Left for Dead (Ali Reynolds Series #7)

Left for Dead (Ali Reynolds Series #7)

by J. A. Jance

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451628609
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 12/26/2012
Series: Ali Reynolds Series , #7
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 177,045
Product dimensions: 4.32(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

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

Hometown:

Bellevue, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 27, 1944

Place of Birth:

Watertown, South Dakota

Education:

B. A., University of Arizona, 1966; M. Ed. in Library Science, University of Arizona, 1970

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Left for Dead includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author J.A. Jance. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Left for Dead
is a complex, twisting narrative about the devastating violence from the Mexican drug wars in Arizona. When several attempted murders occur within miles of each other, and two of the suspects are drug dealers, Ali Reynolds steps in to help protect the victims and prove their innocence. As more bodies pile up, Ali must confront the evil of the drug cartels across the border head-on, with no way of knowing who the next victim will be.


Topics & Questions for Discussion


1. The novel opens with Breeze Domingo, a.k.a Rose Ventana, sleeping on a “sagging leather couch in a filthy apartment.” (p. 1) How does this initial introduction to Rose set the tone for the book? Do you feel sympathy for Rose’s situation? Do you like her? How much agency do you think she has in determining her situation?

2. “But if life on the street had taught her any lessons at all, the most basic was not to ask questions, especially when you don’t want to hear answers.” (p. 7) Discuss Breeze’s advice in light of her own situation. Should she have followed her own advice, or should she have asked Chico questions? Would questioning have saved her from the abuse she was about to receive? Do other characters follow this principle? Consider Al, Ali, and Sheriff Renteria in your response.

3. Discuss Ali and B.’s relationship. Are they in love? Do you think Ali is fully committed? Is B. fully committed? What specific actions or conversations showcase this?

4. Why does Olga Sanchez blame Teresa for her son’s death? Do you think there is any truth to her accusations? Why or why not?

5. What symbolism do you identify in the title Left for Dead? Which characters are “left for dead” physically? Which characters are “left for dead” emotionally? Do you think there is any particular character to whom the title refers?

6. Revisit the scene when Phil describes Cassidy’s death. Do you think Phil’s guilt about his daughter’s death is well founded? In your opinion, is Christine angry with Phil, or did she simply lose her mind? Do you blame Phil for falling in love with Olga? Do you think Olga really cared about Phil? Why or why not?

7. There are arguably many characters who could be considered the “hero” of the novel. Who would you name as the hero? Ali? Al? Sister Anselm? In your opinion, what defines a hero?

8. When Al decides to take flowers to Rose, he decides to purchase Easter lilies because, “after all, Easter was all about the resurrection. Wasn’t this the same thing?” (p. 147) In what other ways does Judeo-Christian imagery appear throughout the novel? What kind of role does spirituality play in Left for Dead?

9. On page 164, Juanita Cisco questions Ali’s motives for wanting to assist Jose and Teresa, implying that Ali has less than noble reasons for helping out the Reyes family. What do you think of Juanita’s line of questioning? Do you agree that behind every good deed is a selfish motive?

10. On page 247, Sister Anselm refers to the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible as a way to explain that perhaps not every member of Rose’s family would be happy to discover she is still alive. Read this parable aloud to your book club (Luke 15:11-32). Compare and contrast Rose’s situation with the son in the parable. How are they similar? How are they different? Were Sister Anselm’s fears justified?

11. Discuss Rose Ventana and the Fox family. Why do you think Rose ran away? Do you think her fears that her family would not accept her were logical? Ultimately, do you consider it lucky that Al told the Fox family about finding their long lost daughter? Do you think that Rose would have tried to contact her family without other characters’ intervention?

12. Discuss the role of friendship in Left for Dead. Are these characters unusual in their loyalty? What about, as in Al’s case, their devotion to complete strangers? Consider Ali, Sister Anselm, Al, Patty, Donnatelle, and Sheriff Renteria in your response. Do these characters value friendship above all else? Explain.

13. “Olga Sanchez dropped the slat of blind and turned back to Ali. Then in one fluid motion, she raised the gun to her head and fired.” (p. 383) Did this ending surprise you? What is the emotional impact of this ending? Is it sad? Happy? Bittersweet? Why?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Left for Dead is part of the Ali Reynolds series by J.A. Jance. Read an earlier book in the series, Web of Evil. Compare and contrast the novels. What characters overlap, and how have they developed? Which characters are new in Left for Dead, and what function do they serve? How has Ali herself developed as a character from Web of Evil to Left for Dead? Which book did your group prefer?

2. Leland Brooks, Ali’s employee and friend, is described as being a wonderful chef. His signature dish, the cassoulet, is described in the novel with great detail and is a favorite dish of both Ali and Sister Anselm. Re-create Leland’s meal with your book club. A recipe can be found here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cassoulet-233971. Over dinner, discuss Leland’s character. Why does Ali keep him as her employee? How does he figure into the story? Do you like him?

3. Left for Dead is set against the backdrop of violent drug wars on the U.S. and Mexico border. Research this current event and share a few facts with your book club members. Do you think that Jance captured the complexity of this issue?

A Conversation with J.A. Jance

In your opinion, what makes Ali so likeable? Did any of your previous characters influence the creation of Ali’s character?

I think Ali's concern for others is part of her appeal. Long ago an editor told me, and not in a good way, “Judy, the problem with your characters is that they all do what they do because of the way they were raised.” I couldn't then and can't now see what that was a problem. And Ali is a chip off both the old blocks in her family.

Your characters are drawn from all walks of life, from taser-wielding nuns to vulnerable teenaged runaways. Where do you draw your inspiration for your complex characters? Were any of the characters in Left for Dead inspired by real people?

Years ago while on a Rick Steves “Europe through the Back Door” trip, I encountered a woman whose World War II childhood experiences are mirrored in Sister Anselm's story. Of course, I write fiction, and what happened to Sister Anselm after World War II is entirely of my creation. As for Ali herself, she grew out of the fact that a local Tucson TV station fired my favorite female news broadcaster for being beyond her “pull” date.

Describe the journey you took while writing this book. Is writing the Ali Reynolds series a different experience from writing your other novels? Why or why not?

Writing this book really was a journey—it took months longer to write Left for Dead than it usually takes. I believe the problem was that there were two trains of story moving forward in this book and I needed to get both trains to pull into the station at approximately the same time in a way both I and my readers would find believable. Ali remains my most recent character, and I'm still getting to know her.

Booklist has referred to your writing style as “an entertaining mix of sleuthing and human relationships.” Do you think this is an accurate description of your novels? Do you tend to focus more energy on one aspect of your story than another?

I actually agree with that statement. Yes, the mystery is a required ingredient, but the relationships of the people involved are an important aspect of my stories. When I was doing the galley proofs of this book, there were still a couple of paragraphs that gave me goosebumps. If the story can do that for the writer, it can do it for the reader.

What made you decide to set this story in Arizona? What effect did the setting has on the book or its tone?

I use Arizona as a setting because it's a part of the world I know well. I know the distances from one place to another; I know the weather; I know the towns; I know the people. It goes back to that old writing rule: Write what you know. As for tone, I believe all my books have that in common. They are set in the West. The modern West. They are not Westerns per se, but the characters react to situations in a Western fashion.

You mention on your website that after reading Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series in the second grade, you knew you wanted to be a writer. What other influences have guided you as a writer? What author(s) do you look to for inspiration?

Like many of my current female mystery writers, I ventured into mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I read Mickey Spillane and Travis Magee. What I liked about all those books was dealing with familiar people each time I opened a new book—Nancy Drew's father, the housekeeper, her pals. It's what I like about my books, too.

You were born in South Dakota and raised in Bisbee, Arizona. Now you split time between Seattle, Washington and Tucson, Arizona. Explain how the place(s) you call home have helped shape you as a novelist, a poet, and a person.

My parents were Midwest farm people who had the courage to pull up stakes, move to someplace new, and start over. After my divorce, I had to do that, too. I started over in a new place with selling insurance and I started a new career of writing. I think my parents were part of the inspiration that made my making those necessary changes possible. I've always felt at home in Arizona because it was home. But Washington State is the place that gave me my new life. As for splitting my time? Looking out at the gray wet weather of a Washington October, there's good reason to long for Arizona sunshine. So yes, I'm an unapologetic Snowbird.

Do you have a favorite writing spot? If so, where is it?

Where I am right now—in a chair in my family room with the kitchen and the coffee machine directly behind me, with my dog Bella in her chair right next door, and with a wall filled with a collection of my framed book covers to my left. Seeing all those covers hanging there together is a reminder that I've been doing this job for a long time, and that I really have created a body of work.

Certainly, you favor strong female characters in your novels, and Ali is no different. She is seemingly unafraid to stand up to evil and fight for justice. Do you feel a kindred spirit with Ali?

When I was a senior in high school one of the school officials sent a letter to one of my classmates saying that, because Linda was pregnant, she wouldn't be allowed to graduate with our class or participate in class night or the baccalaureate services. Since her husband, also a classmate, received no such letter, this struck me as a terrible injustice. A friend and I began passing a petition asking that Linda be allowed to graduate with our class. Two of our teachers took us aside and told us that we needed to stop passing the petition. Finally, the school official called my father and told him that I was scheduled to receive a scholarship at class night and I would—as long as I stopped passing the petition. There were seven kids in our family. That scholarship was the ONLY way I would be able to go on to college. And so I stopped passing the petition. Linda didn't graduate with our class, and I always felt as though I had achieved my success by grinding Linda into the dust. She died of cancer while we were still in our twenties. A few years ago, after the first Ali book came out, Linda's brother came to a signing. Afterwards, he took me aside and said, “Our whole family knew what you tried to do back then. Thank you.”

As you can see, the scholarship part of Ali's life comes from a real place for me, and yes, we both know a little about standing up to injustice—both large and small.

What is next for you as a writer? What is next for Ali Reynolds?

Right now I'm working on Judgment Call, the next Joanna Brady book. I have a hint of an idea about what will be in the next Ali book, but I haven't started writing it yet. That will happen soon.

Customer Reviews

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Left for Dead 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
The Ali Reynolds series usually has the protagonist solving some kind of mystery, but in addition to the whodunit, this novel begins with two attempted murders. First is Jose Reyes, a classmate of Ali’s when she attended the Arizona Police Academy, who was shot in the stomach while on a routine traffic stop. The second is a young girl who ran away from home years earlier, left to die after being tortured and raped in a part of the Arizona desert where illegal immigrants cross over from Mexico. Both victims end up being medivac-ed to the same hospital in Tucson, and Ali and another classmate go to the hospital to help Jose’s pregnant wife and look after their two daughters. Meanwhile the redoubtable Sister Anselm acts as patient advocate for the other victim. And there the plot is joined and the action moves forward. The novel is a mixture of sleuthing and human emotion, and in the author’s capable hands neither becomes maudlin or overbearing. The story moves forward at a fast pace and is brought to a conclusion with a completely unpredictable twist. Recommended.
Madriver More than 1 year ago
J.A. Jance is one of my favorite authors, and I found this book to be as enjoyable as all her others. My only criticism is the series of coincidences that occur in the story lines - but then I don't read fiction for the reality aspect, so it didn't stop my enjoyment of the book. For Jance fans, I recommend this. For anyone new to the Ali Reynolds series it might help if you read an earlier book in the series first (like "Fatal Error") so you're more familiar with the character and her friends.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
With quite a few story lines going on at the same time, from the beginning the reader is swept into a world in Arizona where a small town is hit with murders and mayhem. The true adventure is trying to find out where all the stories will connect and who is at the center of it all. At the center of it all is Ali Reynolds who is trying to get to the heart of this town's problems and find out why people end up dead, shot or badly beaten. A cop, a missing girl and the local postman are all involved with the drama the town is having to get to the bottom of. I have said this many times, but I can not reveal the whos and the whats because this is so worth the read! This review is short and to the point - I loved it.
Maura2003 More than 1 year ago
I have read J A Jance books since the first Beaumont book. These books were great in the beginning but got weaker as the years passed. However when she started her two new series I became a fan again. She is very good at developing characters and relating them to each other. This is one of the best Ali Reynolds books. How she connects the two story lines is flawless and the ending was truly a surprise. This is a great read for her fans.
khiemstra631 on LibraryThing 22 days ago
This book starts off sedately enough with Ali Reynolds stuck, as usual, over which of two girls should receive the Askins Scholarship, for which Ali is responsible for awarding. The action picks up almost immediately in two side tales as a seventeen-year-old prostitute is left in the dessert to die and a sheriff's deputy is shot by an unknown assailant. The officer is a friend of Ali's, and she goes to the hospital to help his distraught wife deal with a gravely injured husband, two little girls and the impending birth of a new baby. In the meantime, Ali's good friend, Sister Anselm is the patient advocate for the critically injured prostitute. Their stories intertwine and more murder and mayhem ensue throughout the book. The book provides tense reading and is not recommended for bedtime relaxation. If suspense is to your liking, then this will be the perfect book to provide it.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing 22 days ago
A young call girl is repeatedly violated, then left for dead in the Arizona desert. Meanwhile, a young deputy is badly assaulted on what he thought was a routine traffic stop, and drugs are found in his car. Ali Reynolds and her friend Sister Anselm wind up in the middle of things.More of a mystery than this series usually is, although I identified the unknown villain fairly early on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this one to be one of the better books so far in the series. I do, however, wish the author would not reuse settings. This is the second book that revolves around spending time at the hospital protecting an unknown crime victim. Stephanie Clanahan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rmd270 More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite Ali Reynolds stories. I am a big fan of JA Jance and Ali series has been great. This story raises the bar as far as story lines, character development and pace. This story weave two story lines that seem separate and distinct but in reality it has some common threads that are woven into an intricate and exciting story. It also has all the Ali Reynolds' favorite characters appearing as part of the overall story. It was great to catch up with Ali and the gang, but the story is what kept me turning the pages all the way to the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic as are all of JA Jance books!!! If you are a fan of series, lovable characters, great flow and story you must try #1 in this series (Ali Reynolds) and then try The Seattle based homicide detective JP Beaumont and the Arizona sheriff JoAnna Brady's story...any and all are fantastic and once you start the. You can't stop!!! I would recommend JA Jance books to any and all!!!
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debbieaheaton More than 1 year ago
In Jance’s mystery novel, Ali Reynolds is contacted by a former Arizona Police Academy classmate regarding an incident involving another former classmate who has just been gun downed and left for dead. Initially, circumstances point to an association with one of the drug cartels. But as the scene of the crime is processed, it becomes clear there is much more to the story. With a need to pay it forward, Ali finds herself at her fallen friend’s bedside where she encounters an unidentified young woman, who had been raped and beaten. Determined to ensure that justice is served, Ali sets out on a mission to zero in on the truth regardless of the consequences. Never a disappointment, the book starts fast and keeps going to the climax. An exceptional addition to the Ali Reynolds series.
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All of ja jance's books are fabulous buying it from barns.and noble would be dumb get it from the library yet i highly recomend them especially the ali renolds series they are the best
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