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Skeleton Canyon (Joanna Brady Series #5)

Skeleton Canyon (Joanna Brady Series #5)

4.2 32
by J. A. Jance

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A chilling story of deadly desire and cold murder from New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance

A pretty, popular teenager never returned from her secret tryst in Skeleton Canyon. Perhaps it was youthful rage or savage passion that ripped the life from a child of privilege and abandoned her broken body to the cold


A chilling story of deadly desire and cold murder from New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance

A pretty, popular teenager never returned from her secret tryst in Skeleton Canyon. Perhaps it was youthful rage or savage passion that ripped the life from a child of privilege and abandoned her broken body to the cold Arizona night. Or maybe she stumbled onto something terrible, something too dangerous to know. Now dark secrets about a future hideously destroyed are pulling Sheriff Joanna Brady of Cochise County into a lethal nest of lies and greed, hidden in a desolate corner of the Southwestern Desert—where the next blood that feeds the parched earth could be her own.

Editorial Reviews

Cherie Jung
Personally, I have never read a Jance book that I didn't like....I think she is such an outstanding storyteller that I would read cereal box panels if she were writing them....[T]his book stands alone. You can start with Skeleton Canyon now and then go back to the others [in the series].
Mystery Magazine Online
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jance is an expert at writing rich mysteries filled with as much human decency as skullduggery. When high-school valedictorian Bree O'Brien is found dead in the southeastern Arizona mountains, suspicion falls on her boyfriend, Ignacio Ybarra, who refuses to explain his fresh cuts and bruises. But the case isn't that simple, as Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady learns in this fifth adventure (after Dead to Rights). Bree and Ignacio had been meeting secretly because her wealthy father hates Hispanics. When Ignacio is cleared, Joanna suspects that another case may be connected with the homicide. Someone has been smuggling Freon across the border, cashing in on high black-market prices for the refrigerant. Are Bree's parents involved? And would any amount of smuggling money make them kill their own daughter? Why did O'Brien hire an ex-cop with an unsavory past who often leered at Bree? And why did Bree write in her journal, "My mother is a liar"? Joanna tackles the cases while still coping with the loneliness of her recent widowhood and a startling personal revelation about her mother. This is a solid yarn with strong characters and a full palette of local color. Jance's regional knowledge runs deep, whether she writes about troubled Anglo-Hispanic relations along the border or the surprising power of Arizona thunderstorms. 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Aug.) FYI: Skeleton Canyon will be simultaneously published with the mass market reprint of Dead to Rights.
Library Journal
Joanna Brady, sheriff of Tombstone and star of Jance's award-winning mystery series, is summoned to the murderously hot Skeleton Canyon to investigate a killing.
Kirkus Reviews
A year after they played Romeo and Juliet at summer camp, recent Bisbee High grads Brianna O'Brien and Ignacio Ybarra are at it again, this time for real. Nacio's aunt and uncle think the secret romance is a bad idea, but their disapproval is nothing compared to wealthy, crippled rancher David O'Brien's racist roars of outrage—outrage he directs unabated at Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady (Dead to Rights, 1996, etc.) when Bree goes missing from the cozy campsite where she'd been waiting au naturel for Nacio. Even the dullest reader will have surmised that Bree is dead, but Jance keeps this revelation from Joanna and her overworked deputies for nearly half the running time of this overextended tale, leaving only the second half for Joanna's tangle with a black-market Freon dealer; her ever-surprising mother's latest bombshell; the romantic misunderstanding between former prostitute Angie Kellogg and bird-loving naturalist Dennis Hacker; the skeletons tumbling out of the O'Brien family closet; and, almost as an afterthought, Bree's murder (which turns out to have been committed by the Arizona version of the wandering tramp so beloved of country-house whodunits).

Most of the sitcom-shaped intrigues are so lightweight that the homicidal complications seem to have been airlifted in from Jance's tougher, stronger J.P. Beaumont series

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Joanna Brady Series , #5
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was five o'clock on a Friday afternoon in June when Bree came into the kitchen. Even with the airconditioning going full blast, the kitchen was hot compared to the rest of the house. Sweat rolled down Mrs. Vorevkin's jowly cheeks as she stood bent over the kitchen sink, cleaning and chopping vegetables for the salad.

"I'm ready to go."

Olga turned and smiled at the young woman whose tan, lithe, and cheerful presence never failed to brighten any room she entered. "The cool chest is in the pantry," Olga told her. "It's all packed." She put down her knife and dried both hands on her apron. "The soup is ready," she added. "You should have some before you leave. Hot soup on a hot day will cool you off. Besides, it's such a long drive. You should eat something besides sandwiches."

Bree sniffed the air. Over the years, the O'Briens had gone through any number of cooks. Most of them hadn't lasted because they couldn't stand up to David O'Brien's stringent demands for quality and impeccable service. Olga, however, had been with the O'Briens a little over three years. She was an excellent cook who had come to them, by some circuitous path, from a job with the U.S. embassy in Moscow with an unexplained stop-off in New Orleans along the way. During her three years' tenure, she had developed a very loving friendship with this bright, golden-haired young woman who stood in her kitchen, waffling with indecision.

Bree glanced at her watch. Nacio, as she usually called him, would be off work in another hour. She wanted to be there in time to meet him when his shift ended, but there was just time for some of Mrs. V.'s delicious soup and athick slab of the crusty white bread she made on a daily basis, summer and winter.

"All right," Bree agreed at last, slipping into her favorite place at the kitchen table. "But I'll have to hurry."

The soup was a clear broth with a few green slivers of scallion floating on the top. Five or six tiny homemade meat-filled dumplings sat on the bottom of the bowl. It was wonderful.

"What time will Mom and Dad be home?" Bree asked, glancing casually at her watch. She wanted to be through the security gates, off Purdy Lane, and on the highway headed for Douglas long before her parents returned. Not that it mattered that much whether or not they were home when Bree left. She was going regardless. It was just always easier for her to leave without having to face them, without having to lie to them directly. Although, with practice, even that was easier now, Brianna was getting used to it.

Finishing the soup, Bree pushed her chair from the table, carried her dishes to the counter, and plucked a plump radish from the pile of clean ones Mrs. V. had stacked next to the sink. "Take two," Olga said with a smile. "They're not very filling."

Tossing her ponytail, Bree took a second radish and then hurried to the pantry. The cooler was right there, just as she had known it would be, packed with sandwiches, sodas, fruit, and, most likely, some little dessert surprise as well. Mrs. V. was a great believer in the Cajun tradition of lagniappe -- something extra.

Bree lugged the cooler as far as the front door. As soon as she opened it, she almost choked on the raw stench of cigar smoke that lingered in a hazy cloud just outside. Alf Hastings, her father's director of operations, was sitting in the shade of the verandah next to the fountain. He hurried to his feet as Bree came through the door. "Let me help you with that," he offered.

Alf hadn't been on Green Brush Ranch long. Bree didn't know much about him other than he was one of those middle-aged men who gave her the creeps. She suspected there were times he made unnecessary security sweeps through the yard outside her bedroom window on the off chance he might catch her in the act of undressing.

"No, thanks," she said. "I can manage on my own.,,

Not one to take no for an answer, Hastings leered at her. "Looks pretty heavy to me," he said. "At least let me open the gate to the camper."

That was the last thing Brianna O'Brien wanted. If he opened the camper shell on the pickup, he was bound to see all the camping equipment she had smuggled out of the garage and stowed there without anyone-her parents especially-being the wiser.

"It goes in front," she told him, quickly putting the cooler down on the ground. "I'll have to go back inside to get the key."

He was still standing there puffing on what was left of his cigar when she came back out of the house with the key in hand.

"Off to Playas again?" he asked.

Bree gave him a sidelong took. Was he testing her? Had he seen her loading the stuff into the truck and figured out what was really going on? Or was he just making conversation?

"That's right," she said.

This time Alf made no offer to help, but she noticed that he had moved off to one side, no doubt hoping to look down her tank top when she bent down to pick up the cooler. Give the dirty old man a thrill. If he's looking at my boobs, that means he probably isn't looking inside the camper. Once the cooler was properly situated on the rider's side of the seat, she slammed the door shut.

"Hope you keep the doors locked when you head off on your own like this," Alf said. "A young girl like you can't ever be...

Meet the Author

J. A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, and five interrelated thrillers about the Walker family, as well as a volume of poetry. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.

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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Skeleton Canyon (Joanna Brady Series #5) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
violetcats More than 1 year ago
I love the whole series, but this one was especially hard to put down because the way the plot is set up you just don't know what's next. Jance knows how to write a mystery!
pjpat More than 1 year ago
I love all the characters in the Joanna Brady series. I have read nearly all of them and have a hard time putting them down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has been the best of series in J.A. Jance's Joanna Brady Series so far. It was full of action and had great characters. I am planning on reading the rest of the series. I highly recommend it.
gpaheck More than 1 year ago
This will hold your interest from the start. Great mystery and homey type writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Started reading Judith Jance a month ago for the first time and have read 12 of her books in the past 30 days. Love her stories.
ginnyle More than 1 year ago
Excellent story. Couldn't wait for the ending and then want to continue. Love Joanna Brady.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loads his sniper rifle, wairily watching
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks at zach examining him
D2120 More than 1 year ago
Good as part of the series but this one had some complex scenarios and characters hard to keep track of and a little more "out there" than most of her books. Still enjoyable as a murder mystery.
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Loved it
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