Day of the Dead (Brandon Walker and Diana Ladd Series #3)

Day of the Dead (Brandon Walker and Diana Ladd Series #3)

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Thirty years ago, the butchered body of a local Papago girl was found stuffed into a large cooler on the side of Highway 86. No one was ever charged for the crime. Few even cared.

And no one suspected it was just the beginning.

Retired Pima County Sheriff Brandon Walker's work with The Last Chance—an exclusive, nationwide fraternity of former lawmen investigating unsolved homicides—has brought new purpose to his life. But a gruesome, three-decades-old cold case is leading him into a strange world at the unlikely border between forensic science and tribal mysticism—a place where evil hides behind a perfect façade. A long-forgotten murder in the Arizona desert now threatens to bring home a new horror for Walker and his family, who have already survived the dark hunger of two human monsters. And suddenly the relentless ex-cop is the only person who can still unravel a blood knot of terror and obsession before the innocent die again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602528079
Publisher: Findaway World Llc
Publication date: 10/01/2007
Series: Brandon Walker and Diana Ladd Series , #3
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 4.89(w) x 7.78(h) x 1.15(d)

About 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.


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

Read an Excerpt

Day of the Dead
A Novel of Suspense

Chapter One

They say it happened long ago that I'itoi, Elder Brother, came to a village to see if his Desert People had enough water after the long summer heat.

As he walked along he heard a crowd of Indian children playing. He stopped for a while and watched them, listening to the music of their voices and laughter. About that time Elder Brother saw an old woman carrying a heavy load of wood for her cooking fire. Old Woman was not as happy and carefree as the children. She had no energy to sing or play.

About that time an old coyote came and stood by I'itoi. He, too, watched the children. Old Coyote's ribs showed under his thin, ragged coat. Like Old Woman, Old Coyote could no longer play and dance. His paws were too stiff and sore from just walking around in the desert.

Seeing Old Woman and Old Coyote made I'itoi sad. Because Elder Brother's heart was heavy, he couldn't walk very fast. He went to the shade of some cottonwood trees to rest. It was autumn, so the leaves on the tree had turned yellow, but they still made shade.

As Great Spirit sat under the trees, he thought about the children at play and about how different they would be when they grew old. He thought about some young calves he had seen that morning in a field and about how they would change as they grew older. He thought about a young colt he had seen kicking up its heels with joy, and he thought about how, one day, Young Colt would become Old Horse. He thought about flowers and about how their leaves withered and their colors faded when they grew old.

Thinking about these things, I'itoi decided he would like to have something around him that would not change as it became old. He wanted something that would not grow heavy like the cows and horses or wrinkled and bent like old men and women or dry and colorless like dead flowers. Great Spirit wanted something that would always stay happy and beautiful like the children.

As I'itoi was thinking these things under the cottonwood trees, he looked up. He saw the yellow leaves. He saw the blue sky through the leaves. He saw the shadows under the yellow leaves. He looked down and saw streaks and spots of sunlight dancing around on the ground just as the Indian Children had danced. Then Great Spirit laughed, for you see, nawoj -- my friend, I'itoi had found just what he wanted.

March 16, 2000

Brandon Walker stood in front of the bathroom mirror locked in mortal combat with the stubborn strings of his bow tie. As sweat dampened his brow and soaked through the underarms of his starched white shirt, he longed for the good old days when, as Pima County sheriff, he could have shown up at one of these cattle calls in his dress uniform instead of having to put on a stupid tuxedo.

There was a tap on the door. "Are you ready?" Diana asked. "It's getting late."

"Then you'd better come help me with this damned tie," Brandon grunted.

Diana opened the door, and her reflection joined his in the mirror. She was so beautiful that seeing her took Brandon's breath away. She was dressed in a deep blue full-length taffeta gown that complemented every inch of her still slim figure. In the cleft at the base of her throat a diamond solitaire pendant hung from a slender gold chain. That single piece of jewelry had cost more than Brandon's first house. Her auburn hair, highlighted now with natural streaks of gray, was pulled back in an elegant French twist.

"Hi, gorgeous," he said.

She smiled back at him. "You're not so bad yourself. What's the trouble?"

"The bow," he said. "I'm all fumble fingers." It took only a few seconds for her to untangle and straighten the tie. "There," she said, patting his shoulder. "Now let's get going."

Brandon picked up his jacket from the bed and shrugged his way into it as he followed his wife down the hall. "Which car?" he asked. "Mine or yours?"

"Yours," she said.

They drove east from Gates Pass and into downtown Tucson to the community center where the Tucson Man and Woman of the Year benefit gala was being held. The honorees, Gayle and Dr. Lawrence Stryker, were friends of Diana Ladd's dating back to her days as a teacher on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Now a local luminary, Diana had been asked to give a short introductory and no doubt laudatory speech. Brandon's plan was to go, be seen, and do his best to be agreeable. But when it came to Larry and Gayle Stryker, he intended to keep his mouth firmly shut. That would be best for all concerned.

Larry Stryker sat on the dais overlooking the decorated ballroom filled with candlelit banquet tables and listened as Diana Ladd stood at the microphone and spoke about old times.

"As some of you know, in the early seventies I went through a rough patch. I was teaching on the reservation, had lost my husband, and had a brand-new baby. Not many people stuck with me during that time, but Larry and Gayle Stryker did, and I'll always be grateful for that. Over the years it's been gratifying for me to see what they've done with their lives and to watch as they've turned a single idea into a powerful tool for good."

Larry searched the sea of upturned faces until he caught sight of Brandon Walker sitting at one of the foremost tables. The former sheriff, looking uncomfortable and out of his element in what was probably a rented tux, sat with his arms folded across his chest. Their eyes met briefly. Brandon nodded in acknowledgment, but there was nothing friendly in the gesture -- on either side.

Former sheriff. That was the operant word here. While Diana Ladd spoke of the good old times, Larry was free to let his thoughts drift back to those times as well. Fortunately, no one in the room -- most especially Brandon Walker -- was able to read his mind.

Day of the Dead
A Novel of Suspense
. Copyright © by J. Jance. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents


Just Jance

Since her first book was published in 1985, J. A. Jance has captivated readers with her suspense stories -- from her two bestselling mystery series (including the Joanna Brady and J. P. Beaumont team-up, Partners in Crime) to thrillers like Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Bees. Day of the Dead is another powerful Southwest thriller, featuring characters from her previous "stand-alone" novels (what the author prefers to call "standing togethers") to tell a gripping story about a pair of cold-blooded killers. Gayle and Larry Stryker have been secretly preying on defenseless young women for years…and are more than willing to broaden that range to include anyone who gets in their way.

Here's what J. A. Jance has to say about Day of the Dead, in which retired homicide detective Brandon Walker faces every cop's worst nightmare when his cold case turns unexpectedly hot and puts his family and friends at risk from a danger that has eluded justice for more than 30 years:

J. A. Jance: In 1970 I spent 60 days being stalked by a man who killed his victims at 2:20 on the 22nd day of the month. Living through that time -- when I carried a loaded weapon and was fully prepared to use it -- changed me. It brought me face to face with a kind of evil and fear I had never known before. It also taught me a lot about my own strength and determination. I use that knowledge when I create characters, put them into situations, and then watch and report on what they do.

Ransom Notes: What made you decide to reveal the killers' identity to the readers early in the book, as you did in Day of the Dead?

JAJ: With mysteries, the reader doesn't know who the killer is until the end -- at the same time the detective discovers the answer. With thrillers, the killer is known from very early on. The only question is whether or not he'll get away with it. Thrillers like Day of the Dead allow for the exploration of evil, and Larry and Gayle Stryker are definitely evil.

RN: What made you decide to weave the story line featuring Brandon Walker's investigation of the long-ago death of Roseanne Orozco into the contemporary serial killer story and the story about Brandon's adopted daughter, Lani's, maturing skills as a medicine woman?

JAJ: "Weaving" is the right word. The answers in Day of the Dead are revealed by utilizing all three ways of learning things -- the old, the new, and the ancient -- in conjunction. Brandon Walker happens to be a person where all three of these come together -- the detective's gut-level hunch, the crime lab's DNA analysis, and the medicine man's sacred crystals. Brandon's open-mindedness is part of what makes him an interesting character to write about and to follow through a story.

RN: What made you decide to use the culture of the Tohono O'odham people as a major background element in Day of the Dead, Hour of the Hunter, and Kiss of the Bees?

JAJ: I spent five years as a K-12 librarian on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Every week I told stories in 26 K-6 classrooms, and some of those were the ancient legends of the Desert People. Lots of ancient wisdom is distilled in those stories, and the wonderful thing about legends is that they cross all kinds of cultural barriers.

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Day of the Dead (Brandon Walker and Diana Ladd Series #3) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
kidblitz More than 1 year ago
Jance has several different settings but her writing is fun and enjoyable. I read alot of technical stuff for work and it's great to have something interesting and fast moving to relax to when the day is done.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Elderly Tohono O'odham Indian, Emma Orozco, visits former sheriff Brandon Walker to ask if he will investigate the vicious murder of her daughter, Roseanne. Having a connection to the Indian tribe through his beloved adopted daughter and unable to refuse a client unable to pay his expenses, Brandon agrees to make inquiries into a cold case homicide that occurred over three decades ago. Solving a killing that happened during the Nixon Administration is doubtful. Brandon turns to the privately funded The Last Chance, a group that investigates unsolved crimes for assistance including money. As he makes inquiries into the Roseanne murder, he notices a pattern of eerily similar deaths. He postulates that a serial killer or multiple culprits have left dismembered bodies by isolated Southwest roads with no other clues. He begins to close in on the amoral killer(s) who have no compunction in eliminating the sleuth, his family, and friends. The fast-paced third Walker mystery is an exciting crime thriller that contains a lot more sexual violence (especially by an unscrupulous couple) than normally seen in a J.A. Jance tale (see J.P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady novels). Walker is a fabulous protagonist who reveres Native American customs and mysticism, but uses old fashion investigative techniques to try to uncover the culprit(s). The secondary cast especially his wife Diana (major player in (see HOUR OF THE HUNTER and KISS OF THE BEES), a close dying friend Fat Crack Ortiz, his adopted daughter Lani and several other Indians enable the audience to see deeper into this fine upstanding champion. This is a terrific not so cold case that fans of the author will cherish. Harriet Klausner
bohemiangirl35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first J.A. Jance book. I picked it up based on the description on the back.The premise was good. A reluctantly retired sheriff joins The Last Chance Club, a group that reviews and tries to solve really cold cases. His first case is somehow connected to an old case he had before retirement and he may even be on the trail of a serial killer.An Indian legend is woven throughout the novel. I wasn't sure how the legend tied into the overall story. I'm not sure if the story seemed light because the narrative was kind of simple or because the narration was light-hearted.You definitely have to suspend belief in order to go with this one.
pmtracy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The third installment of Jance¿s Walker series focuses on retired Sheriff Brandon Walker. The regular characters of Diana, Davy and Lani return, but only in very minor roles.In completing his first case for The Last Chance, an organization that solves cold cases through the talents of ex-law enforcement personal, Brandon must identify the murderer of a small child in a homicide that happened 30 years ago. As the plot develops, it becomes apparent that many unsolved cases are all inter-related. The story enters its climactic finish when Brandon makes all of the connections that lead him to the suspect; someone that¿s been a friend of the family for years.Keeping with the rest of this series, Jance has developed some truly evil villains. The level of violence and brutality they employ far exceeds that used in her other series. Fortunately, most is implied and only helps to increase the level of danger placed upon the main characters.This book continues to intertwine Papago legend and mythology into the writing, but not to the same degree as the first two books. It¿s also interesting how this story highlighted some inconsistencies within the Tohono O¿odham people¿s beliefs. From older plot lines, we know that killing is abhorred by these people. If they kill another, they must undergo a 15 day purification ritual. However, during the death investigation, a body must be exhumed. You would imagine that there would be a taboos against dealing with a corpse, but an elderly woman delivers the corpse by hand to speed up the investigation. I¿m really enjoying this series. I hope Lani and Davy have more active parts in future releases. Based on the ending of this book, that may be a necessity.
onyx95 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Since Brandon Walker had retired from being Pima County Sheriff, he had felt restless. Having something to do, something to investigate was just what he needed and what he finally had again. Being invited to be part of `The Last Chance¿ (TLC - a group dedicated to finding answers to older, cold cases) was just the ticket. When Fat Crack sent a still grieving mother to him because of his connection to the group, Brandon jumped in and found a lead that brought him to suspect a connection between his 30 year old case and an on going case that Brian Fellows was currently investigating. The ex-cop had a gut feeling and followed up with it leading to more than he had ever expected to find.Book 3 ¿.. Being the third of the series, I have gotten used to the Indian legends and stories intermixed in the book, but this time the it didn¿t seem to have quite as good of connection to the story as they usually do. I have also noticed that the author tries to re-cap the previous books during the story telling, the refresher is nice, but does not replace reading the actual book and so I don¿t recommend reading these out of order. There are tidbits that are very helpful to have about several of the characters. This story progressed at a fast pace, even though the set up for the story made it fairly obvious who done it, it was still a very intense and dramatic. The combination of characters and the continued evolution of the characters is wonderful to see and I am so glad that I have read these in order. There is another one, (Queen of the Night) and I look forward to reading this book too.
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bravewarrior More than 1 year ago
CD/Unabridged/Mystery: Too many characters. Too many meaningless flashbacks. This audio would have been so, so much better if it was abridged. I'm never going to listen or read another Brandon Walker novel. I'll stick with Joanna Brady. This one had too many issues. The narrator was find, but the book is full of background details to characters that have no real purpose to the plot and solving the murders. The ending was extremely anti-climatic and a letdown. The bad guys get off way too easy. Also, DON'T CUT THE UMBILICAL CORD! If someone is has a baby in a car, go to the hospital and let a doctor cut the cord! Don't use a unsterilized knife; even with the ends tied, there can be a major infection! I was yelling at these idiots.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my first suspense story that I have read, but thanks to J.A Jance, I have discover that I really like suspence. This book is non stopping thriller just by reading the first paragragh. It's just like a puzzle, putting stories and character in order to be able to conect the story. But also very confucing, but with this book confucing is good. I really recommend this book to everybody, because it's just good, in all aspects.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was surprised this was Ms. Jance's third Brandon Walker novel. I had not seen the first two, and I'm a BIG fan of Ms. Jance! I found this book scattered with confusing story lines, too many characters (each with two names)and not as well developed as her previous people. I guess I need to get the first two Brandon Walker books to find out what happened to Joanna Brady? In the meantime, I'M PATIENTLY(?) WAITING FOR BEAUMONT TO RETURN!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's tempting to praise J. A. Jance's latest, calling it a 'Southwestern mystery.' It does beautifully evoke the scenes of that region as well as the faces and personalities of the Native Americans who live there. However, one simply cannot fit bestselling mystery writer Jance into a predictable box - she's far too original for that. So, let's simply say that the setting for this is the Southwest, by turns barren and beautiful. The villain is as merciless as the scorching sun over that area's desert. Day of the Dead returns to the story of former sheriff Brandon Walker, first introduced in Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Bees. Walker's now a retiree - a none too happy one at that. Golf isn't his game, solving crimes is; he's bored. Wife, Diana Ladd, is still typing away on Pulitzer Prize winning books, but Walker is in a funk, missing the action and challenge of former days. He's asked to join an organization, TLC, or The Last Chance. Purpose of this group is to solve old crimes, cold cases; this is right down his alley. Little does he know that the first case is one that his department messed up some years back. A fifteen-year-old Tohono O'odham girl was murdered, not only murdered but mutilated. What was a cold case becomes a hot case when it becomes evident that there is a serial killer on the loose with a decades old crime record. Jance, a New York Times bestselling author, has penned 29 novels, some 10 million of which are in print. She spent several years living on the Tohono O'odham reservation west of Tucson, Arizona, thus her memories of the scene and the people are vivid, all of which enriches her story. In addition, while she and her husband were on the reservation they became the targets of a serial killer. Recognized by the press as 'among the best - if not the best mystery novelist writing today, ' she writes from the heart and from experience. Don't miss 'Day of the Dead' for crackling suspense derived from shocking truth. - Gail Cooke