Fatal Error (Ali Reynolds Series #6)

( 145 )


An Internet lothario is murdered in cold blood. Police immediately focus their investigation on the victims whose broken hearts he left in his virtual wake. Can Ali Reynolds prove a former colleague’s innocence before a remorseless killer decides it’s time to pull the plug . . . on her?

Ali Reynolds begins the summer thinking her most difficult challenge will be surviving a six-week-long course at the Arizona Police Academy. Then an acquaintance from her old news broadcasting ...

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Fatal Error (Ali Reynolds Series #6)

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An Internet lothario is murdered in cold blood. Police immediately focus their investigation on the victims whose broken hearts he left in his virtual wake. Can Ali Reynolds prove a former colleague’s innocence before a remorseless killer decides it’s time to pull the plug . . . on her?

Ali Reynolds begins the summer thinking her most difficult challenge will be surviving a six-week-long course at the Arizona Police Academy. Then an acquaintance from her old news broadcasting days in California shows up with an alcohol problem and an unlikely story about a missing fiancé. Ali reluctantly agrees to help.

The man posing as former anchorwoman Brenda Riley’s husband-to-be is revealed to be a cyber-sociopath. When he turns up dead, Brenda becomes the prime suspect, having vanished without a trace after breaking into his home days earlier. Attempting to clear her friend’s name, Ali is quickly drawn into a web of online intrigue that threatens to lead to a real-world fatal error.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Ali Reynolds is up to her ears. First of all, the intensive six-week course at the Arizona Police Academy wasn't designed for slightly out-of-shape women in their forties. Then, she's not exactly prepared for taking over the six a.m. shift of her parents' restaurants. And then, worst of all, Brenda Riley, an old buddy from her news broadcasting days, shows up seriously inebriated with a zany story about a missing fiancé she's never met. Before long, it becomes clear that Ali isn't just nursing the wounded pride of a spurned lover; she's protecting an old friend accused of murdering a predatory cyber-sociopath. Solid crime cracking; believable dialogue; and adeptly sprinkled local color.

Publishers Weekly
Near the start of Jance's entertaining sixth Ali Reynolds thriller (after Trial by Fire), ex-TV anchor Ali agrees to meet Brenda Riley, a former news colleague, at a Peoria, Ariz., bar. Drunk and out of control, Brenda complains to Ali that she can't reach her fiancé, Richard Lattimer, whom she met online but has never met in person. Brenda hasn't even seen his photograph. The shadowy fiancé turns out to be Richard Lowensdale, a cyber stalker who starts intense relationships online, proposes marriage, then blocks the women's e-mails. When Richard is murdered five months later at his Grass Valley, Calif., home, Brenda, who uncovered his hobby and was exposing him to other victims, becomes the likely suspect. Jance keeps firm control of a believable yet complex plot that spins on contemporary issues of cyber stalking and the economic downturn. Spread over several months, the plot never stalls and leads to a logical and exciting finale. (Feb.)
Library Journal
What seems like a routine job of providing a background check for a former colleague's ex-boyfriend turns into a murder case in which Ali Reynolds (Trial By Fire) is trying to find Brenda, the person of interest. Ali must also deal with the loss of her job as a deputy sheriff, the eminent death of a dear friend, and the births of her first grandchildren, a set of twins. VERDICT Jance continues to delight with her detail-filled suspense stories that capture so much of life. Reynolds is a fine example of women over the age of 50 living life to its fullest and setting a standard of professionalism and maturity. Fans who enjoy Jance's Joanna Brady series will like this one as well.
Kirkus Reviews

From the prolific Jance (Trial by Fire, 2009, etc.), another entry in the Ali Reynolds saga in which the woman who would be a cop is sidetracked by a cyberspace Lothario, a female psychopath and a killer budget.

As part of an ongoing effort to join the Yavapai County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Department on a full-time basis—she'd been serving as a consultant—Ali Reynolds has to complete an obligatory, 6-week course at the state police academy. She makes it, breathing hard. Not easy being a 40-something in a highly competitive population of 20- and 30-somethings. Sheriff Gordon Maxwell is almost as pleased with her glittering grades as she is, but an inflexible county budget comes between them. Consequently, she's forced to put her ambitions on hold. Enter Brenda Riley, an old friend dating back to a period when they were both TV anchorwomen in California. Since then, booze and hard times have had their way with Brenda's trademark perkiness. She needs help desperately, she tells Ali, who's famous for not placing insurmountable obstacles before a sob story. Brenda, it seems, has fallen in love—a perfect man, she insists, despite the fact that she has yet to set eyes on him. Theirs has been a courtship in cyberspace, fulfilling if unconventional. Now, however, Richard Lowensdale has vanished and, not knowing what else to do, Brenda has turned to Ali. Reluctantly, Ali agrees to a bit of investigating, discovering soon enough that Brenda's perfect Richard is the perfect Richard of a good many other women, including one he shouldn't have gone near with a 10-foot pole. In her inimitable, take-no-prisoners style, Ali sorts it all out, of course. As one close observer says admiringly: "Did anyone ever tell you you're a pushy broad? Smart but very pushy."

Formulaic, but as always main character Ali manages to disarm.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476726472
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Series: Ali Reynolds Series , #6
  • Pages: 353
  • Sales rank: 376,526
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

J. A. Jance

J.A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ali Reynolds series, the J.P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, as well as four interrelated Southwestern thrillers featuring the Walker family. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Brisbee, Arizona, Jance and her husband live in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. Visit her online at JAJance.com.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Judith Ann Jance
    2. Hometown:
      Bellevue, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 27, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Watertown, South Dakota
    1. Education:
      B. A., University of Arizona, 1966; M. Ed. in Library Science, University of Arizona, 1970
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Fatal Error 1

Peoria, Arizona August
Get on the ground,” Ali Reynolds ordered. “On the ground now!”

“Make me,” Jose Reyes said, glaring back at her with a withering sneer. “Try and make me, bitch.”

Jose Reyes was a stocky Hispanic guy in his early thirties, tough as nails, with the muscle tone of a serious weight lifter. A guy with attitude, one who could toss out schoolyard taunts and make them sound deadly.

“I gave you an order.”

“And I told you to go to hell.”

Ali moved in then, grabbing his arm and setting up for the hip toss. Only it didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Jose spun out of the way and suddenly Ali was the one flying through the air. She landed hard on the gym mat and with him right on top of her. The blow knocked the wind out of her and left her seeing stars. By the time Ali got her breath back, she was face down on the floor, with her wrists at her back, imprisoned in her own handcuffs. Lying there under Jose’s full weight, she felt a rage of impotent fury flood through her. She was still there, helpless but furious, when a pair of highly polished shoes appeared in her line of vision.

“My, my, little lady,” Sergeant Bill Pettit said. “I don’t believe that’s the way takedowns are supposed to work. He’s the one who’s supposed to be wearing your handcuffs.”

Ali Reynolds was in week four of a six-week-long course at the Arizona Police Academy. Of all the instructors there, Pettit was her hands-down least favorite. The class had started out on the fourth of August with an enrollment of one hundred seven recruits, five of whom had been women. Now they were down to a total of seventy-nine. Two of the original females had dropped out.

“Uncuff her,” Pettit told Jose. “Good job.”

The restraints came off. Jose tossed them to her, then he grabbed Ali by the elbow and helped her up.

“No hard feelings, Oma,” he said with a sly Cheshire grin that said he was lying. He had done it with malice and had hit her far harder than necessary, to prove a point and because he could.

To begin with, Ali’s fellow classmates had called her “Oma” behind her back. Originally the word came from one of the other young recruits, a blond-haired, ruddy-faced guy whose family hailed from South Africa. In Afrikaans oma evidently meant something like “old woman” or maybe even “grandma.” There it probably had an air of respect about it. Here in the academy, however, most of Ali’s classmates were fifteen to twenty years younger than she was. In context, the word was intended as an insult, meant to keep Ali in her place. To her knowledge, this was the first time she had been called that in front of one of the instructors.

“That’s why female officers end up having to resort to weapons so often,” Pettit said. “They don’t know how to use their bodies properly. By the way, what’s that he called you?”

Ali’s face flushed. “Old Lady,” she answered.


“Old Lady, sir!” she corrected.

“That’s better. Now get your butt over to first aid. You should probably have a Band-Aid on that cut over your eye. And have them give you an ice pack. Looks to me like you’re gonna have yourself a real shiner.”

It was a long walk through the sweaty, overheated gym. The Phoenix metropolitan area was roasting in triple-digit heat. Although the gym’s AC was running at full strength, it couldn’t do more than thirty degrees below the outside temp of 116.

Ali’s classmates stopped what they were doing and stood on their own mats to watch her walk of shame. Some of them were sympathetic, but more shared Jose’s opinion that no self-respecting fortysomething female had any business being there, and they wanted her to quit. Blood dribbled down the side of her cheek and onto the neck of her T-shirt. She made no effort to wipe it away. If her classmates were looking for blood, she’d give it to them.

She stepped out of the gym into glaring sunshine and brutal afternoon heat. The mountains in the distance were obscured by a haze of earth-brown smog. August was supposed to be the rainy season with monsoon rains drenching the thirsty Sonoran Desert, but so far the much-needed rains were absent although the rising humidity was not.

By the time Ali arrived at the administration office, she had made herself a promise: sometime in the next two weeks, Jose Reyes was looking at a takedown of his own.

BettyJo Hamilton, the academy’s office manager, was also in charge of first aid. “Oh, my,” she said, peering at Ali over a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles. “What do we have here?”

“Just a little bump,” Ali said.

After determining that no stitches were required, BettyJo applied a butterfly Band-Aid to the cut and then brought out an ice pack. “If I were you,” she said, “I’d take it pretty easy for the rest of the afternoon. Let me know if you feel faint or experience any nausea.”

Ali was glad to comply. She wasn’t used to losing, and she didn’t need to go back to the gym to revisit her ignominious defeat. Instead, she returned to the dorm, shut herself in her room, and lay down on the bed, with the ice pack over her eye.

Most of the academy attendees from the Phoenix area made the nightly trip home. The out-of-towners, recruits who lived too far away for a daily commute, made use of the dorm facilities. The three remaining women had rooms to themselves. Ali was especially grateful for that now. She needed some privacy to lick her wounds.

Months earlier Ali had been serving as an interim media relations consultant for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department when Sheriff Gordon Maxwell had broached the idea of sending her to the academy. Once a well-known TV news anchor in L.A., Ali had returned to her hometown of Sedona, Arizona, after both her career and marriage came to sudden ends. Paul Grayson, Ali’s philandering, late, and very much unlamented second husband, had been murdered the day before their divorce would have been final. As a divorcée, Ali would have been in somewhat straitened financial circumstances. As Paul’s widow, however, and through no fault of her own, she was now an extremely wealthy former anchor and aspiring cop.

After her life-changing pair of crises, Ali had spent a year or two back in her hometown, getting used to the idea of being on her own. Her parents, Bob and Edie Larson, owners of the Sugarloaf Café, lived there in Sedona, as did Ali’s son, Christopher, and his fairly new and now newly pregnant bride, Athena, both of whom taught at Sedona High School.

For a while it was okay to be Bob and Edie’s daughter and Chris’s mom, but Ali was used to working, used to being busy. Finding herself bored to distraction, she took on the project of purchasing and remodeling the house on Manzanita Hills Road, which she shared with Leland Brooks. Mr. Brooks was her aging but entirely capable personal assistant or, as she liked to call him, her majordomo, since both he and the word seemed to hail from a more gracious, bygone era. Ali had had a boyfriend, but at her age the word boyfriend rankled. She liked to think of B. Simpson as her “lover.” When speaking to others, she referred to him as her “significant other.”

Ali was lying on the bed, wondering what B. would think about her showing up for Labor Day weekend with a shiner, when her cell phone rang. She checked the caller ID.

“Hi, Mom,” Ali said to her mother, Edie Larson. “What’s up?”

“One of your friends dropped by the Sugarloaf this afternoon, looking for you.”

“Really,” Ali said. “Who was it?”

“Dad said her name was Brenda Riley. She used to work with you in L.A.”

“Not exactly worked with,” Ali replied. “She was the anchor for a sister station in Sacramento when I was in L.A. So we were acquaintances and colleagues rather than friends. She got booted off the air about the same time I did for approximately the same reason. They thought she was too old. I haven’t heard from her in years. What did she want?”

“She told Dad that she really needed to see you—that it was urgent. You know your father. He’s such a softie, he falls for every sob story on the planet.”

“What kind of sob story?”

“Just that she needed to see you—that she was looking for help. From what he said, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was really looking for money.”

Ali had found that old acquaintances did have a way of doing that, of showing up on her doorstep and asking for a loan or an outright handout. They seemed to think that since she had money and they didn’t, she was obligated to give them some of hers.

“Did Dad give her my number?”

“I chewed him out for it, but yes, he did. Worse than that, he also told her where you were and what you were doing. He said she seemed shocked that you were in the process of becoming a police officer.”

Ali ran a finger over her rapidly swelling eye. “I’m shocked by that myself sometimes,” she said with a laugh.

“Anyway,” Edie Larson continued. “From what he said, she may very well be on her way down to Phoenix to see you right now.”

Ali suppressed a groan. Brenda Riley was pretty much the last person she needed to see right now—especially with a cut on her eyebrow and with a black eye coming on. Brenda had been one of those irksome women who never went anywhere without being perfectly put together—hair, makeup, and clothing. She had been almost as tall as Ali—five ten or so—but as far as Ali was concerned, Brenda was better-looking in every way.

“Thanks for the heads-up, Mom,” Ali said. “Tell Dad not to worry about it. Whatever Brenda wants, I’m sure I can handle it.”

“Are you coming home for the weekend?” Edie asked.

Ali knew that B. Simpson was flying in from his most recent business trip and was due to arrive at Sky Harbor late the next morning. Ali had been looking forward to going home for the long Labor Day weekend and escaping the August heat in the Valley of the Sun. There would be socializing and barbecues galore, but knowing she’d be showing up with a black eye made Ali think twice.

Small towns were small towns, and Sedona was no exception. If Ali appeared in public with B. Simpson and a black eye, tongues were bound to wag. She could try explaining that her injury was a result of her police academy training, but she doubted anyone would listen. In fact, the more she protested, the more they would talk behind her back.

“I’m still planning on being home,” Ali said, finally, “but I’ve got a whole lot of studying to do this weekend. I may have to bail on the barbecue end of things.”

“I hope you don’t dodge out on everything,” Edie said. “Chris and Athena would be so disappointed. I know they’re planning on having everyone over on Sunday afternoon.”

“We’ll see,” Ali said.

The call waiting signal buzzed in Ali’s ear. The number was one she recognized as having a Sacramento area code.

“Gotta go now, Mom,” Ali said. “I have another call.”

“Ali?” a woman said when Ali switched over. “Is that you?”

“Yes, Brenda,” Ali said. She might not have recognized the voice without the benefit of her mother’s advance warning. “How are you doing? My parents said you might call. Where are you?”

“I’m in a place called Black Canyon City, although it doesn’t look like much of a city to me.”

“Coming from California, it wouldn’t.”

“Could we get together for a while tonight? Is there someplace where we could meet near where you are, like a bar or something?”

“There’s a joint called the Rimrock Inn,” Ali said. “It’s off Grand Avenue here in Peoria. If you’re on the 101, exit to the right and turn right. That’s only a couple of miles from here. I’ve heard some of the guys here at the academy talking about it. According to them, the Rimrock has great burgers.”

Ali had also heard that the Rimrock was something of a dive—cheap and relatively dingy. Maybe in the dim light Ali’s bruised and swollen eye wouldn’t show up quite so much.

“How long will it take me to get there?” Brenda asked.

“Probably forty-five minutes.” Ali glanced at her watch. “It’s coming up on rush hour. So maybe a little longer than that.”

“Okay,” Brenda said. “See you there.”

Ali got off the bed, stripped off her bloodied T-shirt and shorts and made her way into the bathroom. She was grateful she didn’t have to share the bath with anyone else. The half-inch cut over her eye was no longer bleeding, so she peeled off the Band-Aid before she got in the shower. After blow-drying her hair, she used makeup to repair as much of the damage as possible. It wasn’t great, but it was better than nothing. By the time she left the dorm, classes were getting out for the day. She managed to dodge her returning classmates as she headed for her car.

She had no intention of running into Jose Reyes and giving him a chance to rub her nose in it.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 145 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 147 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a strong investigative thriller

    Former California TV anchor Ali Reynolds knows this is the summer that could make or break her. She will work the morning shift at her family's restaurant while her parents go on vacation. Serving coffee at six AM is brutal enough. However, the fortyish Ali is also making a dramatic career change. She is by far the oldest of the five female students (and 102 males) attending the six-week training class in Peoria for new recruits at the Arizona Police Academy; in other words she is "Oma", the Afrikaan word for either grandma (which she soon will be) or old woman.

    Her former news colleague Brenda Riley asks to see her at the Rimrock Inn. Ali finds a drunken Brenda worried that her fiancé, Richard Lattimer of Grass Valley, California; whom she met online but has not seen in person or even a photo of him, has vanished. Ali agrees to make inquires and learns Lattimer is cyber stalker Richard Lowensdale.

    Five months later, someone murders Lowensdale in his home in Grass Valley. The police suspect one of the dead man's cyber victims; with the most likely being Brenda, who exposed Lowensdale to the women he hurt. Ali knows Brenda would have done a lot to harm her former fiancé, but not kill him so she investigates the cyber stalker's homicide.

    This is a strong investigative thriller with terrific twists that emphasizes some believe the end justifies the mean at any cost including allowing the ten fatal errors of law enforcement placing cops at risk. Ali and her partner Grass Valley Police detective Gil Morris work well together on the complex case. Fast-paced from start to finish, the latest Ali Reynolds' whodunit it is a great entry (see Cruel Intentions and Trial by Fire).

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    helping a friend can be murder

    Ali Reynolds takes a six-week-long course at the Arizona Police Academy. Considering she is fortysomething and female, that alone would be a challenge, but she's also taking the 6 a.m. shift at her family's restaurant while her parents are on a cruise. Brenda Riley is a colleague from Ali's old broadcasting days. She has an alcohol problem and tells Ali a story about a missing fiancé that just doesn't sound right.

    Ali does some digging and find out he isn't who he says he is. He's a cyber-sociopath leaving a trail of broken hearts. After he's murdered, the various women become suspects, but the police center on Brenda. Ali attempts to clear Brenda's name.

    I really like Ali and this series of books. I must say I really missed her blogging in this book. Plus I missed her interacting more with her family. That said, I still enjoyed this book. It was well plotted and had a good pace to keep the reader interested and wondering how the guilty party would be caught.

    The author has done a great job crafting a group of characters that make me care about them. If the town were real, the diner is one I'd want to eat in if I came to town. Ali is a great investigator. I must say I like having her be an amateur rather than a policewoman, but she'll be great as that, too, if it happens in future books.

    I highly recommend this book and the series.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Great Fast Pace JA Jance Story

    I have been a big Ali Reynolds fan and have read all 6 books to date in the series. This story was JA Jance's best effort in this series. The pace is fast the multi-point story telling was interesting and tightly woven. I really enjoyed the faster pace and detailed story as it unfolded and reflected back to many earlier story lines and plots without feeling like a rehash or dragging the story to standstill.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2011

    loved it

    typical Jance page turner until the end!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2014

    It's been 2 ½ years since I'd read a book in J.A. Jance's Alison

    It's been 2 ½ years since I'd read a book in J.A. Jance's Alison Reynolds.series.  Now that I've finished “Fatal Error”, the 6th in the series, I am asking myself “What TOOK you so long to come back?”  

    Like most of Jance's novels, Fatal Error is “A Novel of Suspense”.  Sometimes that means there is a murder mystery associated with it, and other times – like this one – it's more of a “here's the scheme, now how (if?) our protagonists discover what happened before it's too late?  Before Person(s) X gets killed / before the crime occurs / before the culprits get away / etc.  That's fine – after all, Peter Falk and his team turned that kind of crime story into an art form with the long-running Columbo series.  As long as it's done well – which, when the name “Jance” is on the cover, you automatically assume it will be!

    The Alison Reynolds series, including Fatal Error, features likeable characters – not flawless, but likeable.  It features a beautiful setting – Sedona, Arizona (although the majority of this novel takes place in various California settings – come to think of it, a lot of the tales in this series find an excuse to wander across the state line.  (Ms. Jance, are you justifying a tax write-off for your wandering, by any chance? ).  Fatal Error also features intertwining plots – an alcoholic middle-aged ex-anchorwoman (a thinly veiled funhouse-mirror image of our hero), a serial online-dater, and a May/December couple dealing with a bankrupt company who worked on drones for the U.S. Government.  (I'll let the reader watch how / if these actually do wind together.)

    It will NOT be a whole 30 months before I read the next in this series!

    RATING: A solid 4 stars.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013


    Good mystery.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    great Author/ disappointing book

    I have waited and waited anxiously for this new Ali Reynolds book, to come out. It was disappointing. the first half of the book dragged with back story. so much so, that i lost track a couple of times for the new story. The last half of the book was great.

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  • Posted December 25, 2011

    Great Story

    I have enjoyed all Ali Reynolds Series. This was no exception. They keep getting better.

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  • Posted April 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fun, quick read

    Ali Reynolds is in the middle of her Arizona Police Academy training course when she's visited by an old friend. Ali and Brenda Riley were both TV news anchors before being considered too old for their respective slots.

    Ali is more than surprised to see the condition Brenda's life is in. She's not only an alcoholic but has lost everything and is living out of her car. She wants Ali's help to locate her fiance, Richard Lattimer. The problem is that Brenda has never met Richard and doesn't even know what he looks like.

    With the help of her boyfriend's computer expert, Ali soon discovers that Lattimer doesn't exist, but Richard Lowensdale does. In a cruel game of cyber-stalking, Lowensdale has been using fictitious last names to create bogus romantic relationships with women on the internet. After leading each to believe he's in love with them, he drops them just when they think they're engaged to him. When Lowensdale is murdered in his home, everything points to Brenda Riley.

    Reynolds finds herself unemployed following her training and sets out to prove that Brenda is innocent. With a murderer on the loose, Brenda disappears, and Ali teams up with Det. Gil Morris to find her friend and the killer.

    Like Jance's other mysteries, FATAL ERROR is a fun, quick read.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    A really fun read

    Another good Ali Renolds book

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Clearly a #6 in the series

    I don't mean for this to seem like a downer book, but as a reader of all other J.A. Jance books, this one seems a little scattered. I was expecting Ms. Jance to continue with Ali's "blogging" to bring in the adventures she seeks as well as insights from her "blogging" readers. However, this isn't the plot. I am happy that the writing has continued to be great and no stone unturned. Fatal Error has at times unexplained and needless information, but it does come together towards the end. For anyone who has not had the joy of reading Ms. Jance's Beaumount series - I would certainly start with those first.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 14, 2012

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    Posted February 3, 2011

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    Posted February 12, 2011

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    Posted March 26, 2013

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    Posted April 7, 2011

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