her book signings here in Tucson. But somehow this is the first book that I've pulled off my To Be Read pile (or TBR shelf on my nook). This is definitely a series I want to read in total.

And maybe I can learn to write a series as engaging as this one.
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