Field of Bones (Joanna Brady Mysteries Book 17)
J. A. Jance
William Morrow Pub
Sept 4th, 2018
Field of Bones by J. A. Jance is an intriguing dark mystery. Jance shows
why she is a such a prolific writer, able to balance the gruesome case with the added personal life of Brady, that at times offers comic relief.
The book begins as Sheriff Joanna Brady is waiting election results. Threatening to derail her re-election are personal tragedies and her pregnancy. This third time up for election, it appears the vote count will be close. But the baby had other
plans and chose to come before all the votes have been counted. Luckily it became a night for celebration after Eleanor Sage was born and Joanna was re-elected. The comic relief comes into play as she tries to juggle being a stay at home mom and
finding information about the case. Joanna is not a happy camper when she finds out that those in the Sheriff’s office are taking bets as to when she will return to work, as she shows signs of restlessness from the maternity leave. Because of this
premise Joanna becomes a secondary character in the story.
This is contrasted with the case itself. A serial killer kidnaps women,
rapes them, violently brutalizes them, and then kills them. The police find out about someone known as “the Boss” after a mother brings her son into the Sheriff’s office with a human skull shot in the head. He leads the police to where he
found it. They discover several corpses including one that has been dumped recently. Realizing that “the Boss” could be holding more victims there is a race with the clock to find them before they are killed.
As with any Jance book, readers are treated to beloved characters, small town charm, vibrant history, a captivating mystery, and the scenic Arizona desert backdrop. Luckily, Brady was re-elected
so there will be more adventures and cases for her in the future.
Elise Cooper: You highlight how Sheriffs’ must be elected?
J. A. Jance: It is the only law enforcement agency that is elected. A sheriff has to be a politician as well because all
others are appointed. If the public does not like how a case was handled they could lose their jobs.
EC: You had
Butch, her husband, as mainly a stay at home dad?
JAJ: If there are going to be children or animals in a
book there has to be a means to take care of them. When I started writing I read a book by a well-known author. In it the people had a dog. It seemed the only reason for the animal to be in the novel was to have it burned up in a house fire.
I thought, a character in a story needs to be there for more than one reason. When I started writing about Johanna she had children and worked such ungodly hours. There needed to be somebody at home to help with the children. I made the decision
to bring Butch into the story so, for most of the time, he could be a stay at home dad.
EC: In this novel, Joanna was a secondary
JAJ: She had to be one because she was on maternity leave. What tickled me is that everyone
was placing bets how long she would last.
EC: Latisha Marcum was a character who stole the show?
JAJ: I really liked her. She was one of the women being held by the killer and a very sympathetic character. In the beginning she was naïve,
but through the process of this horrible ordeal became very determined, mature, and responsible.
EC: One of the newer
deputies, Garth, was also an interesting character?
JAJ: I love him and think he will be back in future stories.
I based him on those in law enforcement who told me over and over that people go into law enforcement for a reason. This is a decision they make with their hearts and their souls. He was influenced by Joanna’s kindness. She came to his grandfather’s
funeral and personally gave the information to his grandmother about what happened.
EC: So what about Garth’s
family meatloaf recipe?
JAJ: It came from a fan in Portland. He pointed out something I did not even
realize, that meatloaf is an ongoing character in many of my books, including the recent Ali Reynolds’ novel. I received this recipe just as I was writing it into this story. I asked for permission if I can attribute it to one of my characters.
If you look at the dedication you will see that is says to ‘Carl and Barbara, you know why.’ For those who are interested it is in the back of the book.
EC: Did you cook it yet?
JAJ: No, but it sounds wonderful. I
hope my readers cook it and get back to me. BTW: he uses egg beaters but there is no way Garth’s grandparents would have that on hand so I wrote in eggs, but did say eggbeaters could be substituted.
EC: You also have references to leaks, something relevant today?
JAJ: I wanted to show how damaging they are. Pure and simple, an employee should not be undermining their boss, which also hurts the process. Having details of an investigation spread around can damage the prosecution.
EC: Joanna starts to find out about her dad, but then drops the subject?
Yes. But that does not mean down the road she will not pick it up again. I think it is wonderful for readers to have the opportunity to see characters grow over a period of time. For Joanna, it is a process for her to find out about what
happened to her father.
EC: Your next book?
It will be an Ali Reynolds book but that is all I will say for now.
Miss D & Me: Life with The Invincible Bette Davis by Kathryn Sermak is a tale of two women. The relationship morphed from that of employer-employee to mentor/protégé to mother/daughter ending up as the best of friends.
Bette Davis is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. She had more than 100 films to her credit along with television and Broadway roles. There are many firsts including being
the first actor, male or female to receive ten Academy Award nominations, winning two, and she became the first woman elected as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The author, Kathryn Sermak, while in her early twenties, was hired by this Hollywood icon to be her personal assistant. But she also became a loyal and loving buddy, a co-conspirator in her jokes and schemes, and
a support system as Miss D struggled to overcome physical ailments of cancer, a mastectomy, a stroke, and a broken hip, as well as the betrayal by her daughter Bede. Readers will take a journey into the last ten years of Davis’ life where these two,
generations apart, from different backgrounds, were able to relate to each other on so many levels.
Elise Cooper: What
was your initial meeting like?
Kathryn Sermak: I was supposed to be her Girl Friday. I really did not know who she was, since I was twenty-two and she was seventy-one.
The year was 1979 and as I entered her premises she was a mere five feet two inches but had the presence of someone much larger. After a few questions, she hired me and told me she had a hunch about me.
EC: You tell of how she mentored you?
KS: She taught me how to shake someone’s
hand, explaining “You can tell a worthwhile person by the firmness of their handshake, and, as you will be representing me, I would like yours to be a bit firmer.” Then she showed me how to use the different utensils when eating, pointing
out the proper salad fork. As with the firm handshake, she expected that her personal assistant should speak with authority and coached me how to project my voice. Next on her list was fine-tuning my appearance. Miss D wanted something more polished
and asked a designer hairdresser to come to her house to cut my hair. After the voice and hair, she worked on my posture and movement. She had me walk with my shoulders back, tilted pelvis, and movement of my hips, as she told me “the foundation
of a graceful walk is a graceful posture.” She always told me don’t make the same mistakes twice. This was part of the job and I knew if I did not like it, I could leave and not work for her.
EC: She also asked you to change the spelling of your name from Catherine to Kathryn?
KS: She explained that
people would remember me. They would associate me with that person whose name begins with “K”, not “C”. I thought she probably spelled her name, ending with an “e”, not a “y” for the same reason.
Because at that time everyone spelled the name in that manner, and it is not distinctive. She advised me, “one of the big battles in life is to stand out from the crowd.”
EC: How would you describe her?
KS: Her official name was Ruth Elizabeth Davis. The initials spell RED
which represents fire, like her personality, which was a spit fire of one. She was the most honest person I had ever known. She was strong, sharp, and powerful for the first five years I had known her. But the public humiliation by her daughter
at first sapped her strength. I think the dominant quality of Miss D was independence and she conducted her life with a strict set of rules.
EC: Would you also say she was a survivor, having to overcome so many physical ailments?
KS: Yes. A lump was found in her right breast in 1983.
We arrived at the New York hospital in a room on the seventeenth floor, a huge suite. I had not seen her this frightened before, but she had the foresight to tell the surgeon, that if he found a malignant tumor, she wanted him to perform the mastectomy immediately.
After she came out of recovery she was chatty with incredible energy. On the ninth day of recovery, Miss D opened her mouth to speak, but only a small sound found its way out. I could tell something was terribly wrong and I shouted to call the doctor.
At that moment Miss D collapsed, but when she awoke, her spoken words were mangled and unintelligible. After finding out she had a stroke affecting her left side, we also were told by the doctors she had only three weeks to live. But she was a
fighter and at the age of seventy-five she re-learned to walk and talk again. Her speech came back first, and then four months later she was able to move her pinky finger to touch her thumb. She lived another six years, most of the time very spunky.
EC: She saw her daughter’s book as a betrayal?
Her daughter, Bede, had written a tell-all memoir in the style of Mommie Dearest, published on Mother’s Day in 1985. Miss D could not believe she did this. She cried and felt she could never get over what was written. It
was as if a sword had been thrust into her heart. To get her out of her melancholy, we flew to France to take a road trip around the countryside that would end up in Paris. She cried, would not eat, and was depressed. Her battle to recover after the
stroke had been fueled by pride, a test of her will, and she had not been defeated. But this time seemed different. I was able to pull her out of her darkness by resurrecting that Yankee in her, who believed that is was distasteful for those that wallowed
in their defeats. Slowly she began to eat and take walks, chatting about the gorgeous ocean view in France. While driving one day she told me, “Kath, bad beginnings always make for good endings.”
EC: In the book you speak of your boyfriend, Pierre?
KS: He was a playboy. I was
naïve and did not realize this, but Miss D did see through him and she had his number. After I complained to her that I felt he looked upon me as his housekeeper she gave me sound advice. I was tired of picking up after him. She told me to gather
all his clothes and put them in a corner of the room on the ground. Then said, ‘do not say anything to him.’ She was right because within a week he cleaned up after himself.
EC: How would you describe your relationship with Miss D?
KS: She was my rock. She shaped my sense of what
was right and proper. I knew her almost as well as I knew myself, but she was the one who gave me the language to describe it, the manner to endure it, and the grace. We completed each other’s sentences and knew what each other was thinking. I
am so thankful to her for opening the door to me of a whole new world.
Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear is a police procedural that overlaps with the psychological thriller genre. This story follows Met detective Cat Kinsella who is investigating why and how Alice’s
body is found close to her father’s pub.
Cat’s troubled past comes into play as it becomes obvious that Alice was murdered
and it is related to another woman vanishing eighteen years earlier. She wonders if her dad had something to do with Maryanne’s disappearance? Memories flood Cat, as a child of eight on a vacation in Ireland, she had to deal with why Maryanne had gone
missing and her dad’s denial of ever knowing the seventeen-year-old girl, creating tension between Cat and her father. She is wondering if her father could have murdered both Maryanne and Alice. Through her investigation she confronts secrets about
the women, her father, and her family life.
This debut novel delves into dark family secrets full of lies and revelations. It is interesting
how Frear combines the two genres to write a gripping story.
Elise Cooper: Why this genre?
Caz Frear: I loving reading police procedurals. I wanted to write one from the perspective of a young female detective. Then there was this huge story in the news about young girls needing to come to the
UK from Ireland. I thought how friends and family would not know where they were and they would not know the huge city of London.
Did you have any police experience?
CF: No - never! However, a friend put me in touch with a great police officer who has been invaluable. He keeps me on the straight
and narrow when it comes to procedure. I wouldn’t say I’m an absolute slave to accuracy when it comes to procedure, but when writing a page-turner, I simply can’t wait a week to get a DNA test result back. But it does need to feel authentic.
EC: Surrounding Cat is a team of detectives?
I hope they come to life. I did not want to write the team as dysfunctional, either having sexism, competition, or inappropriate behavior. I wanted to show them as a family of sorts where the only arguments are who makes the tea or steals someone’s
biscuits. Cat has them fulfill her needs because her family never has.
EC: How would you describe Cat?
CF: I hope readers are invested in her. I know I am attached to her. Cat is flawed, a bit overweight, and down on herself. I do not consider her a Superhero, but just a detective
trying to do her job. I’d describe Cat as an everywoman. She has some really big issues that she’s dealing with but she tries to get along with people and she wants to be liked as well as respected. There’s an element of her that
is still that eight-year-old girl in Ireland who has just found out that the world isn't a safe place.
EC: Did the setting
play a role in the book?
CF: London is a huge, busy, self-absorbed city where everybody goes about doing their own thing. Nobody is really looking at what the person
next to them is doing. A person can easily lose themselves.
EC: How would describe the supervising officer, Steele?
CF: I think she has a maternal feeling for Cat. She is level-headed. Being in her sixties she has chosen her job as her life.
EC: Did you base her on Supervisor Jane Tennison played by Helen Mirren in the show “Prime Suspect?”
No, not directly. Her personality is actually based on someone I used to work for years ago who was tiny, very dainty and feminine, but the toughest boss I ever had. Everyone loved her but they were slightly terrified of her. That said, Tennison is my all-time
favorite detective and there are definitely elements of her in Steele: the toughness, the ease with which she manages within a predominantly male environment. I would say Steele is a bit softer than Tennison though, less prickly, not as obsessed with
her proving herself. Steele knows she’s earned her stripes and doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone whereas I think Tennison thrived on confrontation and competition.
EC: You have the food of choice, Pop Tarts?
CF: I think that might have been in my sub-conscious. They
made their way to our shores when I was nine or ten. We weren’t allowed them that often, but considered it a treat when we ate them.
EC: Why the Tinkerbell pendent?
CF: I wanted to have a Disney item that a girl could be fixated on. I bought myself one when I got the book deal
and now think of it as a good omen.
EC: Your next book?
Book two still doesn’t have a name and I’m not quite sure on publication dates yet (2019 probably). It’s the same team of detectives investigating a brand-new case but the events of Sweet Little Lies are still casting their shadow
over Cat’s life. The plot focuses on a husband and wife. The husband is arrested for the murder of a young woman but he claims he is being framed and suspicion falls heavily on his wife. Who is telling the truth?
Desperate Girls (Wolf Security Book 1)
August 7th, 2018
by Laura Griffin is a captivating novel, combining a suspenseful murder mystery, police procedural, with a touch of romance. She has the unique ability to write compelling plots that highlight caring and realistic characters.
Former prosecutor Brynn Holloran has turned to the dark side, becoming a defense attorney. Everyone knows she is a superstar in the courtroom, although a failure
in her personal life. She now must contend with a vicious murderer, James Corby, she once helped prosecute. His escape from jail has put her life in jeopardy. He seeks revenge against all those who helped put him away. Corby has already brutally killed the
former lead prosecutor Jen Ballard, and the lead detective who worked the case. To protect her, Byrnn’s boss hires a private security firm that will also guard Ross, her co-counsel, who also worked for the District Attorney’s office. Erik Morgan,
a marine and former secret service Agent is put in charge of her detail. Unfortunately, he soon realizes his client has trouble following orders and refuses to be dictated to. Sparks fly not only when they butt heads, each an alpha with their share of
strengths and vulnerabilities, but also as it becomes clear there is an obvious attraction. A sub-plot allows readers to get behind the scenes of an intriguing court case. Both the search for the escapee and the court room scenes make for a riveting
Anyone picking up a Laura Griffin book will not be disappointed as she brings together action, romance, mystery and suspense. This
first of a new series builds a tension that ends with an intriguing twist, leaving readers spellbound.
Elise Cooper: You give
those in the military a shout out?
Laura Griffin: Many at the Wolfe Security firm are ex-Marines. They have traits of being loyal, believing in a brotherhood, and have
integrity. I wanted to show the commitment and discipline they can bring to any non-military job. I have the upmost respect for the men and women who are serving and have served.
EC: You pulled off making a defense attorney likeable?
LG: Thank you. My dad is an attorney and I tease
him about the stereotype. Also, a good friend of mine from childhood has a similar background to Brynn. She started as an Assistant District Attorney, working for the prosecution’s side, and switched over to criminal defense work. I
thought she has a fascinating career path, starting on one side and then moving to the ‘dark side.’ I interviewed her as a resource because I wanted the insights of someone who worked on both sides of the aisle. No matter what the profession,
I try to weave the details of the job and the jargon into the story to bring it to life. Hopefully, it makes the plot and characters more realistic.
EC: Did your friend explain why she went to the “dark side?’
LG: She saw some inequities in the system. There is a need for good
lawyers on both sides to have a fair system. In the book, there is a snippet of dialogue, “even when someone has all the evidence against them they still need fair representation. Due process is in the Constitution for a reason, so people
don’t have their rights trampled on.” I hope I brought this out through Brynn’s character. She is the checks and balance within the system.
EC: Although Jen was only on the pages for a short while you wrote her as a very sympathetic character?
LG: She wanted people to
focus on her brain, not her boobs; yet, faced a dilemma. Now that she is a judge she acts conservatively at work. But as she prepares to go on a date she is willing to let her hair down. A lot of women I know juggle the dichotomy of the professional
persona versus their personal life. They want to express themselves as women.
EC: Was Jen based on anyone?
LG: Her name was. I usually don’t put the names of close family members in my book because I have emotional ties with them. But my sister Jennifer was reading this novel
and said, ‘ooh you finally put me in a book. I am so excited.’ A few minutes later she gets this look on her face and tells me, ‘I am not sure I will be in this book that long.’ I hated to burst her bubble.
EC: How would you describe Brynn?
LG: Very assertive,
flashy, extroverted, smart, on top of her life professionally. She is immersed in her job and has let her personal life slide. She is very resourceful so she uses everything in her tool box, including the way she dresses, to gain an advantage in
court. She is a survivor in the face of adversity, a theme running throughout all my books. There is a vulnerable side to her because of what happened to her as a child.
EC: How would you describe Eric?
LG: I wanted to write two very strong personalities. He is intensely focused. The strong,
silent type that has a hard exterior but inside has vulnerabilities that he eventually shows to Brynn. He started out in the protective detail for dignitaries, while in the Marines, and moved over to the Secret Service. I interviewed someone on
then Vice-President Biden’s detail and tried to weave the details he told me into the story, including the long hours and travel.
How would you describe the relationship?
LG: At first, they appeared as opposites. Eric is very stoic, someone who does not wear his emotions on his sleeve, while
Brynn is the flashy type. The more they get to know each other, the more they realize they have a lot in common. A scene where she opens up to Eric about her case shows how both have high stakes jobs that involve life/death situations and put a
lot of pressure on them. They both refuse to back down from a challenge. Brynn starts to realize that this is the first time in her life where she has this emotional connection, willing to make sacrifices to make it work. The intimate scenes
between them follow these emotions. Both are very comfortable with each other and end up willing to speak their minds about their feelings.
EC: Please explain this book quote, “I throw myself, immerse myself in work, black-out everyone and everything.”
LG: I am a lot like that,
since I get tunnel vision when I am in the middle of something. I grew up in a family of intense people. We are A type personalities that have relentless drive.
EC: You have Eric and Brynn relieve stress by running. Do you run?
LG: I do. Austin has these wonderful
hills and a beautiful setting for any outdoor exercise. I run for about two miles like Brynn. It is my pet peeve when I read a story to see these characters like Eric that are in perfect shape, with a six pack and strong arms, and do not appear
to have any physical exercise.
EC: What do you want the readers to get out of the story?
LG: I like to write what I like to read. I do not want to have all action/action/action and no emotion. I think any romantic relationship draws out the characters. But the plot
needs to start out with a bang. I got my start in journalism and realized I have to hook the reader in quickly. I want to grab someone with the opening. As a reader, I do not want to wait until chapter three to find out what is going on.
EC: Your upcoming books?
LG: In February a Tracer
book comes out, Stone Cold Heart. The focus of that series is on a forensic lab. In the new book the heroine is a forensic anthropologist. She is asked to travel to the Texas gorge where she analyzes these human bones found by some hikers.
She then gets pulled into this murder investigation and gets involved with the lead detective. Although the characters overlap, each book of the series has its own story. The next book in this series will be out next summer and will highlight Eric’s
The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie has a theme of betrayal with the backdrop of a horrific tragedy. Readers will be reminded of 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, and the victims, those that
died and those that survived. The story is told through the lives of the women affected, characters that present different faces, the public one and a masked one that they hope to keep secret.
a gas explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of the women are forever altered. Over 500 people killed and thousands more have been wounded. To honor the one year anniversary Teo Jackson films a documentary about the “Triple Ten Explosion,”
which happened on the tenth month, the tenth day, and at 10 AM. The past and present perspectives of Cecily and Kate, are told, while Franny’s story is told in the documentary interview transcripts.
A year ago, Cecily was photographed in a timeless shot capturing a pure moment of shock as she stands there staring at the wreckage, fearing her husband, Tom, and best friend, Kaitlyn, have been killed. On the anniversary, she has survivor’s guilt,
knowing she was supposed to be in the building that day, but per usual was late. Another victim, Kate ran from the scene of the explosion, deciding to leave behind her young children and husband. She escapes to Canada hoping to make a new life for herself
and that her past secrets won’t catch up with her. The third person, Franny, resents her life after finding out she was adopted and that Kaitlyn was her mother, but fate ends any attempt with reconciliation.
This is a complex story that delves into the lives of the victims. It has a major twist towards the end of the story bringing the women together in an unexpected way.
Cooper: Why did you pick a story centered around a horrific tragedy?
Catherine McKenzie: There were a couple of threads coming together. Years ago, after September
11th I remember seeing the chain link fence where the missing photos were posted. I had a thought, could one of these people have used the tragedy as an opportunity to disappear.
EC: Did you base it on 9/11?
CM: I did not want to mimic the actual event, but it was in my thoughts. It
was not set in New York, but in Chicago and I tried to move away from the rawness of September 11th. I had a lot of friends living in New York on that day. One of my friends had been in the adjacent tower. I do remember watching
the events unfold and wondering if my friends were OK.My husband and his mother were in the Twin Towers a week before during that time of the day.
EC: You speak of coincidences in the book?
CM: Yes. I can’t imagine what it would be like. Someone on my husband’s side was supposed
to be on the Titanic, but was held over for a court case. He never used the ticket. I remember reading of two people who survived the Twin Towers only to die in a plane crash a few years later. There are a lot of weird coincidences in life. I do
not actually believe in fate or that things happen for a reason. Yet, it is true tiny little decisions made in life, like when I skipped kindergarten, can change the whole course. Would I have met the same people or met different people?
EC: Why did you get Franny’s point of view across through the transcripts?
CM: I wanted a writing challenge. I know as a writer I have to create a three-dimensional world of rooms, smells, and sounds. There was a tool taken away from me. With a transcript, you don’t get to say
how the person was feeling or have access to their internal thoughts. As a lawyer, I read a lot of transcripts. It is interesting to me what can get lost from actually being in the room to reading the transcripts. It seemed at times it was
not how I remembered it; yet, there it was on the page. Even in a documentary people have a narrative and can manipulate the story.
Not all your victims are likeable?
CM: Everyone that dies in a tragedy seem to be amazing people. But as one of the characters says in the book, the law of averages
says it is probably not true. We like everything to be black and white. We need our villain and our knight, but the reality is generally most people live a grey life, not wholly bad or wholly good. If you die today unexpectedly what is the most
you are afraid of that people will know about you?
EC: Can you describe the characters?
CM: Cecily has guilt because she was supposed to be in the building and she was not fond of her husband. I am sure there is some form of hate even after losing someone who let
you down in every way. She is trying to figure out what is best for her children and herself. This iconic photo of her has left her with notoriety that she has not chosen.
unhappy with her life and what she did. She makes terrible decisions. She reacts to everything as if it is a crisis.
Franny is a bit of a psychopath. She is
a lost soul, very fragile who feels like an outsider.
EC: Do you think the theme is betrayal?
CM: Yes. What I wanted to explore was secrets and lies. My joking title was Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell. Lying is definitely a betrayal. I wouldn’t say all secrets are
betrayals because people, even those closest to us, do not deserve to know everything about us and every single thought we have.
You have a quote that should apply today, “A text is not communication”?
CM: I am guilty of that as well. I am in an office all day talking. At
night after I get home I don’t want to talk so I text.
EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?
CM: Good entertainment. I write stories that entertain myself, and I hope that it also entertains others as well. I want them to get caught up with the characters. Maybe that life
is more complicated than we think. When I write books, I have a master plan, the main plot points. I try to put myself in the position of each character.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
CM: Its title, I’ll Never Tell, is coming out in April 2019. A summer camp
owned by a family is thrown into disarray after the father deceases and they find out that twenty years earlier someone died there.