Thursday, January 14, 2010

a review of "Trial by Fire" [5]

Trial by Fire- A Novel of Suspense by J.A.Jance
(Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-1-4165-6380-8)

"She awakened to the sound of roaring flames and to searing heat and lung-chocking smoke. Maybe she was already dead and this was hell, but why would she go to hell? What had she done to deserve that? Just then a scorched beam fell across her leg nad she felt the horrifying pain of burning flesh- her burning flesh. That's when she knew she wasn't dead. She was still alive. And on fire."
Ali Reynolds, a well to do widow, has returned to her hometown of Sedona, Arizona to be near her parents and her grown son and his wife. She has no need to take a job, but when the sheriff asks her, based on her background as a journalist, to temporarily take on the media coordinator job for his department, she accepts. And very soon is wondering why. She finds herself resented on all side, in the middle of a department shakeup. Then things really heat up, quite literally. She is called to the scene of an ongoing fire involving two houses under construction. Because it is a suspected case of eco-terrorism, the feds are called in, and when a very badly burned woman is rescued from one of the houses, it also become a case of attempted murder. If they only had some idea who the woman is, if she herself had any idea who she was, why she was in that house and who wants her dead.

Because of the federal involvement, the sheriff assigns Ali to the hospital where the burn victims was taken, to handle the press and see if she can uncover any information to help identify the woman. There she meets Sister Anselm, an elderly nun who is a nurse and patient advocate for very serious cases, earning her the media name of the Angel of Death....and someone with an interesting story of her own. Someone wants her patient dead, but Sister Anselm and Ali are going to do their best to discover what is really going on.

There are a number of things I liked about this book...and a few I did not. Let's take the negative first. Some aspects of the plot required some suspension of disbelief. As an example, a lengthy stake out in the visitors waiting room involving a red wig and pink pants suit...not so believable for me. The ending just a bit too easy and pat. But on the positive side, there is a lot to recommend this book. The book is well written, the story entertaining if not extremely memorable. And there are a number of very good and likable characters, including Ali's houseman/assistant/majordomo Leland Brooks, her injured Iraq veteran daughter-in-law and the very smart and capable Ali herself. This is the fifth in this series, a series which is only one of several Jance has written, and if these characters are going to make a reappearance, I would be interested in checking out any future installments.

Some good characters and an entertaining story overcome some issues I have with this book and would have me give it a slightly qualified recommendation.

My thanks to the Amazon Vine program for this book.


  1. Back in the day, I read a bunch of J.A. Jance, but it was a series. Don't remember the names, but it was a cop or an investigator kinda thing. I enjoyed them, but obviously not enough to remember the names!

  2. That rather sums up my feeling about this book. I enjoyed it, a pleasant read, but nothing I think I will remember.

  3. I do enjoy a book like this from time to time and don't mind suspending belief for them.

  4. If I had a nickel for every book that I've read that really was pretty good but I've long since forgotten, I'd be rich, LOL. But sometimes fast-clipped thriller type reads are wonderfully healing for the brain (especially if you've been reading too much "serious" literature lately!).

  5. I agree they have their place, and I admit I enjoy them...and probably forget them pretty quick.


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