Friday, August 8, 2014

Moving Target by J.A. Jance

Reviewed by Kristin

J.A. Jance begins her latest Ali Reynolds adventure, Moving Target, with two main storylines.  Ali’s fiancée, B. Simpson, is looking into a case regarding an incarcerated juvenile computer hacker who is severely burned one night while putting up Christmas tree lights in the detention center’s recreation room.  At the same time, Ali is flying to England with her friend and property manager, 80-plus-year-old Leland Brooks, who has not been “home” since his family disowned him in 1954.

Lance Tucker, one month short of eighteen and his release from the juvenile detention center, is a brilliant computer programmer who hacked into his school’s system as a protest against the proposed teacher and student GPS tracking system.  Lance has been a well-behaved offender, and is hoping to find a decent college that will accept him with a lowly GED.  Lance is famous in the hacker world for building GHOST, a computer program that would allow internet users to explore the “dark web” completely undetected.  B. is concerned about Lance when he lands in the hospital due to burns accelerated by a spray adhesive because he, B., was the cyber-security expert who testified in Lance’s trial.  Feeling more than a little guilt and responsibility for the incarceration and subsequent burns suffered by Lance, B. is intent on finding out exactly why someone might wish Lance harm.

At the same time, Ali has arranged a trip to England for her dear friend Leland, who was unceremoniously cut off from his family after his brother lashed out at him for being attracted to another man.  Their father was killed a month after Leland set sail on a tramp steamer to the United States, and Leland never knew the complete circumstances surrounding his father’s death.  Even though his brothers and their mother have all been gone for many years, Ali and Leland delve into an investigation of what exactly happened all that time ago.  Police reports and evidence filed away in a musty basement begin to fill in the missing details of this long unsolved homicide.  Ali and Leland meet his delightful great-nephew, and also encounter a couple of not-so-delightful cousins who were young girls when Leland was shamed and forced to take his leave.

B. sends Ali encrypted files soliciting her help with Lance’s situation as the potential danger escalates.  Soon, the bulk of the action moves to Texas, where Ali, B., Leland, and Lance’s family face the threat that comes at them from unexpected directions.  From rival software developers to possibly corrupt law enforcement officers, Lance and his protectors have their hands full.

With this fast paced and realistic novel, Jance has once again outdone herself.  Fans of the series will enjoy this latest installment, and new readers could easily jump in and appreciate the story.  The two separate plot lines move the story forward in a smooth manner, yet in the end both tell tales of families coming together, rather than apart.

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