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Trial by Fire    by J. A. Jance order for
Trial by Fire
by J. A. Jance
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Ali Reynolds - the amateur sleuth already familiar to fans of author J. A. Jance - returns in Trial by Fire, Jance's latest top-notch mystery-thriller in the popular series featuring the former television journalist. When the action begins, the sheriff of Yavapai County hires the 47 year old Reynolds as a media relations specialist. Problems - as threatening as a vicious organizational cancer - have disrupted and tarnished the sheriff's department (e.g., drugs have disappeared from the evidence storage room, and two employees involved in a complicated relationship have been implicated), and the sheriff hopes Reynolds can restore the department's public image.

Financially secure and personally happy back home in Sedona, Arizona, where her parents and her son also live, Reynolds really does not need the complicated job and its many hassles, but she feels a certain responsibility to her hometown community. So, with her eyes wide open (she believes), she is prepared to do battle with forces inside and outside the department. However, even with her considerable experience with problems and crimes in the past, Reynolds runs into more than a few surprises.

Her first challenge is the complex mystery surrounding a suspicious case of arson in which an unidentified woman is horribly injured in a house fire, and all preliminary evidence points to domestic terrorists determined to thwart real estate developments, all in the name of environmental conservation. As an ally in Reynolds' challenge to identify the burned victim, Sister Anselm - unfairly called the Angel of Death by an insensitive journalist - serves as the unidentified woman's advocate and also becomes Reynolds' friend. Soon, though, the three women find themselves dangerously targeted by vicious killer(s) determined to finish what the suspicious house fire did not complete.

Trial by Fire, the latest of J. A. Jance's dozens of novels (including the Joanna Brady mysteries and the J. P. Beaumont mysteries), further solidifies the author's reputation for offering readers first-rate entertainments. Carefully plotted and populated by superb characterizations, the highly recommended Trial by Fire will not disappoint Jance's fans.

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