Web of Evil (Ali Reynolds Series #2)

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The highway from Los Angeles to the Palm Springs desert is parched, unforgiving, and deadly. In the suffocating stillness of a car trunk, a man -- his mouth and hands bound with tape -- waits to learn his fate. Fortunately for him, he'll never know. What possible enemy could be bitter enough to commit such a heinous crime? And when will the monster make another move?

Ali Reynolds is traveling that same blistering, lonesome highway, looking ...
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Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 368 p. Ali Reynolds Mysteries (Hardcover). Audience: General/trade. Brand New-Gift Quality In a ... plastic cover Read more Show Less

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Overview

The highway from Los Angeles to the Palm Springs desert is parched, unforgiving, and deadly. In the suffocating stillness of a car trunk, a man -- his mouth and hands bound with tape -- waits to learn his fate. Fortunately for him, he'll never know. What possible enemy could be bitter enough to commit such a heinous crime? And when will the monster make another move?

Ali Reynolds is traveling that same blistering, lonesome highway, looking forward to putting her past behind her. She'd left Los Angeles for the home comforts of Sedona, Arizona, and the satisfaction of a blog, cutlooseblog.com. But her cheating husband is in a hurry for a divorce; his very young and very pregnant fiancée has a wedding planned for the next day. And the television network that wrongfully dismissed Ali for the sole sin of being over forty will face her in court as well. So Ali must return to the scene of those crimes. As she passes the site of a horrifying accident, she thanks goodness it's no longer her job to report the news. Until she finds out the news is her own.... For the victim is Ali's cheating husband, and soon she'll find herself the prime suspect at the center of a terrifying web of evil.

Web of Evil gives us J. A. Jance at her most masterful in a twisted and lethal drama of heart-pounding suspense that asks the question: If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, just what punishment could that fury unleash?
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
With this novel, J. A. Jance introduces a new, attention-grabbing female protagonist. Ali Reynolds is a Los Angeles network anchorwoman who retreats to her hometown of Sedona, Arizona, after she's been fired (for being over 40) and almost simultaneously discovers that her husband has been conducting a seamy extramarital affair. Like Jance's Joanna Brady, Reynolds is sympathetic and possesses a sometimes cutting wit, but Ali is much more savvy and worldly wise than the Bisbee sheriff. A spine-tingling series starter.
Publishers Weekly
At the start of bestseller Jance's uninspired second Ali Reynolds thriller (after Edge of Evil), Ali's husband, Paul Grayson, is killed on the eve of their divorce-by a train that hits the car where he's tied up in the trunk somewhere near Palm Springs, Calif. Ali, Paul's legal beneficiary, becomes the chief murder suspect. A popular blogger and former Los Angeles TV news anchor who's suing the station where she used to work for wrongful dismissal, Ali initiates her own investigation, enlisting the help of her mother, grown son Chris and high school friend Dave Holman, a homicide detective in Sedona, Ariz., where Ali now lives. In a series of clumsy plot developments involving Paul's fianc e, April Gaddis, and April's greedy mother, Monique Ragsdale, Ali learns that Paul was financing a performance variety of the sumo sudoku puzzle fad. Full of endless blogs and superficial characters, this one will disappoint fans of Jance's expertly written and paced Joanna Brady and J.P. Beaumont mysteries. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A beset blogger seeks solace in cyberspace in this slapdash effort from bestseller Jance (Dead Wrong, 2006, etc.). Up to now, Ali Reynolds, of Cutlooseblog.com, has been the designated caregiver for her unseen cyberfriends, but suddenly, she's the one who needs emotional support. Not only does she face the challenge of divorcing a cheating husband, but the louse gets himself murdered, and Ali is labeled prime suspect. No way, chorus Cutloose fans. Way, counter the cops. She had motive and opportunity, they insist, even though these may strike readers who aren't on Jance's police force as thin and unconvincing. In self-defense, Ali turns detective, returning as a visitor to the house she once shared with TV exec Paul Reynolds before he became first a cheater, then a corpse. The chatelaine of the moment is beautiful, vapid young April Gaddis, eight months pregnant by Paul, who has her own reasons for being disenchanted with him-reasons the laggardly LAPD hasn't bothered to examine. When April's termagant mother meets an unlamented end, shoved down a staircase by person or persons unknown, the cops, indifferent to Ali's alibi, like her for that one, too. Troubled and distracted, Ali still refuses to shirk her blogging responsibilities, checking in from time to time to reassure the good folks "only a click away" that "Cutloose is back in business."Plotloose.
From the Publisher
"Gripping...Jance's skills will keep the reader riveted." - Sun Sentinel (South Florida)

"A terrific suspense novel with great characters and a solid plot." - The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416537076
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 1/9/2007
  • Series: Ali Reynolds Series , #2
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (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.

Biography

Considering J. A. Jance's now impressive career -- which includes two massively popular mystery series and status as a New York Times bestseller -- it may be difficult to believe that she was initially strongly discouraged from literary pursuits. A chauvinistic creative writing professor advised her to seek out a more "ladylike" job, such as nurse or schoolteacher. Moreover, her alcoholic husband (a failed Faulkner wannabe) assured her there was room in the family for only one writer, and he was it. Determined to make her doomed marriage work, Jance put her writing on the back burner. But while her husband slept, she penned the visceral poems that would eventually be collected in After the Fire.

Jance next chose to use her hard times in a more unlikely manner. Encouraged by an editor to try writing fiction after a failed attempt at a true-crime book, she created J. P. Beaumont, a homicide detective with a taste for booze. Beaumont's drinking problem was clearly linked to Jance's dreadful experiences with her first husband; but, as she explains it: "Beaumont was smart enough to sober up, once the problem was brought to his attention. My husband, on the other hand, died of chronic alcoholism at age 42." So, from misfortune grew one of the most popular characters in modern mystery fiction. Beaumont debuted in 1985's Until Proven Guilty -- and, after years of postponing her writing career, Jance was on her way.

As a sort of light flipside to the dark Beaumont, Jance created her second series in 1991. Inspired by the writer's happier role as a mom, plucky small-town sheriff Joanna Brady was introduced in Desert Heat and struck an immediate chord with readers. In 2005, Jance added a third story sequence to her repertoire with Edge of Evil, featuring Ali Reynolds, a former TV reporter-turned-professional blogger.

And so, the adventures continue! A career such as Jance's would be extraordinary under any circumstances, but considering the obstacles she overcame to become a bestselling, critically acclaimed novelist, her tale is all the more compelling. As she explains it: "One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that everything -- even the bad stuff -- is usable."

Good To Know

Geographically speaking, Jance is equal parts J. P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady. She splits her time between Beaumont's big-city home of Seattle and Brady's desert residence of Arizona.

Before her writing career become truly lucrative, Jance made little more than "fun money" off her books, and on her web site, she wryly recalls "the Improbable Cause trip to Walt Disney World; the Minor in Possession memorial powder room; the Payment in Kind memorial hot tub."

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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

Web of Evil

A Novel of Suspense
By J.A. Jance

Touchstone

Copyright © 2007 J.A. Jance
All right reserved.



PROLOGUE

When the man opened his eyes, it was so dark that at first he thought they were still closed. So he tried again, but nothing changed. It was dark -- a hot black stifling darkness that seemed to suck the breath out of him. He sensed movement, heard the whine of tires on pavement, but he had no idea where he was or how he'd gotten there. He tried to move his legs but couldn't. They were jammed up under his belly in a space that was far too small, and they seemed to be tied together somehow.

His hands were stuck behind him, shoved up against something hard. After several minutes of struggling he was finally able to shift his body enough to free them. He was stunned to discover that they, too, had been bound together in the same manner his legs were. The combination of their being tied too tight and being stuck under his body had cut off the circulation. At first his hands were nothing more than a pair of useless and inextricably connected dead-weight cudgels. After a few moments the blood returned to his fingers in a rush of needle-and-pin agony.

As his senses gradually reasserted themselves, he realized that the rough surface under his cheek was carpet of some kind, and from somewhere nearby came the distinctive smell of new rubber -- a spare tire. That meant he was in the trunk of someone's vehicle being taken God knows where. He tried to shout, but of course he couldn't dothat, either. His mouth was taped shut. All that emerged from his throat was a guttural groan.

What was it you were you supposed to do if you found yourself trapped in a vehicle like that? Kick out the taillights, hang an arm out the hole, and signal for help? But he couldn't kick anything. He couldn't move his legs, and his bound hands were still useless.

As the man gradually understood the seriousness of his predicament, his heart beat faster while his breath quickened to short panicky gasps. For a while he was afraid he was going to pass out again, but he fought it -- fought to bring his breathing back under control. Fought to concentrate. What the hell was happening? Where was he? Who was doing this? And why?

He tried to remember something about what had gone on before. He had a dim recollection of something like a party. Lots of lights and laughter, lots of girls, lots of liquor. So had he gotten drunk and pissed someone off? Was that what was going on? He knew that given enough scotch he wasn't anyone's idea of Mr. Congeniality, but still...

Sweat trickled down the side of his face and dribbled into one eye, burning like fire. Without the use of his hands, there was no way to brush it away.

The vehicle slowed suddenly and swerved to the right, rolling him back onto his hands. Outside he heard the roar of a semi going past followed immediately by another and another. So they were on a busy freeway somewhere -- or had just left one. But where? As hot as it was, it had to be somewhere over the mountains -- somewhere in the desert. Palm Springs, maybe? Or maybe farther north, up toward Needles and Parker.

Why can't I remember where I was or what happened? he wondered. He had always prided himself on being able to hold his liquor. He wasn't like some of the guys he knew, high-powered wheeler-dealers who would have to call around after a wild night on the town, checking with valets at local watering holes to see where they had left their favorite Porsche or Ferrari. He usually knew exactly where he'd been. He also knew when he'd had enough. But now, his mind was fuzzy. He couldn't quite pull things together -- not just tonight, but what had gone on in the days before that, either.

The vehicle slowed again. He braced himself, expecting another right-hand turn. Instead, the vehicle turned sharply to the left and bounced off the pavement and onto a much rougher surface. Fine dust swirled inside the small space, filling his eyes and nostrils, making his eyes water and his nose run. Definitely the desert somewhere.

There was another hard jolting bump, then the vehicle came to a sudden halt. What must have been the driver's door opened and shut. And then there was nothing. No sound at all. At first he hoped and dreaded that the trunk lid would click open and his captor would free him, but that didn't happen. He strained his ears, hoping to establish if the freeway was still near enough that he'd be able to hear semis speeding past, but for the longest time, he heard nothing at all. He felt only the oppressive heat and wondered how long it would be before the oxygen ran out and he suffocated.

He felt it first. The car trembled as if it were alive, as if it were being racked by a bad case of the chills. Then he heard it -- a distant rumble growing louder and louder until it turned into an unmistakable roar. The car rocked in concert with the sound until the terrible roar and the shaking were one. It was then the man heard the shrill, earth-shattering screech of a fast-approaching freight train. The whistle sounded once, in a single, long, warning wail. Only then did he realize that whoever had locked him in the trunk had left him on the train tracks -- left him there to die.

He struggled desperately against his restraints, but it was no use. He couldn't free himself. The engine of the speeding eastbound train plowed into the stationary vehicle, peeling it open like an empty tin can and then dragging the wreckage along underneath the engine for the additional mile it took for the shaken engineer to finally bring the fully loaded train to a stop. As the engineer spoke to the 911 operator in Palm Springs, he reported having seen something fly up and out of the shattered vehicle, something that had looked more like a rag doll than it did a human being.

Copyright 2007 by J.A. Jance

CHAPTER 1

CUTLOOSEBLOG.COM

Thursday, September 15, 2005

For all you cutloose fans out there who've been following my story from the beginning, tomorrow is the day the D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final. For those of you who may be new to the site, the last few months have been a bit of a bumpy ride since both my husband and my former employer simultaneously sent me packing in hopes of landing a younger model.

My soon-to-be-ex, aka Fang, as he's known in the blogosphere, called me yesterday. It was the first time I'd heard from him directly in several months. What surprised me more than anything was how much I DIDN'T feel when I heard his voice. That, I believe, is a good sign. It turns out Fang was calling, in his own imperious way, to make sure I'd be in court tomorrow so the divorce decree can be finalized. I could have given him grief about it. Could have claimed I was sick or maimed or just too annoyed to bother driving eight hours plus from Sedona over to L.A. And, had I done so, it would have sent him up a wall. You see, Fang needs this divorce right about now a whole lot more than I do. Our court appearance is scheduled Friday. Saturday is Fang's wedding day.

I've heard rumors that he and his blushing bride, aka Twink, are planning a big-deal celebration, a catered affair with all the right people in attendance at what used to be our joint domicile on Robert Lane. In view of the fact that Twink is expecting Fang's baby within weeks of the scheduled nuptials, you might think a little more discretion was called for, but discretion has never been Fang's long suit. For that matter, it must not be Twink's, either, since the baby was conceived some time prior to my abandoning our marriage bed.

For those of you who are concerned about my state of mind as I approach this change in marital status, don't be. I'm fine. I'm ready to make a clean break of it; glad to have what was clearly my sham of a marriage -- as far as Fang was concerned anyway -- over and done with. I'm moving on with my new life. When you're doing that, hanging on to the old one doesn't help. Neither does bitterness. As my mother is prone to point out, bitterness destroys the container it's in.

If I do say so myself, this particular container is going to be in pretty fine shape tomorrow when I show up in court. With my son's help, I've been working out. My personal shopper at Nordstrom's down in Scottsdale has set aside a couple of new outfits for me. I plan on picking up one of them on my way through Phoenix later on this afternoon.

In other words, for today anyway, I'm a rolling stone, and rolling stones gather no moss -- and do no blogging.

Posted 7:23 a.m., September 15, 2005 by Babe

As soon as Ali Reynolds hauled her suitcase out of the closet, Samantha, Ali's now permanent refugee cat, disappeared. Completely. Ali found it hard to believe that a sixteen-pound, one-eared cat could pull off that kind of magicianship, but she could.

Six months earlier, a series of forced moves had left Sam in a new, unfamiliar home with a new owner who wasn't exactly enamored of cats. Over time, Ali and Sam had developed a grudging respect for each other. With the unwelcome appearance of a suitcase, however, all bets were off. For Sam, the sight of a suitcase and/or the dreaded cat crate brought back all those bad old times and sent the panicky kitty scrambling for someplace to hide.

It took Ali a good two hours -- two hours she didn't have -- to find the animal again, scrunched in beside the drainpipe behind the washing machine in the laundry room. And finding Sam was only part of the problem. Extricating the cat from her snug little hidey-hole and into the cat crate for a trip to Ali's parents' place was a whole other issue. Had it been any other weekend, Sam could have remained at home and been looked after by Ali's son, Christopher, but it happened that Chris was due at a two-day seminar in Phoenix starting early Saturday morning.

"Off to Grandma's with you," Ali said, retrieving the indignant cat and stuffing her into the waiting crate. "And you'd better behave yourself, too."

And so, hours later than she had intended, Ali finally finished packing. With Sam yowling in bitter protest, Ali left her hilltop mobile-home digs and drove her lapis blue Porsche Cayenne down to the highway, where she parked under the shady weeping willow tree outside her parents' family-owned diner, Sedona's fabled Sugar Loaf Café.

Inside, the lunch hour rush was just beginning. Edie Larson, Ali's mother, was working the cash register and lunch counter while Ali's father, Bob, held sway in the kitchen. Edie picked up an empty coffeepot and headed for the back counter to refill it, glancing reflexively at her watch as she did so.

"You call this an early start?" Edie asked.

Since Edie rose every morning at o-dark-thirty to prepare the Sugar Loaf's daily supply of signature sweet rolls, she considered any departure that happened after 6 a.m. to be tardy. She had thought Ali's initial estimated departure of nine to be close to slothful. Now it was coming up on noon.

"Unfortunately, Sam had other ideas," Ali said. "She saw the suitcase and went into hiding. I found her, though, finally."

"Good," Edie said reassuringly. "Cats usually don't like change, but by the time your father gets finished spoiling Sam, that ugly cat of yours won't even want to go back home. Where is she, by the way?"

"Out in the car in the shade."

Edie poured Ali a cup of coffee. "I'll call Kip to come get the crate and take Sam back to the house."

Kip Hogan was a formerly homeless Vietnam War vet Bob Larson had dragged home about the same time his daughter had adopted Sam. Originally Kip had been hired to help look after Bob in the aftermath of an unfortunate snowboarding accident that had left Ali's father temporarily wheelchair-bound. Bob had since recovered and was back at work, but Kip continued to hang around, living in an old Lazy Daze motor home parked in the Larsons' backyard, helping out with odd jobs around both the house and the restaurant, and gradually becoming more and more indispensable.

"Want some lunch before you go?" Edie asked. "Or should I have Dad make up one of the coolers for you to take along with you?"

"What would go in the cooler?" Ali asked.

"Fried chicken," Bob Larson answered from the kitchen service window. "Biscuits. Some homemade applesauce."

Having been raised on her father's crisp fried chicken and her mother's lighter-than-air biscuits, there was really no contest. "I'll have coffee now and take the cooler option," Ali answered.

Edie took a brief jaunt down the counter, delivering coffee as she went, then she returned to Ali. "Are you all right?" she asked.

"I'm perfectly fine," Ali said. "It'll be good to have this whole mess behind me."

"Yes," Edie agreed. "I'm sure it will be."

Ali had retreated to Sedona, her hometown, to find her bearings in the initial aftermath of both losing her job and learning about her husband's infidelity. She hadn't expected to like it;

hadn't expected to be comfortable there, but she was. The double-wide mobile home her aunt Evelyn had left her may have seemed like a big comedown from the gated mansion on Robert Lane, but it suited Ali's needs, everything from the Jacuzzi soaking tub to the basement wine cellar. And having her son, Chris, for a roommate didn't hurt, either.

Chris had graduated from UCLA and was in his first year of teaching welding and American history at Sedona High School. Ali enjoyed her son's company. He never left a mess in the kitchen, didn't stay out all that late, and spent much of his spare time working on his metal sculpting projects down in the basement. From what Ali could tell, she and Chris got along better than did many parents and their newly adult children.

All in all, she felt at ease being back home in Sedona -- at ease and at peace.

"I wish Chris were going over with you," Edie added, seeming to read Ali's mind. "Driving to L.A. is a long trip to do all by yourself."

"Chris is busy with a seminar this weekend," Ali replied. "I don't mind driving. In fact, I enjoy being on the open road. Besides, I've got Aunt Evelyn's library of musicals along to keep me company."

"Well, be sure you take plenty of breaks," Edie cautioned. "They say tired drivers are as bad as drunk drivers."

Bob rang the bell, letting Edie know that an order was ready. While she went away to deliver it, Kip Hogan turned up at Ali's elbow. "Keys?" he asked.

When Kip had first appeared, six months earlier, he had come from a snowy, outdoor homeless encampment up on the Mogollan Rim. After years of living rough, he had been gaunt and grubby, with long, filthy hair, dirty clothes, missing teeth, and a much-broken nose. Kip's missing teeth and crooked nose were still at issue, but months of eating decent food had allowed him to fill out some. And dressed in respectable if secondhand clothing and with ready access to running water, the man looked far less scary than he had initially.

Without a word, Ali handed over her car keys.

"Leave the cat in her crate in the living room," Edie told Kip as he started for the door. "That way she'll have a chance to get used to her new digs before we let her out to explore."

"Yes, ma'am," Kip replied. "Will do."

"When will you be back?" Edie asked her daughter.

"Tuesday or Wednesday," Ali replied. "The divorce hearing is tomorrow. Then on Monday or Tuesday there's supposed to be a deposition in the wrongful dismissal suit. It didn't make sense to do two trips when one would work. So I'll stay over however long it takes to give the deposition."

"Good," Edie agreed. "It's always better to kill two birds with one stone. More coffee?"

Ali let her mother refill her cup. Initially she had blamed her tardy departure on Sam. Now Ali realized that she was stalling even more all on her own -- and she knew why. Months after the fact, there was part of her that dreaded getting on I-17 and heading down to Phoenix. Ali Reynolds had almost died on one particularly dangerous stretch of that freeway when someone had tried to push her off the highway and over the edge of a sheer cliff. Being the target of an attempted murder is something that lingers, and even though Ali had driven that same route several times between then and now, she was still skittish. Just thinking about driving past the Sunset Point rest area and heading down the steep grade into the valley was enough to make Ali's hands go clammy.

Her face must have betrayed some of the concern she was feeling.

"Are you sure you wouldn't like some company?" Edie Larson asked solicitously. "And some moral support once you get there and have to go to court? I'm sure your father could manage without me for a day or two. He wouldn't like it, but having to get up early enough to make the rolls wouldn't kill him."

Touched by the offer, Ali smiled. "Thanks, Mom," she said. "I'll be fine. Really."

"And you'll call and let us know how it's going?"

"I promise."

Kip returned with her car keys, and Ali took her leave. She stopped by the bank and picked up some cash. She had a particular pet charity that she wanted to help along while she was in L.A., and she knew a cash gift would be most welcome.

A little less than an hour after leaving the bank, Ali was past the most worrisome stretch of the Black Canyon Freeway and headed into Scottsdale. At the time she had left her evening news gig in L.A., she had ditched her old newscasting wardrobe and her California persona like a snake shedding a cast-off skin. For as long as she'd been in Sedona, she'd worn her hair in a less than stylish ponytail and limited her wardrobe to what was comfortable -- mostly sweatshirts and worn jeans. Now, though, facing courtroom appointments and the prospect of more than a little public notoriety, Ali understood that she needed to dress and look the part. Not only did she pick up several outfits, she stopped into one of Scottsdale's upscale salons for some much needed pampering, including a haircut along with a spa-style mani/pedi.

Properly attired, coiffed, and accessorized, Ali felt ready to face what she had come to think of as her California ordeal. She headed west in late-afternoon, rush-hour traffic and soon found herself stuck in a jam of speeding eighteen-wheelers, all of them driving blindly but hell-bent-for-election into the setting sun. Tired of trying to stay out of their way, Ali pulled off at the first rest area she saw. There, sitting at a shaded picnic table, she opened her cooler. Not only was her father's carefully prepared food there, so was a collection of plastic utensils. With noisy traffic rushing by in the background, Ali savored her combination lunch/dinner of fried chicken and honey-slathered biscuits. Then, feeling fatigued and still not wanting to face into the blazing sunset, she returned to the Cayenne, locked the doors, lowered her seat back, and allowed herself the luxury of a nap.

She slept far longer than she expected. It was dark when she woke up, but she felt refreshed. Once back on the road, Ali was relieved to realize that traffic was noticeably lighter, and she was grateful she'd had the good sense to wait out the setting sun rather than driving into it.

Ali realized that that was one of the wonderful things about traveling on her own. She could eat when she was hungry, sleep when she was tired. It wasn't necessary to take anyone else's needs, wants, or opinions into consideration. Yes, being back on her own was definitely growing on Ali Reynolds.

She took her mother's advice to heart. When she stopped for gas in Blythe, she stopped at a roadside restaurant for coffee as well. She was halfway through the second cup when her phone rang.

"Well," Helga Myerhoff said in her distinctly gruff and smoky voice. "Have we girded our loins?"

Helga, sometimes called Rottweiler Myerhoff, had a not-undeserved reputation for being one of the Hollywood elite's premier divorce attorneys. With Helga's help and with the added impetus of Paul wanting a fast divorce as opposed to a cheap one, Ali had a generous divorce settlement coming to her, one that gave her pretty much everything she wanted. Between them Helga and Ali had, in fact, taken Fang to the cleaners.

Ali laughed. "They're girded, all right. New duds, new haircut, killer nails. Believe me, I'm ready."

"Good," Helga said. "And you're staying at the Westwood on Wilshire?"

"That's right," Ali answered. "I'm booked there through Tuesday. Marcella has a wrongful dismissal deposition coming up on either Monday or Tuesday. I'm staying over for that as well."

Marcella Johnson and Helga both worked for the same high-end legal firm, Weldon, Davis, and Reed, but the two women had wildly divergent styles and areas of expertise. Helga specialized in divorce cases. Marcella focused on employment issues. Ali counted herself fortunate to have not one but two dynamic attorneys on her team.

"Don't worry about tomorrow," Helga said. "We're in good shape on this and I'm pretty sure it'll go through without a hitch. Still, though, until everything's signed, sealed, and delivered, our agreement in principle could conceivably go south."

"Paul won't let that happen," Ali said with a laugh. "Not with his shotgun wedding set for Saturday. If something goes wrong with his walking April Gaddis down the aisle, there'll be hell to pay."

"You're all right then?" Helga asked.

Everyone seemed to be concerned about how Ali was holding up through all this. Why didn't anyone believe her when she said she was fine? She said it again, one more time and for the record.

"I'm fine, Helga. I wish people would stop worrying about me."

"Getting a divorce is stressful," Helga said.

"No," Ali corrected. "Compared to being married to a jerk, getting a divorce is easy."

"All right," Helga said. "See you in court, ten a.m. sharp. Judge Alice Tennant is very old-fashioned. She doesn't brook tardiness from anybody -- attorneys or plaintiffs."

"Ten sharp," Ali repeated. "I'll be there."

Leaving Blythe, Ali turned up the volume on her MP3 player and sang along with the tunes from one musical comedy after another, from A Connecticut Yankee to A Chorus Line. As she drove, only a bare sliver of rising moon was visible in the rearview mirror behind her, but the nighttime sky was clear enough that even by starlight she could see the hulking forms of distant mountain ranges jutting up out of the silvery desert floor.

Crossing into California, Ali felt a strange disconnect. She had gone there years earlier with a new husband and a new job, following what had seemed then to be an American dream. Now, coming back to L.A. for the first time since that dream had exploded in her face, she realized that she was, literally, yesterday's news. Her job and her connection to her prominent network-exec husband had made her part of the L.A. in crowd. This trip was the exact opposite. As an antidote, she turned up the music even louder.

Sometime around midnight, shortly after passing the exit to Twentynine Palms, Ali saw a whole phalanx of emergency vehicles surging eastbound and toward her on the freeway. Worried that debris from some unseen accident might litter the road ahead, Ali slowed, but then, one by one, the approaching vehicles veered off on what she knew to be the Highway 111 exit angling toward Palm Springs.

The emergency response was so massive that Ali found it worrisome. Wondering if maybe a plane had gone down, Ali turned off her original cast recording of Camelot and scanned through the radio dial until she found one of L.A.'s twenty-four-hour all-news channels. It was another ten minutes, after bits about Iraq and the latest riots in France, before the announcer cut in with a local news flash.

"The Riverside Sheriff's Department is investigating a possible train/vehicle collision on the eastbound tracks approaching Palm Springs. Emergency vehicles have been dispatched to the area and a CALTrans spokesman is suggesting that the area be avoided until further notice."

Relieved to hear that whatever was wrong didn't involve a problem on the freeway, Ali punched the "resume" button on her cruise control and took the Cayenne back up to speed. Then she switched off the news and went back to listening to King Arthur's bored and disaffected knights singing their rousing rendition of "Fie on Goodness."

As she drove past the Highway 111 interchange, the emergency vehicles had mostly stopped, forming a long, unbroken string of flashing red and yellow lights that erased the starlight and cast an eerie pulsing glow on the surrounding desert.

Ali drove on, thinking about trains and cars and what happens when one crashes into the other. In her days as a newbie television reporter, Ali had seen plenty of incidents like that, ones where people seemingly determined to opt out of the gene pool had decided, for one incredibly stupid reason or another, to try to outrun a speeding train, leaving behind a trail of bloody carnage and shattered metal. Sometimes the incidents included groups of teenagers playing a deadly game of chicken. Others drove onto the tracks deliberately and with the full intention of ending it all. Regardless of their motivation, the people in the vehicles usually didn't survive. Sometimes the engineers on the trains didn't make it out alive, either. The ones who did often lived out their days with a lifelong burden of guilt.

"At least this time it's got nothing to do with me," she breathed aloud as she headed west toward Banning and Beaumont and the sprawling city of Los Angeles glowing far in the distance. "And thank God I don't have to report on it, either."

Copyright 2007 by J.A. Jance



Continues...


Excerpted from Web of Evil by J.A. Jance Copyright © 2007 by J.A. Jance. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 60 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2008

    A reviewer

    I'm a big fan of the Beaumont and Brady series so I was looking forward to this one. What a disappointment! For someone who's supposed to be in her mid-forties, I found Ali Reynolds to be totally immature, self serving and unrealistic. Her blog is ridiculous, she waves a glock around like it's part of her anatomy, ignores the good advice of her lawyers and police and wonders why she's in trouble. DUH!! I don't find her endearing at all. It's hard to believe Jance actually wrote this drivel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    WEB OF EVIL, is an outstanding story that kept me on pins and needles throughout the entire book. From one exciting chapter to the next I enjoyed myself!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2007

    A reviewer

    I've read J.A. Jance books previously and liked them. This one however, I found very annoying. The police who came to the most innane, illogical and far-fetched conclusions, the protagonist herself who simply did not listen to solid advice from her lawyer and then seemed surprised when she found herself in more and more trouble, which could have been avoided, her blog which had no reason to exist at all-it was so simple I kept thinking as I read it, 'who cares?', and the characters who were very unconvincing. This was my first Ali Reynolds novel and I just didn't like her or identify with her in any way.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2007

    Divorce and Murder

    Ali Reynolds is back and still writing her blog. She returns to LA for her divorce, but her soon to be ex doesn¿t show up for the finalization of their divorce. Soon he is found dead in Palm Springs. It wasn¿t an accident he was murdered. He leaves behind a wealthy estate and a very pregnant fiancée. They were due to get married the day after the divorce would be final. Ali is surprised to find out that she is the sole heir since the divorce wasn¿t finalized. The pregnant fiancée is pretty surprised too. She isn¿t very happy about it, either. Neither is her mother. Ali becomes her the primary suspect in her husband¿s murder. When bodies start stacking up, Ali gets help from Dave and her mother. Can they find the killer without becoming victims themselves? I love this series. Ali is such a fun character. Her blog really adds to the story as well. The author has done a wonderful job of creating a character that you will really care about. And this story is so full of twists and turns it will keep you guessing to the end. I can¿t wait for another installment in this series. I highly recommend it and the whole series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A fun amateur sleuth thriller

    Ali Reynolds provides emotional support to her cyber buddies with her web site Cutlooseblog.com though she has never met her electronic pals. However, now she needs the crutch of them as she must deal with divorcing her cheating spouse Paul. Her friends are all there for her as she leaves her new home in Sedona, Arizona to return to Los Angeles so her odious husband can marry his eight month pregnant girlfriend April Gaddis before she gives birth.----------------- Once she is back in Southern California her life takes a nasty spin when someone murders Paul. The police suspect she killed her husband in a crime of passion. Soon after his homicide April¿s mother dies with the cops looking at Ali again in spite of her solid alibi. Realizing she can not trust LAPD to do a thorough job beyond railroading her, Ali with the support of her Cutlooseblog.com crowd investigates.------------------------------ This is a fun amateur sleuth thriller that uses the modern version of pen pals and the blog to anchor the sense of time. The story line is fast-paced but requires a leap of faith wider than Evel Knievel¿s failed leap across the Snake River that is LAPD narrowly looks at the heroine as the only person of interest even after the second murder. Still J.A. Jance provides the audience with a likable heroine (she even befriends the girlfriend) whose blog and stumbling sleuthing are fun to follow.----------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2014

    Good read!

    I will read more of the Ali series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2014

    Excellent read

    Top flight story teller; plot has unexpectef turns.

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  • Posted August 1, 2014

    fun read

    Nice little book, which is something I'm certain JA Jance doesn't want to hear. It's full of the most remarkable cliches and those alone had me laughing all the way to the solution of the mystery. But laughing's good for you, and I had fun reading this.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    J. A. Jance always provides a good read.

    Alison is sometimes so naive for a previous TV reporter it's almost unbelievable. Defying or ignoring her attorny's instructions, questioning the info from a DEA agent with her stubborness was frustrating. but typical of her general attittude. A good read but her not thinking of the consequences was a "Oh. no. No! Not again!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2014

    Petalbreeze

    She chuckled.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2014

    Lavender

    "I think I'm going to advertise." She mewed. "Lots of lost spirits..."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2014

    To The Dark Forest

    "FearClan is insulting you. Destroy them."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2014

    Reader

    Boing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Cloudshadow

    Came in dragging a large deer

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2014

    Jaguarshade to Fadingpaw & to us

    to to Dark Forest: No, they aren't. I rp their. Knock it off. <p> Good...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2014

    La

    Didadida...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Sry had to eat

    Salem(claw)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Extus Hazel

    "Where am I?" She mews."this is a really weird dream." She sees fawn and ds up to her. "Hey fawn! Wait arent u dead?" She says.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Fawn

    (No i was in ethreal my ebtire life

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