Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Queen of the Night by J.A. Jance

Title: Queen of the Night
Author: J.A. Jance
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 27, 2010
Source: given away to me by a friend

Summary from Goodreads

Every summer, in an event that is commemorated throughout the Tohono O'odham Nation, the Queen of the Night flower blooms in the Arizona desert. But one couple's intended celebration is shattered by gunfire, the sole witness to the bloodshed a little girl who has lost the only family she's ever known.

To her rescue come Dr. Lani Walker, who sees the trauma of her own childhood reflected in her young patient, and Dan Pardee, an Iraq war veteran and member of an unorthodox border patrol unit called the Shadow Wolves. Joined by Pima County homicide investigator Brian Fellows, they must keep the child safe while tracking down a ruthless killer.

In a second case, retired homicide detective Brandon Walker is investigating the long unsolved murder of an Arizona State University coed. Now, after nearly half a century of silence, the one person who can shed light on that terrible incident is willing to talk. Meanwhile, Walker's wife, Diana Ladd, is reliving memories of a man whose death continues to haunt her.

As these crimes threaten to tear apart three separate families, the stories and traditions of the Tohono O'odham people remain just beneath the surface of the desert, providing illumination to events of both self-sacrifice and unspeakable evil.

My Review:

Let me get this out of the way first.  You absolutely CANNOT name one of your main characters Brian Fellows and expect to be taken seriously.  Authors, make sure you Google search all of your character names before choosing them.  Trust.
(There was also a minor character named David Blaine, so, you know.  Magic.)
Sorry, I had to start with that, IT WAS BUGGING ME SO MUCH.

So, this was the first pull from my TBR Book Baggie.  I ended up with this book in my collection a few years ago, because a friend was clearing her bookshelves and offered me a bunch of her stuff.  I'd never heard of this one, but I never turn down a free book, so home with me it went.

As the description says, this book has a whole lotta plot going on.  I will say that the primary plot line (regarding the murder of the little girl's family) was absorbing.  A cold-hearted murderer, on the run from the cops, will he make it over the border?, etc.  The suspense-lover in me was more than satisfied here.

However, this novel is definitely an example of how much is too much.  There's the story about the murder, but then there's also this years-old cold case that a separate set of detectives are trying to solve.  This cold case is introduced right at the start of the novel, implying that it has a major bearing on the rest of the story...but it most definitely doesn't.  In fact, the resolution of the cold case is so maddeningly underwhelming, I could not for the life of me figure out why it was mentioned at all.

Add that to the fact that there are WAY too many characters, with WAY too much backstory for each of them--it was just overkill.  At the heart of this story is the potential for a great, suspenseful thriller, but all this extraneous information made it more complex than it needed to be.

I did find out partway through that this is part of Jance's "Walker series", which all center upon the same family.  Each novel is supposed to be able to stand alone, but in my opinion, this one is likely much more enjoyable if you've read the other novels first.  Much of the information that I felt to be extraneous was probably detail related to those other novels.  I imagine that you'll have a lot less catching up to do if you join the series at its start.

Final verdict: this novel has a great story to tell at its core, but I wish it wasn't so bogged down with extra baggage (side plots, characters, background stories, etc).

Well, my first TBR Book Baggie pick was...not great.  But, I'm excited to announce that my next pick from the baggie is:

Blaze by Richard Bachman! (aka Stephen King)

So stay tuned...


  1. Hmmm, I was almost sold on this one given its setting (I lived in Tucson for a few years) and my love of murder mysteries, but I don't really want to have to commit to a whole series that is not great. So thanks for saving me the trouble!

    1. Ah yes, I am always drawn to books set in places where I've lived. Maybe you'd have better luck starting at the beginning of the series?


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