Sheriff Joanna Brady is the law in Cochise County, and she will never allow her personal trials to interfere with the job she was elected to do - especially now that death has invaded Bisbee, Arizona, and has shattered the small desert town's fragile peace.
A gun dealer has died violently, and his stock of high-powered weapons has been cleaned out. Suspicion falls upon rancher Alton Hosfield, an armed separatist at war with the federal government and the local law -- with everyone, in fact, whom he perceives as a threat to his independent way of life.
Joanna Brady suspects the solution is not so cut-and-dried - especially when the cold-blooded slaying is followed by a series of others, equally horrific and perplexing. At best, an incendiary "Ruby Ridge" situation is brewing. At worst, a maniacal serial killer has come to feed on her unsuspecting community. But Joanna's preoccupation with bringing a murderer to justice could take a terrible toll on her private life...and unravel threads of family, love, and responsibility that might never again be retied.
Check out more of Joanna Brady's mysteries.
©1998 J. A. Jance (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
"Jance has a talent for weaving prosaic threads into a gripping mystery narrative. As a result, Brady must - in addition to tracking a vicious killer - cope with the impossibly high standards of her insufferable mother; the spiteful comments of Marliss Shackleford, an old high school rival and current gossip columnist for the Bisbee Bee; and some rather unexpected news from Butch Dixon, her would-be ardent suitor. As with earlier Brady mysteries, the domestic context provides a deliciously ironic backdrop for the game of psychological cat-and-mouse being played in the Arizona desert." (Amazon.com review)
It's almost impossible to ruin one of J A Jance's Joanna Brady books -- I'm an unabashed fan, read them all the instant they appear, and am now buying them, one by one, as audiobooks. So I love the characters, the stories, the plots... everything. But the narration? Not always the best.
For whatever reason, out of about 14 unabridged Joanna Brady books available, there are at least six different narrators. Why would a publisher do that? Why isn't there just one -- or two, at the most -- official "voices" of Joanna Brady? We know what Kinsey Millhone sounds like, right? Judy Kaye brings Kinsey to life -- we hear that voice, that's Kinsey! We know what Lucas Davenport sounds like, too -- Richard Ferrone alone gives voice to the character. Anyone else reading those books would be committing lilterary heresy.
For the Joanna Brady books, 'Rattlesnake Crossing' represents the worst of the narrations. Understand, I've listened to any number of other books narrated by C. J. Critt, and have no generalized dislike for her abilities. But why, oh why, did she choose to make both Sheriff Joanna and her 15 year old daughter speak with the same bored, whiny, nasal quality more typical of a California Valley Girl? The ineffable Miss Jance didn't see fit -- thank Gd -- to write the 'gag me with a spoon' line, but we hear it, anyway. Moon Unit Zappa lurks behind every spoken phrase.
Bottom line: It's unthinkable! It's insulting! Okay, maybe a 15 year old girl in Arizona might possibly pick up that irritating vocabulary and voice tone, but her law-officer mother, too? Joanna Brady, one of the most clear-headed, decisive, courageous, dedicated, logical law officers in all of fictiondom, sounding tentative, indulging in 'upspeak', ending every sentence with a question mark? Speaking as though she's so worldly-wise, she's just sooooooo bored with all the world has to offer? Like, is THAT Joanna Brady? Never. Off to the dungeons with anyone who makes Sheriff Joanna Brady sound like she just got off the bus from Encino.
Simply put, Miz Critt is a serious detraction from an otherwise totally enjoyable book. If you're new to the series as audiobooks, seek out those narrated by Stephanie Brush. As narrator, she's by far the best -- she knows exactly how Joanna (and her daughter) would actually sound. In fact, start with 'Dead Wrong' -- I just finished listening to that one (again) and appreciate it more every time. In Miss Brush's excellent interpretation, Joanna Brady comes off as a sheriff, not an airhead.
I have read most of Jance's entries in this series, the J P Beaumont series, and the Ali Walker series. (There are a few books in a series that I didn't like and that seemed to be abandoned by Jance.) This is one I had missed. It's nice to be able to move backward and forward comfortably, already knowing the characters and their back stories. This one has Joanna's relationship with Butch heating up.
A spree killer is on the loose in Bisbee, and Joanna plays a very active role in the investigation and even gets in on some of the physical action. Not hard to figure out who is the culprit once he's introduced into the story. But this is a series that you don't read for the mystery as much as to enter her world and the people beside her in it.
I like her writing, and narration was competent as usual. There was one oddity I noted. There was a clear pause between each chapter. Something funky in the editing or recording process. A bit distracting.
I recommend that you enter her world through any book in the series and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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