Beaumont's Onboard for Another Chilling Ride
After J. A. Jance's major departure with her previous book, the chilling thriller Kiss of the Bees, the bestselling author returns to her immensely popular J. P. Beaumont series with the fresh and often funny Birds of Prey. Fans will delight in this latest entry in the life of retired homicide detective Beaumont, as he takes a cruise into mayhem and comes face to face with cold-blooded murder once again.
At his 87-year-old grandmother's urging, Beaumont decides to chaperone her and her new husband on their honeymoon cruise to Alaska. Beaumont is initially reticent to do so, and he only becomes more uncomfortable when he meets with a group of four middle-aged divorcées led by the eminent and abrasive Margaret Featherman. Margaret is out to ruin a shipboard conference where her ex-husband, Dr. Harrison Featherman, is unveiling a new treatment to save the lives of brain seizure victims.
When Margaret Featherman disappears the FBI begins an investigation and ask for Beaumont's help. A secular humanist group called Leave It to God believes that nobody has the right to prolong someone's life because it is contrary to God's will. To that end, several doctors have been murdered, as well as their patients who became healthy again. Beaumont joins the FBI in trying to save Dr. Featherman's life and those of his patients even while he explores what really happened to Margaret.
Birds of Prey is a fast-paced, extremely readable novel. Although there's a brief prologue featuring a murder, the catalyst bit of foul play doesn't occur until 80 pages into the story, giving Jance the time and space to fully flesh out the members of her cast. The author makes the worthwhile effort to three-dimensionalize even secondary characters so that they become a great deal more than stock figures used only to advance the mystery.
The cruise ship setting is claustrophobic enough to add a certain raw edge of suspense to the plot as a killer lurks onboard. The concept of the LITG group is terrifying in its implications and used with great effectiveness as a sort of indistinct danger always threatening to encompass innocents. In Birds of Prey Jance manages to use this variety of elements to give us a novel of both humor and significance. Here readers will find a dash of mayhem, authentic dialogue, and plenty of sardonic wit to keep them enthralled.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of eight novels, including Hexes, Shards, and his Felicity Grove mystery series, consisting of The Dead Past and Sorrow's Crown. He has sold more than 100 stories to the anthologies Future Crimes, Bad News, The Conspiracy Files, and Best of the American West II. An omnibus collection of 40 stories titled Deep into That Darkness Peering is also available. Tom divides his time between New York City and Estes Park, Colorado.