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Exit Wounds    by J. A. Jance order for
Exit Wounds
by J. A. Jance
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Sheriff Joanna Brady is back fighting crime in Arizona. J. A. Jance has entertained fans with nine previous Brady books, and one of the greatest pleasures has been watching Joanna change as she moves through life. In the first book, Desert Heat, she is a young wife and mother who loses her sheriff husband to a violent death. Through subsequent books, readers have seen her run for sheriff herself, and mature both personally and professionally.

Now Joanna is remarried, and as usual her life is not simple or easy, since she's newly pregnant and running for re-election. Of course, Joanna and all the other characters are just creations of Jance's imagination. But the author is such a skillful writer that when you open a new book, it's like re-visiting old friends and hearing what they have been doing recently.

Joanna has always been a single-minded heroine with a tendency to workaholism and the belief that she is the only one who can protect Cochise County. This could make her unlikeable and a bit unbearable. But Jance has softened her edges through marriage to her unbelievably supportive and understanding husband Butch, an aspiring mystery writer who runs the household. And no, her life isn't perfect, since she also has a troubled relationship with an interfering mother, which seems very real.

Exit Wounds intertwines the very topical issues of incest, closed polygamous communities, and illegal immigrants, a severe problem in southern Arizona near the Mexican border. First a poor young woman is found dead in her trailer surrounded by her seventeen stray dogs. Shortly afterwards, two young women who appear to have been headed to Arizona to interview about her troubled past are also found murdered. If this isn't enough crime for Joanna's department, a car crammed with illegal immigrants crashes, leaving six people dead.

As usual, Jance weaves a good story, connecting Joanna's personal and professional lives as she and her people work to solve a well-plotted mystery. She also always leaves us wanting to know what happens next. In the most recent book, Paradise Lost, we were left wondering if Joanna would run for sheriff again. Now she is running in a tough re-election where conservative voters may not accept the idea of a woman sheriff with a baby. We will eagerly tune in for the next segment as soon as Jance writes the book.

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