Moving Target (Ali Reynolds Series #9)

Moving Target (Ali Reynolds Series #9)

3.8 38
by J. A. Jance

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In this “engrossing” (Publishers Weekly) thriller from New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance, journalist- turned-investigator Ali Reynolds unearths a cold case that puts her in danger from a deadly arsonist.

Lance Tucker, an incarcerated juvenile offender and talented hacker in his own right, is set on fire one night and severely


In this “engrossing” (Publishers Weekly) thriller from New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance, journalist- turned-investigator Ali Reynolds unearths a cold case that puts her in danger from a deadly arsonist.

Lance Tucker, an incarcerated juvenile offender and talented hacker in his own right, is set on fire one night and severely burned while hanging Christmas decorations in a lockup rec room. B. Simpson, Ali Reynolds’s fiancé and the man who helped put Lance in jail, feels obliged to get to the bottom of what happened. With Ali off in England to help Leland Brooks at a reunion with his long-estranged family, B. turns to someone else to help out—Ali’s good friend and Taser-carrying nun, Sister Anselm.

Meanwhile, in Bournemouth—Leland’s hometown—Ali begins to investigate the decades-old murder of Leland’s father, which Leland himself was once suspected of committing. With unsolved murders on both sides of the Atlantic, Ali, B., and Sister Anselm are united by their search for answers—and the jeopardy they get into as a result.

From the author praised for her “inimitable, take-no-prisoners style” (Kirkus Reviews), Moving Target sends Ali on a trans-Atlantic adventure and straight into the path of a deadly killer.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Jance’s engrossing ninth Ali Reynolds novel (after 2013’s Deadly Stakes), Ali, eager to escape the chaos surrounding her upcoming wedding to B. Simpson, travels from Sedona, Ariz., to England with her 80-something majordomo, Leland Brooks. Sixty years earlier, Leland’s family disowned him, and he left the country in disgrace. Now he and Ali discover there’s more to the story—including a long-unsolved murder. Meanwhile, someone succeeds in severely burning Lance Tucker, a teen hacker B. helped incriminate, at the San Leandro, Tex., juvenile facility where he’s being held. Feeling responsible and seeing himself in Lance, B. investigates who wants the boy dead and why, aided by his colleagues at the cybersecurity firm High Noon and Sister Anselm, an elderly nun with a Taser, who guards Lance’s hospital room. Jance provides enough backstory to orient readers new to the series, and longtime fans should enjoy insights into B.’s and Leland’s pasts. Agent: Alice Volpe, Northwest Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Oregon) Statesman Journal (Salem
"J.A. Jance is addictive because of moments that just rise up and make things so real you'll swear you are a part of the book. . . . Jance will charm you into reading everything by her you can find."
From the Publisher
"Compelling... satisfying." — USA Today
South Florida Sun Sentinel
“Jance skillfully avoids the predictable. . . . Her crisp plotting, sharp characters and realistic dialogue carry Moving Target through its many surprising twists.”
Tuscon Weekly
“Lots of action, and the book is fast-paced and technology-savvy.”
San Jose Mercury News
“The story, on two continents, is complicated and interesting, but the best thing is the characters, rich and deep and believable.”
"Jance delivers a devilish page-turner."
Los Angeles Times
"Jance starts her books fast . . . and keeps things moving with cinematic panache. . . . You want an accessible thriller? Jance is your gal . . . Engaging and entertaining."
"Entertaining on all counts."
San Diego Union-Tribune
"An intriguing plot, colorful characters."
Cleveland Plain-Dealer
"Characters so real you want to reach out and hug—or strangle—them. Her dialogue always rings true."
Suspense Magazine
“A truly thrilling case with red herrings, characters coming out of the woodwork, back stories that will make you gasp, and a conclusion that you will not see coming!"
Statesman Journal (Salem Oregon)
"J.A. Jance is addictive because of moments that just rise up and make things so real you'll swear you are a part of the book. . . . Jance will charm you into reading everything by her you can find."
Kirkus Reviews
An ex-reporter, a high-tech specialist and a nun help right wrongs of the near and distant past as they circle the globe. Even though Ali Reynolds (Deadly Stakes, 2013, etc.) is a grandmother, she intends to get married in style. She doesn't come to England with her major-domo Leland Brooks just to shop for a wedding gown, however: She hopes to see Leland reunited with his estranged family while she tries to find out if Leland's late father had a little help in dying. Ali's fiance, B. Simpson, head of a computer security company, is following the case of Lance Tucker. A former honors student and computer whiz at a Texas high school, Lance was recently released from juvenile detention after an accident that broke both his legs and gave him second-degree burns. Simpson, who was partly responsible for sending Lance to juvie when the boy was caught hacking into his school's computer system, feels guilty and wants to lend a hand. For starters, he has Sister Anselm appointed as Lance's patient advocate. The murder of another advocate for the teenager unites Ali, Simpson and Sister Anselm in trying to protect Lance, who's developed a computer application that may be worth more than his life. Dizzying changes of locale and point of view, along with large helpings of sentimentality, weaken Ali's latest. If only Jance had focused on one plot instead of sending her characters all over creation in pursuit of two separate mysteries.

Product Details

Pocket Books
Publication date:
Ali Reynolds Series , #9
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Moving Target

  • Lance Tucker had always hated ladders, but between climbing up and down a ladder in the recreation hall and sitting through another one of Mrs. Stone’s endless GED classes, there was no contest. Climbing the rickety ladder to decorate the nine-foot Christmas tree was definitely the lesser of two evils.

    Lance was five months into a six-month sentence at the San Leandro County Juvenile Justice Center facility in the Hill Country some fifty miles northwest of Austin. All his life he had hated having a December birthday—hated having whatever he was getting for his birthday and Christmas lumped into a single gift that never measured up to what other kids got. This year, though, his turning eighteen on December 18 meant that Lance would be out of jail in time for Christmas—out and able to go home. The problem with that, of course, was that he might not have a home to go to.

    The last time he’d seen his mother, on visiting day two weeks ago, she had told him that she was probably going to lose the house. She’d finally admitted to him that she’d had to take out a second mortgage in order to pay the king’s ransom he owed in court-ordered restitution. Now that her hours had been cut back at work, she wasn’t able to keep up the payments on both mortgages. Which meant that, most likely, the house would go into foreclosure.

    That was all his fault, too. Ears reddening with shame, Lance climbed down the ladder, moved it a few inches toward the next undecorated section of branches, picked up another tray of decorations, and clambered back up.

    Don’t think about it, he told himself firmly. What was it the counselor kept saying? Don’t waste your time worrying about things you can’t change.

    This definitely fell into the category of stuff that couldn’t be changed. What’s done was done.

    He heard a burst of laughter from the classroom. It was just off the dining room. The kids were probably giving Mrs. Stone hell again. He felt sorry for her. She seemed like a nice enough person, and he knew she was genuinely trying to help them. But what she was offering—course work leading up to earning a GED—wasn’t at all what Lance wanted. It had never been part of what he had envisioned as his own future.

    A year ago, just last May, his future had been promising. As a high school junior honor student at San Leandro High, Lance had been enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes and had done well on his SATs, coming in with a respectable 2290. With the help of his beloved math teacher, Mr. Jackson, Lance had been preparing to lead his computer science club team to their third consecutive championship for that year’s Longhorn computer science competition.

    Now his life had changed, and not for the better. Mr. Jackson was dead. Lance’s mother had told him that San Leandro High had won the Longhorn trophy after all, but without Lance’s help, because someone else was the team captain now. As for doing his senior year in the top 10 percent of his class and getting to wear whatever he wanted to school? That had changed, too. Now Lance found himself locked up twenty-four hours a day and with nothing to wear but orange jumpsuits. The state of Texas offered college scholarships to kids in the top 10 percent of their respective classes, but he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that, either. Lance was now officially considered to be a high school dropout with an institution-earned GED as his best possible educational outcome. No matter what his SAT score said, trying to get into Texas A&M, or any college, with only a lowly GED to his credit wasn’t going to work.

    The problem was that the GED class was the only one offered inside the facility. Some of the other kids were able to take online classes, but since Lance’s sentence stipulated no computer or Internet access, those classes weren’t available to him. His court-mandated restrictions made the GED the only route possible. It was also boring as hell.

    Lance had looked at the questions on the sample test. He already knew he could ace the thing in a heartbeat without having to sit through another dreary minute of class. Mrs. Stone probably understood that as well as he did. That was why she had let him out of class yesterday and today. That way he got to deal with the Christmas-tree issue, and she got to look after the dummies. Not that his classmates were really dumb, at least not all of them. Several of the guys spoke no English. He suspected that several of them probably had issues with dyslexia. One of those, a fifteen-year-old named Jason who couldn’t read at all, filled his books with caricatures of Mrs. Stone. The pencil drawings were realistic enough in that you could tell who it was. They were also unrealistic in that Mrs. Stone was usually pictured nude, and not in a nice way.

    All of which left Lance dealing with the Christmas tree. It was big and came in four separate pieces. It was old—ten years, at least, according to Mr. Dunn, the grizzled old black man who was in charge of maintenance at the facility. He was the one who had enlisted Lance’s help to drag the tree and the boxes of decorations out of storage.

    “No money for a new tree,” Mr. Dunn said. “Not in the budget, but at least I got us some new lights. By the time we took the tree down last year, half those old lights had quit working. We’ll have to restring it before we put it up.”

    That part of the project had taken the better part of a day. First they’d removed the old strings of lights. Then they’d taken the new ones out of their boxes and wound them into the branches, carefully positioning the plug-in ends close enough to the tree trunk so that all the lights could be fastened together easily once the pieces were dropped into place. It was time-consuming, tedious work, but Lance liked the careful way Mr. Dunn went about it, his methodical method of testing each new string of lights before letting Lance take them out of the box. “No sense in putting on a defective string that won’t light up the first time you plug it in,” Mr. Dunn muttered under his breath.

    The way Mr. Dunn talked as he worked, more to himself than to anyone else, reminded Lance of Grandpa Frank, his father’s father back in Arizona. Lance missed Grandpa Frank, but his grandfather, along with his entire collection of aunts, uncles, and cousins, had disappeared when his parents got a divorce. It wasn’t fair. Just because parents couldn’t get along shouldn’t mean that the poor kids involved had to lose everybody.

    Lance’s favorite memory of Grandpa Frank was going with him to the state fair in Phoenix, where he ate so much cotton candy that he ended up getting sick on the Ferris wheel. The attendant had given him hell while cleaning up the mess. At the time, Lance had been beyond embarrassed, but Grandpa Frank had laughed it off. “Look,” he said. “Crap happens. You clean up your own mess, tell the world to piss off, and get on with your life. You want some more cotton candy?”

    Lance had not wanted any more cotton candy. Ever. And he wished he’d been able to talk to Grandpa Frank after he got into trouble. His advice probably would have been a lot like some of the things the counselor said, only more colorful. Unfortunately, sometime between the divorce and now, Grandpa Frank had dropped dead of a heart attack or maybe a stroke. Lance didn’t know for sure. If his parents had been able to talk to each other, Lance might have had more information—might even have been able to go back to Phoenix for the funeral—but that didn’t happen. Grandpa Frank was gone without Lance even being able to say goodbye.

    “You gonna hand me another string of them lights?” Mr. Dunn asked. “Or are you gonna stand there all day staring into space?”

    Jarred out of his Grandpa Frank reverie, Lance fumbled another string of lights out of a box and plugged it in to the outlet. The new one lit right up, just as they all had, but as Mr. Dunn said, “Better safe than sorry.”

    “I didn’t know prelit trees could be so much trouble,” Lance remarked.

    “They are if you think you can keep ’em forever,” Mr. Dunn replied, “but with budgets as tight as they are, we’re lucky to get the new lights.”

    When the tree was finally upright and glowing with hundreds of brand-new multicolored lights, Mr. Dunn studied it for a moment and then shook his head. “Tomorrow’s my day off. Ms. Stone tells me you’re gonna be the one putting on the decorations.”

    Lance shrugged. “Fine with me,” he said.

    “Before I take off tonight, I’ll leave everything you need in the closet next to my office, and I’ll make sure the guy who comes in tomorrow knows what’s what. The flocking’s looking pretty sorry these days. I got us some glitter and some self-adhesive glue. Before you put on the decorations, spray some glue on the tree and toss some glitter on it. That’s supposed to make it look a little better.”

    “Okay,” Lance said. “Will do.”

    Mr. Dunn turned to him. “You seem like a good kid,” he said. “Not like some of them other ornery ones. What the hell are you doing here?”

    Lance bit his lip. That was the whole problem: He was a good kid. He never should have been locked up here, but he didn’t want to go into it, not with this old man. “Long story,” he said.

    Mr. Dunn shook his head sadly. “Aren’t they all!” he said.

    Which brought Lance to the next day, when he was working on his own. Marvin Cotton, one of the guards, had opened the door to the closet next to Mr. Dunn’s office. Had Mr. Dunn been there, he for sure would have helped Lance carry all the stuff into the rec room. Marvin was only a couple of years older than Lance. The guy was thick-necked, stupid, and surly, and he probably didn’t have a college degree. He wandered in and out of the rec room from time to time to check on things, without saying a word or even nodding in Lance’s direction. But then there were plenty of guards who acted like that—who treated the prisoners as something less than human.

    Rather than worry about Marvin, Lance concentrated on the tree. For as long as he could remember, decorating Christmas trees had been high on his list of favorite things to do. Not this time. At home, they always had a live tree, although his mother usually bought them late on Christmas Eve, when they were already marked down and cheap. That meant that the trees they had were the rejects—scrawny, uneven, and downright ugly, but his mom made sure they always did the decorating together: all four of them, Lance, his mom, and his two younger brothers, Connor and Thad. Connor was only six and believed in Santa Claus. Lance and Thad no longer had that option. At home, decorating the tree was a joyous occasion with laughter and joking around and plenty of popcorn and homemade cookies. Here, although it was a solitary chore, it was preferable to suffering through the agonies of Mrs. Stone’s class.

    A few people besides Marvin had come and gone while Lance worked, so he didn’t turn to look when the metal door clicked open behind him. Intent on having lost the wire hanger to one of the Christmas balls, he was staring into the tree branch, trying to find it, when he heard an unexpected hissing from the glue can he had left on the table with the other decorations. Just as quickly, he felt the cold in his legs as the aerosol spray hit, freezing his pant legs to his skin. Lance glanced down then. “Hey!” he demanded. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

    All he could see below him was a hand holding one of the spray cans of glue. Then a second hand came into his line of vision. It took a moment for his brain to register what he was seeing. The second hand held a cigarette lighter. Lance had time enough to register the flash of flame from the lighter, then the very air around him seemed to explode in flame. Writhing in pain, he attempted to lean over and pat out the fire on his legs. That was enough to tip the shaky ladder. The next thing Lance knew, he was falling and burning.

    Mercifully, for a long time after that, he remembered nothing.

  • Meet the Author

    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

    Brief Biography

    Bellevue, Washington
    Date of Birth:
    October 27, 1944
    Place of Birth:
    Watertown, South Dakota
    B. A., University of Arizona, 1966; M. Ed. in Library Science, University of Arizona, 1970

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    Moving Target: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
    tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
    The usual setting of an Arizona mystery is not enough to keep Ali Reynolds and B. Simpson busy, so in this entry in the long-standing series, they have to solve two murder/mysteries on both sides of the Atlantic. And on this side, it isn’t even in Arizona, but in Texas, where a brainy young geek is held in a juvenile detention facility because he hacked into his high school’s computer system, incapacitating it, in protest for what the school board planned to do, i.e., make students and faculty wear bracelets so their whereabouts could be determined remotely at all times. It seems Simpson’s company specializes in computer security and identified the youth as the culprit. In doing so, Simpson discovers how the boy accomplished it: by using a program he developed which allows hacking without a trace (except it wasn’t fully developed). While in detention, the youth is severely burned and ends up in the hospital near death. Simpson is interested in obtaining rights to the program, and there are competing forces, one, presumably from a competitor, the other, possibly, from someone determined to destroy or steal it. Thereby hangs one tale. Meanwhile, Ali travels to England with her major domo, Leland Brooks, Simpson treating him to the trip as a prelude to meeting with his family after decades of estrangement. While there, he asks Ali if they can somehow find out how his father died, some 60 years before. She undertakes the task, proving nothing stops Ali Reynolds when she sets her mind to the task (and proved time and again in eight previous novels in the series). The plotting and narrative, as usual, are superb, and the pacing keeps the reader turning pages. While there is little to surprise the reader in the results of either plot line, the book is still an interesting read, and is recommended.
    hbmari More than 1 year ago
    I love Jance's books. In this one, she incorporates situations with the characters using modern technology. Very current!!!
    Proudmom508 More than 1 year ago
    J.A. Jance does a great job of writing series of books (J. P. Beaumont, Joanna Brady, and Ali Reynolds) that can be read as a stand alone or as part of the series. You probably lose a little understanding of why characters interact the way they do without reading previous books in the series but not much. Moving Target had two mysteries - what happened to Leland Brooks' father in England and who's trying to kill a teenage hacker in Texas. Going back and forth between England and Texas can be hard to read but she keeps the chapters in one location. There is some spillover when people with US connections track down Ali in England. Once everyone gets to Texas the story moves faster and I couldn't put the book down until I finished. Great ending with all the storylines completed. Looking forward to Ali and B's wedding in the next book. It was good to read more about Leland and his family. Glad the Sister Anslem character continues to be a part of the series. Hope to know more about her in the future. It was good to have B more active in this book to give readers a chance to get to know him better before the wedding. Hope to learn more about Stuart in a future book too. It seems that this series may have more to do with High Noon (B's company) in the future given how much a part of this book it was. Looking forward to seeing if Lance Tucker will appear in future books. As I said this can be the first book you read in the Ali Reynolds series but I recommend starting at the beginning to understand the characters better. They too are worth the read and there are only a few (6 maybe?). Moving Target is a great read! Enjoy
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Love all JA Jance's books and characters. The hardest part is waiting for the next one to hit the book shelves. Moving Target was impossible to put down, especially with more than one plot twist to follow.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Not your best J.A. Jance. I love Ali but this was not one of your better ones. I enjoyed it but wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat. The group of characters was great to know how all of them where doing that was the best part of all.
    DeanC More than 1 year ago
    Ali Reynolds is great. Fun to follow her working through all the clues to find the answers.
    Anonymous 8 months ago
    After reading the description of Moving Target, I really didn't expect to like it. I just read it because I have read all the books leading up to it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a very interesting book. It fits right in with the previous books in that it is interesting in its plotline and very well-written. Stephanie Clanahan
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    All of J.A. Jance books are great. You become best friends with her characters and always look forward to their next adventure. Because they are series books you really should start at the beginning of each series of books.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am a big fan but this particular book is not up to it.
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    cas45 More than 1 year ago
    I just read this book. It is very good! She is an excellent writer. I would recommend this to anyone!
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    roseNYC More than 1 year ago
    My least favorite of anything she has written. Overkill with Cyberspace & overdone with technicalities & not for those who just want a good read.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The best Ali book!
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    Live this series