Jance, J.A. 1944–
Jance, J.A. 1944–
(Judith Ann Jance)
PERSONAL: Born October 27, 1944, in Watertown, SD; daughter of Norman (in insurance sales) and Evelyn (Anderson) Busk; married Jerry Joseph Teale Jance, January 29, 1967 (divorced, 1980); married William Alan Schilb, December 21, 1985; children: (first marriage) Jeanne Teale, Josh Mikki; (second marriage) two stepsons and one stepdaughter. Education: University of Arizona, B.A., 1966, M.Ed., 1970; American College, Bryn Mawr, PA, C.L.U., 1980.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 766, Bellevue, WA 98009. Agent—Alice Volpe, Northwest Literary Agency, 4500 108th Ave. NE, Kirkland, WA 98033. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Pueblo High School, Tucson, AZ, teacher, 1966–68; Indian Oasis Schools, Sells, AZ, librarian, 1968–73; Equitable Life Assurance Society, New York, NY, life insurance salesperson and district manager, 1974–84. Writer, 1985–.
MEMBER: Sisters in Crime, Denny Regrade Business Association (president, 1983–84), Seattle Free Lances (president, 1989–90), Mystery Writers of America, Relay for Life Cancer Fighting Flamingos.
AWARDS, HONORS: D.H.L., University of Arizona, 2000.
"J.P. BEAUMONT" MYSTERY SERIES
Until Proven Guilty, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.
Injustice for All, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.
Trial by Fury, Avon (New York, NY), 1987.
Improbable Cause, Avon (New York, NY), 1987.
Taking the Fifth, Avon (New York, NY), 1987.
A More Perfect Union, Avon (New York, NY), 1988.
Dismissed with Prejudice, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.
Minor in Possession, Avon (New York, NY), 1990.
Payment in Kind, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.
Without Due Process, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Failure to Appear, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Lying in Wait, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Name Withheld, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
Three Complete Novels (includes Until Proven Guilty, Injustice for All, Trial by Fury), Wings Books (New York, NY), 1995, also published as Sentenced to Die, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Breach of Duty, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Birds of Prey, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
Long Time Gone, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
"JOANNA BRADY" MYSTERY SERIES
Desert Heat, Avon (New York, NY), 1993.
Tombstone Courage, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Shoot/Don't Shoot, Avon (New York, NY), 1995.
Dead to Rights, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Skeleton Canyon, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Rattlesnake Crossing, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
Outlaw Mountain, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Devil's Claw, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Paradise Lost, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
Partner in Crime, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Exit Wounds, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
Dead Wrong, Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
It's Not Your Fault, Charles Franklin (Edmonds, WA), 1985.
Dial Zero for Help: A Story of Parental Kidnapping, Charles Franklin (Edmonds, WA), 1985.
Welcome Home, Stranger: A Child's View of Family Alcoholism, Charles Franklin (Edmonds, WA), 1986.
After the Fire (poetry), Lance Publications, 1984, reprinted, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2004.
Hour of the Hunter (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
Kiss of the Bees (novel), Avon (New York, NY), 2000.
Day of the Dead (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Edge of Evil (novel), Avon (New York, NY), 2006.
Stories have appeared in anthologies, including Mothers & Daughters, Signet, 1998; and Murder on Route 66, Berkley, 1999.
ADAPTATIONS: Jance's books have been adapted as audio books, including Breach of Duty, and Outlaw Mountain, both Books in Motion, both 1999; Kiss of the Bees, Books in Motion, 2000, Birds of Prey, Books in Motion, 2001; Exit Wounds, BBC Audiobooks America, 2003; Day of the Dead, Morrow/HarperCollins, 2004; and After the Fire, BBC Audio-books, 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: J.A. Jance is best known for her mystery novels, especially the books that depict the adventures of Seattle police detective J.P. Beaumont and those featuring Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady. Jance has been producing titles in these two mystery series for more than a decade and is quite comfortable with her two very different protagonists. Beaumont is a hard-boiled but decent recovering alcoholic working out of Seattle, Washington, and Brady is a tender-hearted working mother in a small desert town; both of them manage to solve dangerous and life-threatening crimes while contending with issues in their personal lives. In a review of Breach of Duty, a Publishers Weekly contributor declared that Jance's mysteries are "distinguished by authentic dialogue, honest emotions and characters readers will care about."
The first Beaumont tale, Until Proven Guilty, was published in 1985 in paperback. It establishes the protagonist's wealth, which is the outcome of a relationship with a woman named Anne Corley. This and later titles reveal Beaumont as a resentful, morose man who is battling alcoholism and an unstable love life. Critics found him a compelling character, however. Booklist contributor Bill Ott noted that the "J.P. Beaumont" series "has a lot going for it," principally because Jance "is an excellent plotter … offering genuine surprises throughout."
Jance became interested in police work following an incident in which her husband was driven home from work, unknowingly, by a serial killer who later began stalking them. The police investigation that followed inspired Jance to depict police procedures in her work. The Beaumont series has been praised by critics for its accurate descriptions of Seattle as well as for its well-drawn characterizations. In a review of Dismissed with Prejudice, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised "the dexterous characterizations that have become the hallmarks of [Jance's] mysteries."
In Lying in Wait, Beaumont is teamed up with a new partner, Sue Danielson, as he investigates the separate murders of a husband and wife. In each instance, the victims had their fingers and toes cut off. The investigation leads the detective team to a Nazi group and gold that disappeared from a death camp during World War II. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel "gripping" and a "red hot, fast[-]paced story." Emily Melton, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "has created a suspenseful story that's sure to keep readers involved." In Name Withheld, Beaumont investigates a homicide case in which the victim, a corporate scam artist and rapist, seems to have had plenty of enemies. As he tries to find the killer, Beaumont must also deal with his ex-wife's fatal illness and a charge of child abuse brought against him by a social worker. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "controls a supporting cast that ranges from diabolical to dotty."
Jance brings back Beaumont in Birds of Prey. When cameras capture the wife of a doctor being thrown overboard on a cruise ship. Beaumont, who happens to be on board with his grandmother and her new husband, starts to investigate. Among the prime suspects are members of a group of religious fanatics who appear to dislike those in the medical profession. Writing in the Library Journal, Susan A. Zappia commented that "readers … will appreciate this sardonic and mature narrator's appeal." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "uses the leisurely pace of the cruise for her hero to reexamine past wounds as well as to display his customary dry wit."
Trial by Jury features detective Beaumont for the seventeenth time in a story involving a nun who has dreams about a murder she may have witnessed years ago. In addition, Beaumont's best friend is murdered and suspicion falls on the family. Beaumont's closeness to the family seems to preclude him from helping.
Jance has attracted a wide readership for her works featuring Cochise County sheriff Joanna Brady. Desert Heat, the first book in the "Joanna Brady" series, concludes with the murder of Brady's husband, during his campaign for sheriff. Following her husband's death, Brady decides to run for sheriff herself. Tombstone Courage begins with Brady winning the election. This book depicts Brady's experiences as the first female sheriff in Arizona. In subsequent outings, Brady has had to contend with serial killers, drug rings, suspicious suicides, and her own crowded personal life, often simultaneously. In other words, as Susan A. Zappia observed in the Library Journal, Brady "wears a tough gal's badge yet remains a sensitive, caring … mom and friend." In Booklist George Needham declared that in the "remarkable" Brady series, Jance "has created a fully realized universe." Emily Melton noted that the series' "vivid landscape … strong central character, and satisfying plotting has made it a winner from the outset."
Jance returns to Sheriff Brady in Shoot, Don't Shoot. While taking a course in law enforcement in Tucson, Brady clashes with her instructor and becomes involved in a serial murder case when she comes to believe that the primary suspect is innocent. In the next Brady adventure, Dead to Rights, the female sheriff of Chochise County investigates the arson murder of veterinarian Amos Buckwalter. The primary suspect is Hal Morgan, whose wife was killed by Buckwalter in a drunk driving accident. Brady, however, disagrees with the homicide detectives on the case and turns her focus to Buckwalter's wife. In the meantime, Brady has numerous problems of her own to deal with, including her struggles to get over her husband's death. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "skillfully ties the mystery to the southeastern Arizona landscape, its historic mining towns and their modern problems." In a review in Booklist, Benjamin Segedin commented that Jance "expertly introduces multiple subplots and does a fine job of drawing her characters."
Brady confronts racial tensions and a dead high-school valedictorian in Skeleton Canyon. The initial prime suspect in Bree O'Brien's murder is her Hispanic boyfriend, Ignacio Ybarra, who cannot explain the bruises and cuts on his body. Ybarra is later cleared of the murder, however, and Brady turns her attention to a smuggling operation that may involve the murder victim's wealthy parents. Writing in Publishers Weekly a reviewer noted that the author's "regional knowledge runs deep, whether she writes about troubled Anglo-Hispanic relations along the border or the surprising power of Arizona thunderstorms." In a review in Booklist, Emily Melton wrote: "An engaging read in a series that just keeps getting better."
Devil's Claw finds Brady involved in two cases and preparing to get married to Butch Dixon. The first case involves the murder of her friendly neighbor. Brady's investigation, however, is complicated by the fact that the neighbor left his ranch to Brady rather than his own daughter, making some suspicious that perhaps Brady herself had a motive for murder. The second case involves the murder of a woman recently released from prison after serving time for killing her husband. Susan A. Zappia, writing in the Library Journal, called the novel a "suspense charmer." Booklist contributor George Needham wrote: "A quality entry in a quality series."
The newly married Brady returns in Paradise Lost and investigates a case that involves her daughter. Brady's daughter, Jenny, and a friend come across a dead body in the woods while on a Girl Scout camping trip. Brady soon becomes concerned for her own daughter's safety when Jenny's friend is killed. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "keeps things roiling from start to finish." Carrie Bissey, writing in Booklist, commented that "the pieces of the mystery rail together in intriguing and convention-defying ways."
Jance brings her two series regulars together in the novel Partners in Crime. The story features Beaumont and Brady working together on a case in which a woman in a witness protection program is murdered in Cochise County. Beaumont shows up on the scene working as a special investigator for Washington state's attorney general. Beaumont and Brady must determine whether the murder is connected to the woman's role as a whistle blower or to a former lover. Their teamwork is complicated, however, by the fact that Beaumont views Brady as a small-time sheriff who probably doesn't know how to conduct a real investigation. "Nance highlights the differences between her two protagonists by alternating Beaumont's first-person narration … with Brady's third-person chapters," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, who also called the novel "chilling." In a review in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,: Jean Marie Brown wrote: "Jance's characters are full-bodied, and she is skilled at evoking emotion."
In 1991 Jance, a former librarian on a Native American reservation, switched gears to produce Hour of the Hunter, a novel set on a reservation in Arizona. The novel features a recently released killer who seeks revenge against a woman who was instrumental in putting him behind bars. A contributor to the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers lauded this novel as "Jance's most complex and compelling work to date." Liz Currie of Armchair Detective commented that Jance "skillfully brings everything—and everyone—together in a climax that is guaranteed to leave readers breathless."
A sequel to Hour of the Hunter titled Kiss of the Bees was published in 1999. In this novel Jance re-introduces the heroine from the former work, but it is now the heroine's adopted teenage daughter who faces the wrath of a killer bent upon revenge. The story blends graphic action with Native American folklore, especially the tales of the Tohono O'othham tribe. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised Jance's "sure hand" in creating "a coherent and engrossing novel." Emily Melton, writing in Booklist, concluded that the "riveting tale … is certain to generate widespread demand."
In Day of the Dead, ex-sheriff Brandon Walker, who appeared in Jance's novels Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Bees, is a member of The Last Chance private detective agency that investigates unsolved cases. He begins looking into the 1970 murder of a Native American woman's daughter and soon discovers a truly diabolical couple whose sexual appetites are deadly. "No mumbo-jumbo here, only believable sensitivity," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin wrote: "Suspense builds gradually in the multilayered novel."
Jance is also author of the stand-alone thriller Edge of Evil, about a television news reporter who loses her job, faces a crumbling marriage, and soon finds herself the target of strangers once she starts talking about her life on her Web blog. In addition to her novels, Jance has also written poetry, including the collection of poems and prose After the Fire, which focuses on her first marriage to an alcoholic. A Wisconsin Bookwatch contributor called the book "hard-hitting to the core."
Jance once told CA: "Writing has provided a means of rewriting my own history, both in terms of the children's books and the murder thrillers. The children's books confront difficult issues—sexual molestation, parental kidnapping, and a child's view of family alcoholism. The murder thrillers are escapist fare with no redeeming social value."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Armchair Detective, spring, 1992, Liz Currie, review of Hour of the Hunter, p. 232.
Booklist, October 15, 1993, Emily Melton, review of Failure to Appear, p. 420; September 15, 1994, Emily Melton, review of Lying in Wait, p. 117; January 1, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Name Withheld, p. 796; September 15, 1996, Benjamin Segedin, review of Dead to Rights, p. 224; July, 1997, Karen Harris, review of Shoot, Don't Shoot, p. 1830; August, 1997, Emily Melton, review of Skeleton Canyon, p. 1885; April 15, 1998, Emily Melton, review of Rattlesnake Crossing, p. 1386; February 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Breach of Duty, p. 1045; April 15, 1999, Emily Melton, review of Outlaw Mountain, p. 1480; November 15, 1999, Emily Melton, review of Kiss of the Bees, p. 580; May 1, 2000, Bill Ott and Brad Hooper, review of Skeleton Canyon, p. 1593, and George Needham, review of Devil's Claw, p. 1619; February 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Birds of Prey, p. 1020; July, 2001, Carrie Bissey, review of Paradise Lost, p. 1951; May 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Exit Wounds, p. 1546; June 1, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Day of the Dead, p. 1670.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 2, 2002, Jean Marie Brown, review of Partner in Crime.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2001, review of Birds of Prey, p. 83; June 15, 2002, review of Partners in Crime, p. 841; June 15, 2005, review of Long Time Gone, p. 666.
Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Rattlesnake Crossing, p. 167; January, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Breach of Duty, p. 164, and I. Pour-El, review of Rattlesnake Crossing, p. 186; July, 1999, Susan Zappia, review of Outlaw Mountain, p. 142; December, 1999, Susan A. Zappia, review of Kiss of Bees, p. 187; July, 2000, Susan A. Zappia, review of Devil's Claw, p. 146; February 1, 2001, Susan A. Zappia, review of Birds of Prey, p. 128; May 1, 2001, Michael Rogers, review of Trial by Fury, p. 133, and Michael Adams, review of Devil's Claw, p. 144; January, 2002, Rebecca Bollen, review of Paradise Lost, p. 78; May 1, 2003, Michael Rogers, review of Taking the Fifth, p. 160; May 15, 2003, Nanci Milone Hill, review of Exit Wounds, p. 132; November 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Dismissed with Prejudice, p. 128; June 1, 2004, Ann Forister, review of Day of the Dead, p. 122; April 1, 2005, Ann Kim, review of Long Time Gone, p. 76; August 1, 2005, Michael Rogers, review of Desert Heat, p. 134.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October-November, 2005, Charles De Lint, reviews of Day of the Dead and Kiss of the Bees, p. 46.
MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of Sentenced to Die.
Publishers Weekly, April 28, 1989, review of Dismissed with Prejudice, pp. 72-73; March 2, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of Minor in Posession, p. 79; February 8, 1991, Penny Kaganoff, revoew of Payment in Kind, p. 53; September 6, 1991, review of Hour of the Hunter, p. 98; January 25, 1993, review of Desert Heat, p. 83; August 9, 1993, review of Failure to Appear, p. 463; May 23, 1994, review of Tombstone Courage, p. 81; August 29, 1994, review of Lying in Wait, p. 64; May 22, 1995, review of Shoot, Don't Shoot, p. 50; December 11, 1995, review of Name Withheld, p. 59; September 2, 1996, review of Dead to Rights, p. 117; June 23, 1997, review of Skeleton Canyon, p. 75; June 8, 1998, review of Rattlesnake Crossing, p. 50; January 25, 1999, review of Breach of Duty, p. 75; June 14, 1999, review of Outlaw Mountain, p. 53; December 20, 1999, review of Kiss of the Bees, p. 58; June 26, 2000, review of Devil's Claw, p. 53; February 5, 2001, review of Birds of Prey, p. 71; July 23, 2001, review of Paradise Lost, p. 53; July 22, 2002, review of Partners in Crime, p. 161, and Louise Jones, "PW Talks with J.A. Jance," p. 162; June 9, 2003, review of Exit Wounds, p. 39; April 12, 2004, review of Day of the Dead, p. 34; June 20, 2005, Louise Jones, "Stranger on a Train," interview with author, p. 61, and review of Long Time Gone, p. 62; December 5, 2005, review of Edge of Evil, p. 37.
School Library Journal, November, 2000, Pam Johnson, review of Devil's Claw, p. 183; January, 2002, Pam Johnson, review of Paradise Lost, p. 170; November, 2003, Pam Johnson, review of Exit Wounds, p. 172.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 11, 2002, Judith Evans, review of Partner in Crime.
Wisconsin Bookwatch, December, 2004, review of After the Fire.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (May 8, 2006), Joe Hartlaub, review of Day of the Dead.
J.A. Jance Home Page, http://www.jajance.com (May 8, 2006).
January, http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (May 8, 2006), interview with author.
Mostly Fiction, http://mostlyfiction.com/ (May 8, 2006), Cindy Lynn Speer, reviews of Day of the Dead and Exit Wounds.
Romantic Times, http://www.romantictimes.com/ (May 8, 2006), Jill M. Smith, review of Mothers & Daughters; Toby Bromberg, reviews of Murder on Route 66, Breach of Duty, Kiss of the Bees, Devil's Claw, Birds of Prey, Partner in Crime, and Paradise Lost; Robyn Glazer, review of Day of the Dead; Sheri Melnick, review of Long Time Gone.
Utah Library Association Web site, http://www.ula.org/ (May 8, 2006), brief profile of author.