Burke, Jan 1953-

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Burke, Jan 1953-


Born August 1, 1953, in Houston, TX; daughter of John and Velda Fischer; married Timothy Burke (a musician), May 28, 1988. Education: California State University, Long Beach, B.A., 1978.


Office—12437 Seal Beach Blvd., No. 101, Seal Beach, CA 90740. Agent—Nancy Yost, Lowenstein Associates, 121 W. 27th St., Ste. 601, New York, NY 10001. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer. Former columnist for Sunday Long Beach Press-Telegram; Crime Lab Project Web forum, founder. Former manager of a manufacturing plant.


Mystery Writers of America, Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime.


Macavity Award for best short story, 1994, for "Unharmed", and 2001, for "The Abbey Ghosts"; Ellery Queen Readers Award, for "Unharmed"; Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1999, for Bones; Agatha Christie Award for Best Short Story, 2000, for "The Man in the Civil Sui."



Goodnight, Irene, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.

Sweet Dreams, Irene, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.

Dear Irene, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Remember Me, Irene, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Hocus, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Liar, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Bones, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.

Flight, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

Bloodlines, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

Kidnapped, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.


(Editor, with Sue Grafton and Barry Zeman) Writing Mysteries: A Handbook, 2nd edition, Writer's Digest Books, 2002.

Nine: A Novel of Suspense, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of short stories, including the collection Eighteen; contributor to anthologies, including Malice Domestic 9, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000; Crimes Through Time II, 1998; and Malice Domestic 6, edited by Anne Perry. Contributor of short fiction to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Also served as the original editor of Breaking and Entering (guide to getting published), Sisters in Crime.


Consistently compared to fellow mystery writers Patricia Cornwell and Sue Grafton, Jan Burke is known for her creation of Irene Kelly, a tough Southern California crime reporter.

Critics have lauded Burke's series since its inception. In a review of Sweet Dreams, Irene, Booklist reviewer Emily Melton praised Burke's "good pacing, fast action, and appealing characters." In a later review of Remember Me, Irene, Melton commented: "Burke's Irene Kelly series just keeps getting better." Melton added: "Exciting action, clever dialogue, solid writing, and a smart, likable heroine." In a review of Hocus, Melton proclaimed: "Burke's Irene Kelly series seems to be on the verge of a breakout to bestsellerdom."

Burke's books were rapidly gaining her a legion of fans. In her seventh Irene Kelly novel Bones, published in 1999, Kelly is searching for serial killer Nicholas Parrish, who has escaped while leading police to a body site. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that though "Irene and other characters are well wrought and realistic, too many red herrings are introduced, all meant to distract the reader from the true evil, which, once fully revealed, just isn't quite evil enough." Melton, in Booklist, however, noted that Bones "is very impressive—deviously plotted, cleverly crafted, full of screw-tightening suspense. This may be the book to take Burke to the top tier of literary and popular success in the genre."

In Flight, Burke turns her focus from Irene Kelly, who plays a secondary role this time to her husband, detective Frank Harriman. The detective is investigating the wrongful vilification of a cop, Philip Lefebvre, believed to have turned murderer and thief. Harriman suspects that the real murderer has gone free and begins an investigation after Lefebvre's body is found in a mountain plain wreck. Mike Shea, writing in TexasMonthly, called Flight "a note-perfect lesson in building a suspense novel." Writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Oline H. Cogdill commented: "After eight novels, Burke is still exploring different nuances of Kelly and Harriman's relationships and unique natures. Both are strong, intriguing individuals who provide the basis for excellent stories." In a review in the Library Journal, Anne C. Tomlin wrote: "This book will whet the appetite of those who have never read any of this series."

Burke leaves Kelly completely behind in Nine: A Novel of Suspense, which revolves around a club named Project Nine. L.A. Detective Alex Grandon suspects that the elite boys who belong to the exclusive club are acting as vigilantes and killing criminals on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the novel's "absorbing and inventive plot." South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributor Oline H. Cogdill wrote: "Edgar-winning author Jan Burke reaches into the heart of contemporary issues with her first-rate thriller." John Orr wrote in the San Jose Mercury News: "The second half speeds along with people we like in serious danger, and the bad guys getting increasingly sociopathic and dangerous."

Burke tells a story in twenty-year intervals in Bloodlines, which features a case dealing with death and loss in families across generations. The story revolves around a noted family's killing, and three reporters, with the last, Irene Kelly, finally solving past mysteries after her previous mentors have died. Referring to the novel as "superb," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted it's "multiple rich story lines, dead-on newsroom atmosphere and friendships that deepen through the decades." Oline H. Cogdill, writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, noted that the author's "storytelling skills reach a zenith with Bloodlines." Cogdill added: "Although the complex plot is well-developed, the relationships among the lead characters are even more important."

Kidnapped once again features Kelly, this time Irene and her husband investigate a suspicious wealthy family with numerous adopted children, including one who is murdered and another in trouble with the law. Allison Block, writing in Booklist, commented: "Burke's writing is crisp." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "The many plot twists should keep readers turning the pages." Oline H. Cogdill remarked in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The richly layered Kidnapped again proves Burke's skills as a storyteller."



Booklist, March 1, 1994, Emily Melton, review of Sweet Dreams, Irene, p. 1183; February 15, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Dear Irene, p. 1061; February 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Remember Me, Irene, p. 993; May 1, 1997, Emily Melton, review of Hocus, p. 1482; April 15, 1998, Emily Melton, review of Liar, p. 1378; August, 1999, Emily Melton, review of Bones, p. 2032; September 15, 2006, Allison Block, review of Kidnapped, p. 30.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Nine: A Novel of Suspense, p. 1353; November 1, 2004, review of Bloodlines, p. 1029.

Library Journal, May 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Hocus, p. 144; April 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Liar, p. 129; March 1, 2001, Anne C. Tomlin, review of Flight, p. 130; December 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Bloodlines, p. 94.

Orlando Sentinel, November 24, 2003, Nancy Pate, review of The Blood Doctor.

Publishers Weekly, January 24, 1994, review of Sweet Dreams, Irene, p. 43; January 2, 1995, review of Dear Irene, p. 62; January 1, 1996, review of Remember Me, Irene, p. 61; March 3, 1997, review of Hocus, p. 67; March 16, 1998, review of Liar, p. 57; August 23, 1999, review of Bones, p. 51; October 7, 2002, review of Nine, p. 52; December 20, 2004, review of Bloodlines, p. 40; August 21, 2006, review of Kidnapped, p. 49.

San Jose Mercury News, November 13, 2002, John Orr, review of Nine.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, October 29, 2006, Susan L. Rife, review of Kidnapped, p. G4.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 25, 2001, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Flight; November 7, 2002, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Nine; January 5, 2005, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Bloodlines; November 1, 2006, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Kidnapped.

Texas Monthly, March, 2001, Mike Shea, review of Flight, p. 32.


Books 'n' Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (December 2, 2006), Jon Jordan, "Interview with Jan Burke."

Crime Lab Project,http://www.crimelabproject.com (December 2, 2006).

Jan Burke Home Page,http://www.janburke.com (October 21, 1999).

Mystery Readers International,http://www.mysteryreaders.org/ (December 2, 2006), T. Jefferson Parker, "Jan Burke," interview with author.

Writers Write,http://www.writerswrite.com/ (December 2, 2006), Claire E. White, "A Conversation with Jan Burke."

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