Thursday, February 18, 2021

Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance

First Line: Late on Wednesday afternoon, the first week in December, Sheriff Joanna Brady sat at her desk, mired in paperwork.
 
While Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Joanna Brady and her team are involved in a very sensitive officer-involved shooting, her daughter Jennifer has returned to Flagstaff for her sophomore year at Northern Arizona University. Jenny quickly becomes a big sister to her new roommate, homeschooled Beth Rankin, a brilliant yet extremely sheltered freshman who's away from home for the first time.

Beth is experiencing her first taste of freedom (and the internet) and Jenny is concerned that she's too naive for her own good. Since Beth is at war with her parents, Jenny invites her home for a Brady Christmas. Joanna doesn't mind even though her investigation into the officer-involved shooting has her entire department stretched thin. 

All that changes when Beth vanishes. Jenny alerts campus authorities, local police, and her mother, who calls in a favor. Beth is found, but Jenny's concern has put her at the top of the list for a criminal bent on revenge.

~

It's been three long years since the last Joanna Brady mystery, Field of Bones, so I couldn't wait to pick up Missing and Endangered. J.A. Jance's series set in Cochise County, Arizona, is one of my all-time favorites and never disappoints. Jance grew up in Bisbee, and her setting is so true-to-life you can almost follow her descriptions like a road map. (Yes, I've been there many, many times and have followed those descriptions.)

Written over twenty-eight years, this series-- so far-- describes nine years in the life of Joanna Brady, from her first becoming sheriff to now when her eldest daughter is a college sophomore. Jance's smooth pace and narrative chops draw readers right into the story, and one of the things I admire most about it is how well it shows the daily lives of law enforcement in one sparsely populated county with an area larger than some states. We see how budget cuts affect the department, how the sheriff's office interacts with other law enforcement agencies, and what parts paperwork and the media plays in it all. Joanna has worked hard in her job as sheriff, gaining knowledge and experience, and one of the ways that experience pays off is in her networking skills. She may not know the answer to something but chances are one of her contacts does-- and she does it all while juggling an extremely busy family life.

One thing that I admire even more about this series than the way it portrays the daily life of a sheriff is the "people angle." As Jenny tells her mother, "Your job is about way more than just catching bad people; it's about helping good people, too, and about putting broken lives back together." You may be pleased to know that, in this series, Jance concentrates more on the good people and putting lives back together than she does on the criminals. In Missing and Endangered, readers can feel a sense of dread crawling up their spines at Beth Rankin's naivete. Their hearts can break over two little children who face becoming lost in a system of bureaucracy. But they can also rest assured that Joanna Brady is going to do everything in her power to make things right. 

It was three long years since the last Brady mystery, but I found that I hadn't forgotten a thing. This is the type of series with the kind of characters that sticks with you. If you doubt you'll pick this book up because it's book number nineteen and you just don't want to invest that kind of time in a long-running series, well... as much as I want you to read all nineteen books, I will say that you can pick this one up and read it as a standalone. The subplot concerning an officer-involved shooting has Joanna thinking about many incidents from her past, so the backstory is there and you won't feel confused.

Missing and Endangered is vintage Jance, and now I'm back to cooling my heels until my next visit with one of my favorite sheriffs, Joanna Brady. But no matter how long, I know it will be worth the wait.


Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance
ISBN: 9780062853462
William Morrow © 2021
Hardcover, 384 pages
 
Police Procedural, #19 Joanna Brady mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

10 comments:

  1. I think this is one of those series, Cathy, that stays consistently good, and that is not easy to achieve. I really do like Joanna Brady, and I like the way Jance has allowed her character to develop. Of course, the setting and the plots of the novels are good, too, but for me, it's the unfolding of the regular characters that really adds to the novels.

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  2. It's been a while since I've caught up with Joanna Brady, and I'm looking forward to this one. And maybe some re-reading of earlier books. :)

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  3. Too bad my library doesn't have this book...as yet. I also enjoy similar main characters in diverse settings in Nevada Barr's books.

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    1. Nevada Barr is a longtime favorite of mine.

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  4. These books sound really good...really good...so you've just sent me off on another new tangent. Thanks for that; I think. :-)

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    1. Ah, but those new tangents can be so much fun, Sam! :-)

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  5. I like the sound of this series, Cathy. The focus on the good, the focus on the daily lives of law enforcement and the setting are all appealing.

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