Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On This Week in 2005: Dancing on the Tombstone of the Dead

It's time to whip out my 2005 book journal to see what I was reading at this time twelve years ago. Heavens, tempus certainly does fugit, so I'm not going to wax poetic. Let's get down to business!

Tombstone by Jane Eppinga is part of the excellent Images of America series. Each slender volume can pack quite a punch, with dozens of historic photographs of places all over America. I've learned that they make quite a good resource when I'm trying to get a real "feel" for a place.

Jane Eppinga has written over twenty books, the majority of them on some aspect of Arizona history. Although the Images of America series is primarily pictorial, there is text and Eppinga gives an informative, interesting overview of Tombstone's history. Here's Amazon's synopsis of the book:

"Tombstone sits less than 100 miles from the Mexico border in the middle of the picturesque Arizona desert and also squarely at the heart of America's Old West. Silver was discovered nearby in 1878, and with that strike, Tombstone was created. It soon grew to be a town of over 10,000 of the most infamous outlaws, cowboys, lawmen, prostitutes, and varmints the Wild West has ever seen. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral made Wyatt Earp and John Henry "Doc" Holliday legendary and secured Tombstone's reputation as "The Town Too Tough to Die." In this volume, more than 200 striking images and informative captions tell the stories of the heroes and villains of Tombstone, the saloons and brothels they visited, the movies they inspired, and Boot Hill, the well-known cemetery where many were buried.

I've never been disappointed with a book in this series, and Tombstone is no exception. I rated it an "A." 

Thomas Perry's Dance for the Dead is another book I rated "A." It's the second in his Jane Whitefield mystery series. Here's the synopsis of the book from Amazon:

"When eight-year-old Timothy Decker finds his parents brutally murdered, it's clear the Deckers weren't the intended victims: Timothy's own room--ransacked, all traces of his existence expertly obliterated is the shocking evidence. Timothy's nanny, Mona, is certain about only one thing. Timmy needs to disappear, fast.

Only Jane Whitefield, a Native American 'guide' who specializes in making victims vanish, can lead him to safety. But diverting Jane's attention is Mary Perkins, a desperate woman with S&L fraud in her past. Stalking Mary is a ruthless predator determined to find her and the fortune she claims she doesn't have. Jane quickly creates a new life for Mary and jumps back on Timmy's case . . . not knowing that the two are fatefully linked to one calculating killer. . . .

I've read and enjoyed all but the last two books in this series, so I really need to get back to it and catch up. Jane is a fascinating character. A talented, solitary person with a job that requires keeping everyone at a distance-- but she also longs for a more normal existence, and the series delves into the difficulties she has in trying to reconcile both her professional and personal lives. And... what Thomas Perry doesn't show you about the fine art of disappearing off the face of the earth isn't worth knowing! This series is well-written, eye-opening, and memorable.

The last book I was reading twelve years ago happens to be the third book in J.A. Jance's Walker family mystery series, Day of the Dead. I also rated it an "A."

Most people are familiar with her J.P. Beaumont series set in Seattle, her Ali Reynolds series set in Sedona, Arizona, and-- my personal favorite-- her Joanna Brady series set in Bisbee, Arizona. Her Walker Family series ranks right up there with the other three in terms of story, character, and setting. 

These books are set in Tucson, Arizona, and feature different members of the family throughout the series. Jance incorporates fascinating local Native American lore in each book. Here's the synopsis from Amazon:

"Thirty years ago, the butchered body of a local Papago girl was found stuffed into a large cooler on the side of Highway 86. No one was ever charged for the crime. Few even cared. And no one suspected it was just the beginning.

Retired Pima County Sheriff Brandon Walker's work with The Last Chance—an exclusive, nationwide fraternity of former lawmen investigating unsolved homicides—has brought new purpose to his life. But a gruesome, three-decades-old cold case is leading him into a strange world at the unlikely border between forensic science and tribal mysticism—a place where evil hides behind a perfect fa├žade. A long-forgotten murder in the Arizona desert now threatens to bring home a new horror for Walker and his family, who have already survived the dark hunger of two human monsters. And suddenly the relentless ex-cop is the only person who can still unravel a blood knot of terror and obsession before the innocent die again.

Jance always does an excellent job of portraying Arizona-- undoubtedly because she grew up in Bisbee. The first book in the Walker Family series, Hour of the Hunter, was the first book Jance wrote that was set here. The model for the bad guy in it was the creative writing professor who wouldn't allow females in his class. (Sometimes decisions can turn around and bite you in the behind, can't they?)

Well, that's what I was reading all those years ago. Next month, I'll be wandering down Memory Lane once again. See you then!



  1. I devoured those Jane Whitefield books and was sorely disappointed when Thomas Perry stopped writing them and moved on.
    I have only read one of the Joanna Brady series, but must check in again.

    1. Perry stopped for ten years, then started adding to the series again. Runner in 2009, Poison Flower in 2012, and A String of Beads in 2015.

  2. I love the title of this post, Cathy! Very effective. And you've reminded me that I need to read some Eppinga - thanks.

    1. Glad you liked the title. With those three to choose from, I just had to play around with them a little.

      I've read a couple of other Eppinga books and enjoyed them. I should read more myself!

  3. I love those Images of America books. The photos are always fun to look at. I've only read maybe one book by Thomas Perry. Liked it as I recall, just not a series I picked up again. I need to change that. I've read J.A. Jance for a long time. But, again, I am so, so behind in the 2 I've tried - Joanna Brady and Ali Reynolds. I need to try the other two.


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