Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Queen of the Night, by J.A. Jance

J.A. Jance has four different mystery series going, each with its own "star": J.P. Beaumont (my favorite), Joanna Brady, Ali Reynolds, and the Walker Family. Queen of the Night is one of the latter series, although Dr. Lani Walker and her adoptive parents, retired detective Brandon Walker and his wife Diana Ladd, are only three of more than a dozen important characters in the book.

Jance presents the story in brief sections, each prefaced with the location, date, time, and temperature; the first three sections describe three murders, one in 1959, one in 1978, and one in 2009. How the three might be linked is totally unclear. She then continues with short narratives involving a multitude of apparently unrelated characters. As the connections start to develop, it's soon apparent that some of the very likable people she has introduced are going to be victims. There's not a tremendous amount of mystery for the reader in terms of "whodunit," as we know who the killers were in two of the cases and the third is not a major focus. More interesting are developments among the characters: the mental problems that Diana is having but that she and Brandon are not talking about, the connections that begin to develop between Lani, Dan Pardee (a member of a special Native American Border Patrol unit), and the four-year-old daughter of one of the murder victims.

Jance weaves Native American stories into the narrative (the book is dedicated to Tony Hillerman), which ought to add another layer to the story but instead seems like a bit of a gimmick that adds to the book's overall "jumpiness." Queen of the Night is fine for a "light" read--Jance does bring the disparate elements of the story together into a happy ending (perhaps overly happy, given how many people died in the course of the book). It is not, however, one of her best.

Favorite passage: None

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