Friday, May 9, 2008

Damage Control-J.A. Jance

Damage Control
J.A. Jance
Morrow, Jul 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780060746766

Joanne Brady is the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, a mother and a wife, but daily she struggles to maintain a balance between her three major roles. One long weekend stretches the resources of her department to the limit. Alfred and Martha Beasley have a pleasant picnic near Huachuca Mountain; afterward they calmly speed on the mountain until the vehicle goes over the side. It was a double suicide as Alfred feared he had Alzheimer’s and neither he nor his wife could live with that sentence.

Then after a violent storm, two garbage bags tied together are found in the desert and inside are the skeletal remains of mentally impaired Wanda Mappin who lived in a group home run by Flannigan Foundation. Wanda complained to her mother before she died that her friend Wayne was missing. The Foundation listed her as missing soon after she disappeared, but the Foundation waited two months to report it.

The Beasley’s two adult daughters have not spoken to each other for decades. They come to town to deal with the deaths of their parents and the estate. They end up in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct. When they are released one of them has a psychotic break down and holds her sister hostage, but soon after the other too goes over the edge. A woman kills an intruder in her home thinking he is her boyfriend when it is a stranger linked to another case while an elderly person dies in a trailer fire while his daughter and children survive. Joanne has had a long weekend.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are more crimes and deaths and plenty of people with information who fail to step forward. Although somewhat overwhelming in a novel with so much big and small happening, realism hits home as J.A. Jance juggles several subplots that reflect life as a county sheriff. DAMAGE CONTROL is impossible to put down whodunit as Joanne Brady believes she can do it all, but would not mind a short respite to recharge the batteries; but if none come so be it she will do all her roles well.

Harriet Klausner