Wednesday, March 10, 2010

RAview: J.A. Jance's Desert Heat

After much internal debate, I decided J.A. Jance's Desert Heat is softer-edged suspense, which is hilarious since the subtitle is "A Brady Novel of Suspense," (see my preliminary attempt to understand thriller-related genres). It's the first in her series featuring Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady.

Being in one of the adrenaline genres, the pacing is fast. Regarding characterization, Joanna is identifiable with. Jance includes a quote from Mostly Murder on her web site: "Every woman in America is obviously not a sheriff, but Joanna Brady is every woman.” The protagonist has a nine-year-old daughter and an overbearing mother who drives her nuts, and the book opens with her husband, a cop running for sheriff, being shot. The police (Andy's colleagues) think it was a suicide attempt, but Joanna is convinced they're wrong.

Story line: Perspectives alternate among her point of view, that of the hired killer who wants Andy dead, and his former-prostitute girlfriend, Angie. Suspense lies in Joanna's fears that the killer will return to finish the job, in Angie's slow understanding of what her boyfriend does for a living, and in her escape from him. Of course, Joanna winds up in danger, as well.

The Arizona setting is more apparent in the characterization--"In a world of bola ties and Stetsons, he was the only officer...who consistently showed up for work wearing knotted ties and three-piece suits"--similar to Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day for Sorry. As is common for the genre, details and language aren't a big part of the appeal. The tone is--shocker--suspenseful. It's also sad, validating, and proud.

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