FIELD OF BONES by J. A. Jance is an intriguing dark mystery.  Jance shows why she is a such a prolific writer, able to balance the gruesome case with the added personal life of Brady, that at times offers comic relief.

The book begins as Sheriff Joanna Brady is waiting election results.  Threatening to derail her re-election are personal tragedies and her pregnancy. This third time up for election, it appears the vote count will be close. But the baby had other plans and chose to come before all the votes have been counted.  Luckily it became a night for celebration after Eleanor Sage was born and Joanna was re-elected.  The comic relief comes into play as she tries to juggle being a stay at home mom and finding information about the case.  Joanna is not a happy camper when she finds out that those in the Sheriff’s office are taking bets as to when she will return to work, as she shows signs of restlessness from the maternity leave. Because of this premise Joanna becomes a secondary character in the story.

This is contrasted with the case itself.  A serial killer kidnaps women, rapes them, violently brutalizes them, and then kills them. The police find out about someone known as “the Boss” after a mother brings her son into the Sheriff’s office with a human skull shot in the head. He leads the police to where he found it. They discover several corpses including one that has been dumped recently. Realizing that “the Boss” could be holding more victims there is a race with the clock to find them before they are killed.

As with any Jance book, readers are treated to beloved characters, small town charm, vibrant history, a captivating mystery, and the scenic Arizona desert backdrop. Luckily, Brady was re-elected so there will be more adventures and cases for her in the future.

Elise Cooper:  You highlight how Sheriffs’ must be elected?

J. A. Jance: It is the only law enforcement agency that is elected. A sheriff has to be a politician as well because all others are appointed.  If the public does not like how a case was handled they could lose their jobs.

EC:  You had Butch, her husband, as mainly a stay at home dad?

JAJ:  If there are going to be children or animals in a book there has to be a means to take care of them.  When I started writing I read a book by a well-known author.  In it the people had a dog.  It seemed the only reason for the animal to be in the novel was to have it burned up in a house fire.  I thought, a character in a story needs to be there for more than one reason. When I started writing about Johanna she had children and worked such ungodly hours.  There needed to be somebody at home to help with the children.  I made the decision to bring Butch into the story so, for most of the time, he could be a stay at home dad.

EC:  In this novel, Joanna was a secondary character?

JAJ:  She had to be one because she was on maternity leave.  What tickled me is that everyone was placing bets how long she would last.

EC:  Latisha Marcum was a character who stole the show?

JAJ:  I really liked her. She was one of the women being held by the killer and a very sympathetic character. In the beginning she was naïve, but through the process of this horrible ordeal became very determined, mature, and responsible.

EC:  One of the newer deputies, Garth, was also an interesting character?

JAJ:  I love him and think he will be back in future stories.  I based him on those in law enforcement who told me over and over that people go into law enforcement for a reason. This is a decision they make with their hearts and their souls.  He was influenced by Joanna’s kindness.  She came to his grandfather’s funeral and personally gave the information to his grandmother about what happened.

EC:  So what about Garth’s family meatloaf recipe?

JAJ:  It came from a fan in Portland.  He pointed out something I did not even realize, that meatloaf is an ongoing character in many of my books, including the recent Ali Reynolds’ novel. I received this recipe just as I was writing it into this story. I asked for permission if I can attribute it to one of my characters.  If you look at the dedication you will see that is says to ‘Carl and Barbara, you know why.’  For those who are interested it is in the back of the book.

EC:  Did you cook it yet?

JAJ:  No, but it sounds wonderful.  I hope my readers cook it and get back to me.  BTW:  he uses egg beaters but there is no way Garth’s grandparents would have that on hand so I wrote in eggs, but did say eggbeaters could be substituted.

EC:  You also have references to leaks, something relevant today?

JAJ:  I wanted to show how damaging they are.  Pure and simple, an employee should not be undermining their boss, which also hurts the process. Having details of an investigation spread around can damage the prosecution.

EC: Joanna starts to find out about her dad, but then drops the subject?

JAJ:  Yes.  But that does not mean down the road she will not pick it up again.  I think it is wonderful for readers to have the opportunity to see characters grow over a period of time.  For Joanna, it is a process for her to find out about what happened to her father.

EC:  Your next book?

JAJ: It will be an Ali Reynolds book but that is all I will say for now.