Monday, January 12, 2015

Remains of Innocence by J. A. Jance

Reviewed by Kristin

Liza Machett is far from Cochise County, Arizona when she discovers that her hoarder mother has been collecting much more than piles of magazines and towers of trash.  In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Liza’s mother has squirrelled away hundred dollar bills in between pages and in every nook and cranny.  Considering the poverty and squalor of her childhood years, Liza is more than a little puzzled when she is called back to help when her mother is in quickly declining health following a fall in her home.

Liza’s mother never leaves hospice care, but Liza does her best to clean out and prepare her mother’s house for sale, a job that requires face masks and multiple dumpsters.  The piles of hundred dollar bills grow along with Liza’s amazement.  Where had the money come from, and why in the world hadn’t her mother ever spent any of it to provide a better life for her children?

Suddenly, it becomes apparent that someone is on the trail of the hidden money, and that someone is willing to go to great lengths to recover it.  Thus begins a cross-country trip to escape some very dangerous characters.  Although Liza has long been estranged from her brother Guy, she decides to go to him in an attempt to find answers.

Meanwhile, Guy Machett is the new medical examiner in Cochise County, Arizona.  Sherriff Joanna Brady finds him a little arrogant and much less pleasant than the former persons who have filled his position.  Guy is inconveniently out of town when his services are needed after a developmentally disabled man is found in a cave along with several small dead animals, and a small kitten that is barely clinging to life.

Jance skillfully weaves the strands of the two main plotlines together.  As Liza is trying to travel across the country anonymously in order to find her brother, events continue to unfold in Cochise County that point to a cold-blooded abuser and killer.

I have always enjoyed Jance’s series featuring Sherriff Joanna Brady.  I was very surprised to crack open the book and find that it began in the New England Berkshire mountains.  I have been to Great Barrington several times and found a few familiar places.  The bulk of the book was set in the even more familiar southwest, as fans of Jance’s books will appreciate.  There was some predictable foreshadowing about the person or persons who committed the crime, but I thought it was well-written.  Sherriff Brady is a very likable character who balances the demands of work and family.

Fans can look forward to Cold Betrayal (an Ali Reynolds mystery) in March 2015 and Stand Down (a J.P. Beaumont mystery) in July 2015.

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