New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance’s sleuth Ali Reynolds is back for another thrilling adventure as she strives to grant a dying woman’s last request—to find the people who nearly killed her.
Ali Reynolds is back in the thick of it in the latest adventure in the New York Times bestselling suspense series. Taking on a media relations position with the Yavapai County Police Department, Ali puts her reporting (and crime solving) skills to good use—and her first time out on the job, it’s trial by fire...
When a subdivision-in-the-making goes up in flames, everyone hopes that the unfinished, unoccupied homes will yield no victims. But one woman is found barely alive and burned beyond recognition. She is taken to the ER, where for months she lies in a medically induced coma, unclaimed and unidentified. When she finally emerges from her coma, the life she awakens to is bleak and lonely. Badly disfigured and with no clue as to who she is or where she came from, she is brought to the nuns at a Sisters of Providence Convent.
At the convent, she is nursed and cared for. But before she can begin her painful and difficult recovery, Jane Doe is diagnosed with a hopeless and swift-moving cancer. Now with sudden desperation, there are two things she must find out. Ali Reynolds is called upon to grant this dying woman’s final wishes—to find the people who saved her life, and the people who tried to kill her.
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.
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
Read an Excerpt
She awakened to the sound of roaring flames and to searing heat and lung-choking smoke. Maybe she was already dead and this was hell, but why would she go to hell? What had she done to deserve that? Just then a scorched beam fell across her leg, and she felt the horrifying pain of burning flesh—her burning flesh. That’s when she knew wasn’t dead. She was still alive. And on fire.
She tried to shake the burning two-by-four off her leg but it was too heavy. It wouldn’t budge. She tried shoving it away and managed to move it a little, but in the process her hand caught fire as well. She tried to sit up, desperate to find some avenue of escape, but the floor around her was a sea of flame. She was barefoot. She couldn’t bring herself to step into the fire. There was nowhere for her to go, no way to escape. It was hopeless. She was going to die.
Falling back onto the bed, she began screaming and praying and coughing, all at the same time. “Please, God. Let it be quick. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Another wooden beam fell. This one didn’t land on her directly, but as the hungry flames licked away at it, she knew they were really searching for her. The pain was all around her now. Her whole body was on fire. Somewhere, far beyond the flames, she heard something else—the sound of breaking glass. Was there glass in heaven?
“Hello,” a voice called. “Where are you?”
Why is He asking that? she wondered. God knows everything.He must know where I am.
Then, unexpectedly, a mysterious figure clothed all in yellow or maybe even orange rose up silently out of the flame and smoke. He was holding his arms stretched out toward her, reaching for her.
Not God after all, she thought despairingly. Satan. I really am in hell.
Darkness fell and there was nothing at all.
© 2009 J.A. Jance
On a gorgeous mid-May morning with temperatures still in the seventies, all was right with Ali Reynolds’s world. The cobalt blue sky overhead was unblemished by even a single cloud, and Sedona’s towering red rocks gleamed in brilliant sunlight.
The seemingly endless remodeling project on Ali’s recently purchased Manzanita Hills Road house had finally come to an end. The workers were gone, along with their trucks and their constant noise. Now, seated on her newly refurbished flagstone patio and surrounded by an ancient wisteria in full and glorious bloom, she was enjoying the peace and quiet, as well as a third cup of freshly brewed coffee, while she worked on a speech, a commencement speech actually, that she was due to deliver at not one but two high school graduation ceremonies at the end of the week.
How she had gotten roped into doing two commencement speeches one day apart was a wonder to her still.
A year or so earlier Ali had agreed to take the helm of the Amelia Dougherty Askins Scholarship Fund, a charitable entity that helped provide financial assistance for college expenses to deserving students from schools all over Arizona’s Verde Valley. Though she was once an Askins Scholarship winner herself, this was Ali’s first year of administering the program. The time-consuming process of searching out and evaluating likely recipients had put her in touch with students, teachers, and administrators from a number of local schools.
Ali’s ties to Sedona Red Rock High School had to do with the fact that both her son, Christopher, and her new daughter-in-law, Chris’s bride, Athena, taught there. When it came time to cajole Ali into agreeing to speak at commencement, her son and daughter-in-law had known just which strings to pull.
Although Sedona was Ali’s hometown, Sedona Red Rock wasn’t her actual alma mater, since there had been no high school in Sedona at the time Ali was an eligible student. Instead, Ali and her classmates had been bused to nearby Cottonwood, where they had attended Mingus Union High School and where Ali’s favorite teacher had been the head of the English department, a gruff but caring character named Ernie Gabrielson. Once word leaked out that Ali had been scheduled to speak at Sedona’s graduation ceremonies, a delegation had been sent requesting that Ali do the same for Mingus. Hence the two separate invitations. The two events, however, required only one speech, and Ali had been working on it for several days.
She wanted her talk to be fun and meaningful. Ali had graduated from high school and gone away to college. After obtaining her degree in journalism, she had gone off to work in the world of television news, first reporting and then anchoring newscasts in Milwaukee, New York City, and finally L.A. She had returned to her hometown in the aftermath of losing both her anchor position and her philandering husband, Paul Grayson. Her initial intention had been to stay in Sedona just long enough to regroup, but now she had settled back into small-town life and was reveling in it. She was glad to be out of the constant hustle and bustle and traffic of L.A., and she was enjoying living close to her parents and her son.
That was part of what she wanted to say to the graduates later this week, on Thursday evening in Sedona and on Friday in Cottonwood—that it was fine for students to leave home in order to further their educations and make their marks in the big, wide world—but she also wanted to tell them that it was fine for them to stay at home or to come back home eventually, bringing with them the benefit of both their education and their hard-won experience, which they could then apply to problems and opportunities that existed in their own backyards.
Lost in thought and concentrating on the work at hand, Ali was surprised when her majordomo, Leland Brooks, cleared his throat and announced, “Excuse me, madam, but you have a visitor.”
For the better part of fifty years, Leland had managed the house on Manzanita Hills Road, first for the previous owner, Arabella Ashcroft, and for her mother. Now he did the same thing for the new owner. During Ali’s massive remodeling project he had served as the on-site supervisor. Now he mostly supervised Ali. She didn’t require much supervision, but she’d grown too fond of Leland Brooks to consider putting him out to pasture.
Ali looked up in time to realize that the guest in question, Gordon Maxwell, had followed Leland onto the patio. Maxwell was sheriff of Yavapai County, and he certainly looked the part. He was dressed in a crisply starched khaki uniform and held a white Stetson gripped in one hand. A loaded pistol, a 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson M&P in its molded scabbard, was strapped to his right hip. Weaponry aside, he looked like a man who could handle himself.
For one thing, he was large. The heels on his highly polished snakeskin cowboy boots added an extra inch or so to his barefoot height of six foot six. Ali estimated him to be somewhere in his early sixties, but he had the physique and carriage of a much younger man. If he had worn the Stetson instead of carrying it around, it would have completed the impression of youthfulness by covering his bald head. On his chest was a silver star and a name tag that said Sheriff Maxwell. The presence of that white hat, worn or not, served notice to one and all that Gordon Maxwell was one of the good guys.
“Morning, ma’am,” he drawled in greeting. “Hope you don’t mind my dropping by unannounced like this.”
Ali could tell from the disapproving frown on Leland’s forehead that her butler most certainly minded. In Leland Brooks’s world, well-mannered guests never dropped by uninvited; it simply wasn’t done. Sheriff Maxwell, however, had apparently failed to get that particular memo. Ali knew that since the sheriff lived miles away in Prescott, the county seat, he couldn’t exactly claim that he was simply in the neighborhood and decided to drop in. No, he had come to see Ali on purpose, and he hadn’t called in advance because he was worried she might try to dodge him.
“No,” Ali said at once, clearing her laptop out of the way. “Of course not. Please have a seat. Would you care for coffee?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Maxwell said. “A cup of coffee would be greatly appreciated.” With that he eased his lanky frame into one of the empty patio chairs and then set his hat carefully, with the crown down, on the seat of another.
Ali nodded in Leland’s direction. With only the smallest disapproving shake of his head, the butler picked up Ali’s empty mug and bustled off to fetch coffee while Ali turned to her visitor.
“To what do I owe this honor?” she asked.
Sheriff Maxwell looked both thoughtful and uncomfortable at the same time. “It’s to whom,” he said finally, with the kind of carefully chosen grammar that would have done Mr. Gabrielson proud. “Not to what. And the real answer to your question would be your friend Detective Holman. I suppose he’s told you that my department has been through a bit of a rough patch recently.”
It was true that Dave Holman had mentioned the sheriff’s department’s difficulties, but so had everyone else. The story had been the talk of the town, from the Sedona post office to the lunch counter at the Sugarloaf Cafe, a neighborhood diner run by Ali’s parents, Bob and Edie Larson.
According to local gossip, a longtime evidence clerk named Sally Harrison had come under suspicion of hijacking some of the drugs that had been left in her charge. When the alleged thefts finally became known, her boyfriend, Devon Ryan, a deputy who not only happened to be the department’s media information officer but was also still married to someone else at the time, had decked an overly inquisitive reporter from the Flagstaff daily newspaper, the Coconino Courier. Oscar Reyes, the reporter in question, had turned up at a press conference with plenty of questions about the alleged thefts, but also with pointed questions about the couple’s illicit affair. The press conference altercation had gone from verbal to physical. Now both the evidence clerk and the media relations officer were off work on administrative leave while the reporter, more outraged than physically hurt, was supposedly in the process of filing suit against Devon Ryan as well as the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department.
“So I’ve heard,” was all Ali said.
Maxwell nodded. “I’m afraid that reporter from Flagstaff isn’t the only one with a black eye over this. The county attorney is hinting around about making a settlement with him. If that happens, the voters will have my balls.” Suddenly aware of his slip, he said, “Oops, please excuse my blunt language. The truth is, both Harrison and Ryan were working for the department long before I was elected to office, but that’s not going to count in my favor. As far as people in the county are concerned, riding herd on my employees is my responsibility. They’ll say I wasn’t supervising them properly.”
Ali knew that was true as well. It was exactly what people around town were already saying, including Ali’s mother, Edie Larson; but that bit of gossip didn’t explain why Sheriff Maxwell was here on Ali’s patio, staring off across the valley at some of Sedona’s most spectacular red rocks.
Before anything more could be said, Leland Brooks marched onto the flagstone patio carrying a fully laden tray. Ali noticed at once that Leland was taking a butler’s revenge on their impromptu guest: rather than the casual everyday dishes, he had loaded the tray with a pair of tiny, carefully ironed napkins and Ali’s good Limoges Bélème-pattern china. Ali knew at once that the oversized fingers on Sheriff Maxwell’s meaty paws would barely fit inside the handles of those delicately shaped cups.
Without a word, Leland unloaded the tray, depositing napkins, bread plates, and silverware along with a platter of freshly baked cookies onto the patio table’s glass top. Then, after serving the coffee, he returned to the house.
Maxwell watched him go with a bemused expression on his face. “Didn’t he used to work for Arabella Ashcroft, and for her mother?” Maxwell asked as he stirred a pair of sugar cubes into his coffee.
“He works for me now,” Ali replied civilly, but she wasn’t about to reveal any more than that about her domestic arrangements. Besides, Leland Brooks wasn’t the only one who was more than a little put out by Sheriff Maxwell’s taking the liberty of dropping by her place uninvited, especially when she was impatient to get back to work on her speech. If the man’s visit had a point, he had yet to set about making it, and Ali thought it was high time he did.
“Why exactly are you here?” she asked.
Maxwell shifted in his chair. He reached for his Stetson as if considering holding it in front of him as a shield. Then, sighing heavily, he left the hat where it was.
“My two miscreants—Sally Harrison and Devon Ryan—are off on administrative leave right now. They’ll stay that way as long as the charges against them are being investigated. That leaves my department shorthanded, but I can’t hire permanent replacements until the situation has been resolved. If it goes the way I think it will, they’ll both get their walking papers.”
Listening to him, Ali still wondered what any of this had to do with her.
“I’ve got someone on my staff who can take up the slack in the evidence room,” Maxwell continued, “but the media relations problem is a white horse of a different color. Ryan made quite a mess of it, and our recent history with the press is such that no one inside the department is willing to step up to the plate.”
Ali was beginning to get the picture, and she was astonished. “Are you asking me to take on the media relations job?”
Maxwell nodded and then took a sip of his coffee. Hanging on to the tiny cup with one pinky finger poking out in the air made him look as silly as Leland Brooks had intended. Finally he gave up and engulfed the tiny cup in one massive hand.
“On a temporary basis,” Maxwell added, after carefully returning the cup to its matching saucer. “Of course, we can’t pay you nearly what you earned when you were a television news anchor out in California, but you used to be a reporter, Ali. You know how those people think. You know what they want, and you’ll know how to handle them.”
“I’m not a cop,” Ali said. “Never have been.”
Maxwell gave her the smallest grin. “There have been several times the last couple of years when you could have fooled me.”
It was true. Since returning to her hometown, Ali Reynolds had found herself in one scrape after another, sometimes dealing with some very bad people. The previous winter she and her mother had helped bring down a serial killer, but that had all come about through her being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I’m forty-seven years old,” she said. “I haven’t been thinking of starting a new career. Besides, back in the day I did a couple of stories on the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Police Academy. It struck me as being pretty intense. I don’t think I could hack it.”
“No one is asking you to go through police academy training,” Maxwell said. “This would be on a temporary basis only, until we can officially give Ryan the boot and appoint someone else to the position permanently. Please believe me when I say this. I certainly wouldn’t expect you to go around mixing it up with any bad guys, although I know you’ve done that on your own account on occasion. I also understand that you have a concealed-weapon permit and that you’re fairly handy with both your Glock and your Taser. ‘Armed and dangerous’ is the way Dave Holman put it.”
“He would,” Ali said. And so would my dad, she thought ruefully. Bob Larson had yet to resign himself to the fact that his wife, Edie, now carried her own pink metallic Taser with her wherever she went. As for Ali’s Glock? He disapproved of that as well.
“So we need someone who can help us smooth things over with the media in the meantime,” Maxwell said. “Dave thought you might be just the person to fill that bill.”
The voice in Ali’s laptop chose that moment to speak up. You are now running on reserve power, it announced, which brought Ali back to the words she had been writing at the time Sheriff Maxwell had appeared. Her message had been all about encouraging local students to go off into the world and then come back home, bringing whatever expertise they had gained on the outside to help out the home team. Did Ali mean those words? Or were they just meaningless rhetorical flourishes on her part—a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”?
Then there was the fact that with the complex remodeling job finally over, Ali had been at loose ends, casting about and wondering what she would do with the rest of her life.
It wasn’t as though she needed to discuss her decision with anyone or ask for anyone’s permission or opinion. That’s one of the things that went with the territory of being single at her age. Ali knew without asking that her mother would be thrilled. Her father, on the other hand, would disapprove—mostly because he wouldn’t want his little girl putting herself in some kind of “pressure-cooker job.” Christopher and Athena might swing either way on the subject, most likely down the same division as her parents, with Christopher advising caution and Athena saying, “Go for it.” Leland Brooks would back Ali’s decision to the hilt regardless of what it was. As for Dave Holman? From what Sheriff Maxwell was saying, Dave had already made his position on the matter quite clear.
“I like my life at the moment,” Ali said. “I got out of the habit of punching a time clock a long time ago.”
“There won’t be any call for time clocks,” Maxwell said. “I’d be hiring you as a media consultant.”
“With no benefits, I presume,” Ali put in.
Maxwell nodded. “That’s the best way for me to walk this past the Board of Supervisors. Besides, by doing it this way I can offer quite a bit more money than I could otherwise. Most of the time you could operate out of the Village of Oak Creek substation, but I’d need you to come in to the office in Prescott some of the time—especially early on, so I can brief you on some of our policies and procedures and bring you up to speed with what we’ve got going at the moment. There are the usual press issues—when we’re dealing with the Board of Supervisors, for example, or seeing to it that routine police matters make it into the media—but there are times when we’ll need to be able to call you out if there are emergency situations that need to be handled.”
“Company car?” Ali asked.
Maxwell grinned at her again. He knew she wouldn’t be asking that question if she hadn’t already made up her mind to take him up on his offer. What they were doing now was negotiating terms.
“I saw that nifty blue Porsche Cayenne of yours as I came up the driveway,” he said. “Your helper was in the process of detailing it. Believe me, none of the vehicles in the department’s fleet would measure up to that. I’m afraid you’d need to use your own wheels and settle for a car allowance. You’ll need to keep track of your mileage.”
“Of course,” Ali said. “What about a radio?”
“It’ll take some time, but we’ll set you up with the same kind of communications equipment our plainclothes people use, although you may not want a radio permanently installed in your vehicle. We’ll also equip you with a Kevlar vest, which will need to be worn at all times when you’re working for us—except when you’re in the office, that is. Oh, and you’ll need a complete contact list.”
Will need, Ali noted. Not would need.
In other words, Maxwell knew that he had hooked her. Now he was going for the assumed close.
“When would I start?” Ali asked.
Sheriff Maxwell looked enormously relieved, as though a huge weight had been lifted from his broad shoulders. “Anytime,” he said, getting to his feet and donning his Stetson. “The sooner the better.”
He left then, sauntering away across the patio. Watching him go, Ali had no idea how much her life had just changed—in ways she could never have envisioned.
© 2009 J.A. Jance
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Trial by Fire includes discussion questions 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.
Questions for Discussion
1. How does the advice that Ali Reynolds offers in her speeches at the high schools come into play in her own life? Do you believe she is being honest in the advice that she gives to graduates?
2. Ali admits that she does not really need any more money, yet she accepts the job with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department. Why do you think she does this?
3. Ali initially states that she and B. Simpson could never be together due to their age difference. What makes her change her mind?
4. Discuss the character of Sister Anselm. What were you initial thoughts about her and her “Angel of Death” moniker? Does she really live up to it? Why do you think she is so quick to trust Ali? Can she?
5. There is an underlying theme of allegiance throughout the novel –allegiance to people, to institutions and to beliefs. Discuss this in the scope of the following characters: Ali, Sister Anselm and Sheriff Maxwell.
6. The waiting room in the burn unit provides the perfect backdrop for many of the conflicts in the novel. The interactions between the families of Mimi, James and the old lady give Ali Reynolds (and the reader) insight into how each family handles the stress of what is happening to their loved one. What does this reveal about the characters in the novel? Why do you think Jance opted to have Ali spend so much time there?
7. Talk about Ali’s relationships throughout the book, both new and old. How does Sister Anselm’s role of “mending relationships” factor into play?
8. Compare how Judith Becker (Sister Anselm) reacted to the hardship of being disowned to how Donna Carson did. Why do you think their paths were so different? Could Sister Anselm have wound up like Donna? And vice versa?
9. What did you think about Ali accepting the offer to go to Glendale Police Academy? Was she as in love with “retirement” as she pretended to be?
10. What does the title Trial By Fire refer to? Mimi’s fight to live? Ali’s hardships with the Sheriff’s department?
A Conversation with J.A. Jance
1. Ali Reynolds acquired an extensive amount of background knowledge about the operations of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department. What kind of research did you do for this book?
JAJ: Doing research is easy. Writing is hard. And it’s easy to convince myself that doing research is writing—which it isn’t. I learned as much as I could about the operations of the Yavapai Sheriff’s Department by studying their website. But I also write fiction, so I added and subtracted at will. Sort of like salt and peppering to taste.
2. Did you know the full direction of this book and Mimi’s fate when you started writing? Or did you let the story develop as you wrote it?
I hated outlining when I first met it in sixth grade geography, so no, I didn’t know Mimi’s fate when I started writing. I didn’t even know who had done it. (If I knew all those books at the beginning of a book, I’d have no reason to write to the end. So yes, the story develops as I write it.
3. From Sister Anselm and her iPhone to B. Simpson and his limitless computer resources, many of your characters are exceptionally tech savvy. Are you a “techie” as well?
I am not a Techie. At all. It took three years to wean me over from Windows to Mac. My approach to electronics is that I want to be able to turn them on and have them work—the way I want them to work. Fortunately, I do have an on-site techie in the family. In 1968 my husband was an electronics engineer working for the team at Motorola that built the first cell phone—the old brick one that didn’t go on sale until the mid-eighties. He reads manuals and keeps me in full tech mode.
4. You’ve had a number of reoccurring characters throughout your works: Joanna Brady, J.P. Beaumont, the Walker family and now Ali Reynolds. Why do you enjoy bringing the same characters back? Do you feel a connection with them?
Using recurring characters gives me a chance to create backgrounds for them as well as background characters that make them seem real to me. An editor told me once, “The problem with you is that all your characters do what they do because of the way they were raised.” And that’s as true for me as it is for my characters. When it comes time to write a new book, I’m always interested to see what my characters have been up to while my back was turned. Sometimes they surprise me. I still can’t get over the fact that Joanna’s mother eloped with the medical examiner while I was between Joanna Brady books.
5. How has Ali grown and changed over the course of your books? Has she ever done anything to “surprise” you?
She has a complicated history. Like Beaumont, she’s financially secure, so she doesn’t HAVE to work. But she does work. She feels a responsibility to the world around her. In that regard, she’s following in her parents’ footsteps. Yes, she’s doing what she does because of the way she was raised.
6. Sister Anselm is a very intriguing character and will likely spur the most discussion. Whom, if anyone, is she based off of? Why did you decide to introduce the “Angel of Death” concept? Will Sister Anselm be back? Any chance she could get her own book?
Yes, Sister Anselm was fun. But she also fills a very real need. There are literally hundreds of illegal immigrants who end up being hospitalized with terrible injuries in the border-states. They suffer from heat stroke and thirst when they are left to die in the desert. They are thrown out of speeding vehicles during high-speed chases. They end up in hospitals with no way of communicating with their caregivers. Years ago, I met a woman whose history was much like Sister Anselm’s. Her mother gave up her citizenship to care for a father who developed TB while in a German war relocation camp. The family was deported to Germany, and the father died enroute, leaving his wife and children stranded in Europe as Displaced Persons. The rest is fiction.
7. The waiting room on the burn floor of the hospital provides an extensive backdrop for the story. Why did you decide to have so much of the book take place there?
Waiting rooms in hospitals are a microcosm of the world—life and death, love and loss. Old jealousies resurface and battles are resumed for some while others find forgiveness and the means to go on.
8. What kinds of comment do you hear most often from your readers? What made you decide to finally have Ali respond to B. Simpson’s advances? Can you give some hints as to what Ali’s romantic future holds?
I can’t give you any hints about Ali’s romantic future because I don’t outline. I have no idea what’s going to happen. See answer # 2 above. But I think, after spending so much effort helping other people, she decided it was time for her to do something for herself for a change.
9. What’s next for you? What about for Ali Reynolds?
I’m at work on Ali # 6. The baby has a title. Fatal Error. I’m working on chapter four. Someone is dead. I think I know who killed him, but I’m not sure.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In all my years of reading I had not discovered J. A. Jance until the past year. I have read six of her books including this one and i couldn't put this one down. I will be picking up the previous titles with Ali as the main character so I can get to know her better. If you are a Jance fan be sure to read this book; if you have not yet discovered her this is a good place to start.
Loved this book. Great characters and plot
Ali Reynolds is smart, likeable and courageous. And, you'll be rooting for her all the way in this exciting shouthwestern police proceedural. Very good character deveopment both for Ali and supporting characters; makes me want to read other books in the series. J.A Jance knows her stuff.
When I went to the library this week, I just couldn't resist picking up a new-to-me J. A. Jance and this one is as good as, if not better, than all of the others I've read. It's the fourth novel in the Ali Reynolds series. As usual, Jance grabbed me with the first page which begins, "She awakened to the sound of roaring flames and to searing heat and lung-choking smoke. Maybe she was already dead and this was hell, but why would she go to hell?" The woman realizes finally that she is alive because she knows her leg is burning. Something, a beam maybe, is holding her leg down and when she tries to move it, her hand catches fire too. This poor woman doesn't know how she got there or why, where "there" is, or even who she is. Then she sees a creature coming through the flames. He's yellow or possibly orange and he picks her up to carry her away. She thinks he's Satan and she is in hell after all, but of course he's a fireman who has entered the burning house under construction and saved her. She awakens in the hospital in horrible pain which disappears into a cloud only when a kind nun pushes the button to give her a dose of morphine. The nun seems always to be there. Meanwhile, Ali Reynolds has been recruited to be a temporary media relations consultant for the Yavapai Sheriff's Department in Prescott. She lives in Sedona but won't have to go to Prescott very often. Trouble is, her predecessor has been fired and no one in the department wants her there. She is called out to the fire to handle the media and at the site she notices someone has painted ELF in giant letters on one of the burning houses in this new development. The Environmental Liberation Front is an echo of a real life group that has made headlines in the western states for the last two decades or more so this is drawn right from the headlines. Ali follows the victim to the hospital in Phoenix where she is asked to stay in the waiting room to see what develops, and incidentally to protect the victim because the person who tried to kill her is still at large and for that matter, unknown. She discovers, as I have many times, that if you sit quietly in a hospital waiting room reading (or in her case typing on a laptop), you sort of disappear into the woodwork as far as other visitors are concerned. She also becomes a confidante of Sister Anselm, the caregiver for the victim. This wonderful story grabbed me by the collar yesterday, got me through an evening when my husband insisted on watching American Idol (ugh), and wouldn't let me go today until I finished it. The characters are real as life, and although I figured out whodunit before the end, it certainly didn't spoil finding out how Ali solved it or what became of the characters at the end. I do recommend this suspense novel.
J.A. Jance outdid herself on this one. After several Ali Reynolds series books, I feared they would get to be "same old - same old" but this book proved me wrong. Another exciting mystery as a woman is pulled from a fire, and a Nun proves to be a hero in helping her and helping Ali Reynolds solve yet another mystery. I highly recommend this book. This series has indeed been very addictive.
This is soooo goooood! I couldn't put it down! I just wish Ms. Jance could clone herself and write more! If you don't like this book, you don't like a good mystery! Love love love this book
The main character was not very likeable and the writing underestimated the readers ability to make certain assumptions. Absolutely every thought process was spelled out for you, and many things repeated making it quite annoying (blink one for yes, and two for no). Still dont know what the reasoning was behind Sally and her boyfriend. Played up way to much for what the purpose of that mini storyline was. And the sidebar of her daughter's pregnancy? A bit pointless and bizarre. This was my first book by this author, and will be my last.
I have to give credit to Jance for finally bringing this series to a highpoint. It is steadily getting better and may soon rival her Joanna Brady series.
J.A. Jance just keeps on writing her wonderful stories that are hard to put down. I usually finish her books in two days. These Ali Reynolds books are a wonderful addition to her Sheriff Brady series and I love all the Jance books.
My first J.A. Jance book to read it was a book that was hard to put down , I will be sure to read more of this writer....
Here is another riveting read from J.A. Jance. Ali Reynolds continues to be an intelligent and determined sleuth as she takes on the media and a murderer. She follows the clues to uncover the twisted mind responsible for a horrific crime. I look forward to Ali's adventures as spun by Jance. My only criticism is that Ali's circle of friends and relatives is evolving and I miss her blog.
This is a good series. This book had a few interesting twists in it. Ali got into her usual tight spots. I'm interested to see how she does in her new career.
My background is law enforcement and one of the things I like about Ms. Jance's books is how well she rights the things that most people don't even see. My favorite charactor is Sheriff Brady, but Allison Reynolds handles the scenes and secrecy well. I am enjoying every word of Trial by Fire. I eagerly await JA Jance's next book. She has never let me down.
In Sedona, Arizona, former TV reporter Ali Reynolds obtains a media-relations position with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department. Ali knows to tread carefully as her predecessor Information Officer Devon Ryan, on administrative leave pending an investigation into illegal activity, got into a physical altercation with Cononimo Courier reporter Oscar Reyes who may sue the department for the black eye he received at a news conference. Ali handles the press as the cops investigate a suspicious fire that left a Jane Doe barely alive with third degree burns, an ability to communicate by winking only, and amnesia. Also at Saint Gregory's Hospital is Sister Anselm, known as the "Angel of Death," for her nurturing of unidentified patients; she provides comfort to the latest injured soul. Meanwhile Ali sneaks into the burn unit to obtain more information from the victim while a killer targets the nursing nun, but soon teams up with the Sister. In her latest case (see Cruel Intentions), readers need to ignore why a public relations specialist would investigate an attempted murder-arson because this is an engaging amateur sleuth tale that fans will enjoy although the action is limited as Ali mostly works her Mojo in the burn unit. Still fans will appreciate the teaming up of the nun and the former reporter as they make an intriguing pairing working together to solve the mystery. Harriet Klausner
When I went to the library this week, I just couldn't resist picking up a new-to-me J. A. Jance and this one is as good as, if not better, than all of the others I've read. It's the fourth novel in the Ali Reynolds series.As usual, Jance grabbed me with the first page which begins, "She awakened to the sound of roaring flames and to searing heat and lung-choking smoke. Maybe she was already dead and this was hell, but why would she go to hell?"The woman realizes finally that she is alive because she knows her leg is burning. Something, a beam maybe, is holding her leg down and when she tries to move it, her hand catches fire too. This poor woman doesn't know how she got there or why, where "there" is, or even who she is. Then she sees a creature coming through the flames. He's yellow or possibly orange and he picks her up to carry her away. She thinks he's Satan and she is in hell after all, but of course he's a fireman who has entered the burning house under construction and saved her.She awakens in the hospital in horrible pain which disappears into a cloud only when a kind nun pushes the button to give her a dose of morphine. The nun seems always to be there. Meanwhile, Ali Reynolds has been recruited to be a temporary media relations consultant for the Yavapai Sheriff's Department in Prescott. She lives in Sedona but won't have to go to Prescott very often. Trouble is, her predecessor has been fired and no one in the department wants her there. She is called out to the fire to handle the media and at the site she notices someone has painted ELF in giant letters on one of the burning houses in this new development. The Environmental Liberation Front is an echo of a real life group that has made headlines in the western states for the last two decades or more so this is drawn right from the headlines.Ali follows the victim to the hospital in Phoenix where she is asked to stay in the waiting room to see what develops, and incidentally to protect the victim because the person who tried to kill her is still at large and for that matter, unknown. She discovers, as I have many times, that if you sit quietly in a hospital waiting room reading (or in her case typing on a laptop), you sort of disappear into the woodwork as far as other visitors are concerned. She also becomes a confidante of Sister Anselm, the caregiver for the victim.This wonderful story grabbed me by the collar yesterday, got me through an evening when my husband insisted on watching American Idol (ugh), and wouldn't let me go today until I finished it. The characters are real as life, and although I figured out whodunit before the end, it certainly didn't spoil finding out how Ali solved it or what became of the characters at the end. I do recommend this suspense novel.
Trial By Fire is quintessential JA Jance. It¿s a moderately paced suspense/mystery, with strong, interesting female characters, set in beautiful Arizona.In this story, an upscale home under construction is destroyed by arson. A woman is found inside the home, barely alive. The burn victim is so injured that she cannot communicate well, and she has amnesia, so she cannot provide much information about the source of the fire.Ali Reynolds is a former journalist who is pressed in to handling media relations for the Yavapai County sheriff. But she realizes that she can use her position and skills to help solve the case ¿ not just be the spokesperson. The most interesting character in Trial By Fire, however, is not the main character Ali Reynolds. The most interesting character is Sister Anselm, a nurse and nun whose mission is to aid the ¿John and Jane Does¿ suffering in hospitals. Sister Anselm is a very astute listener, and does much of the detective work by simply listening and observing.
I don't read much in the suspense genre, but when I found out J.A. Jance would be the keynote speaker at a local writers' conference I decided to read her work and get a book signed.In this fifth book of the Ali Reynolds series, Ali is asked to be a media relations consultant for Yavapai County. After only a day on the job, she's called to handle the media at the scene of a tragic house fire where an older woman was found naked and severely burned. Graffiti at the scene points to the ELF, but the woman's identity remains a mystery. Ali's job takes her to the burn ward in Phoenix where she strikes an unusual friendship with Sister Anselm, a nun known as the "Angel of Death." Anselm is only called to assist unidentified persons who are near death. In this case, the nun may be closer than ever before. The arsonist is still on the loose, and Ali and the nun agree that they will try to finish the job on their Jane Doe.I struggled to get into the first one hundred pages of the book. It's always hard to jump into the middle of a series. I had too many names thrown at me and had no clue who most of the people were (nor were they relevant to the current story). However, once the mystery woman was identified and her conflicted family came into play, I was hooked. I zoomed through the last few hundred pages. Ali is likeable enough, though I really like how the mystery pieced together. It has a very modern feel, with iPhone apps being used to save the day. That may date the book in the future, but it makes it seem current and (somewhat) realistic for now.I don't know if I will read on with the series or Jance's other books, but I found this one enjoyable in the end.
Ali Reynolds, a well to do widow, has returned to her hometown of Sedona, Arizona to be near her parents and her grown son and his wife. She has no need to take a job, but when the sheriff asks her, based on her background as a journalist, to temporarily take on the media coordinator job for his department, she accepts. And very soon is wondering why. She finds herself resented on all side, in the middle of a department shakeup. Then things really heat up, quite literally. She is called to the scene of an ongoing fire involving two houses under construction. Because it is a suspected case of eco-terrorism, the feds are called in, and when a very badly burned woman is rescued from one of the houses, it also become a case of attempted murder. If they only had some idea who the woman is, if she herself had any idea who she was, why she was in that house and who wants her dead.Because of the federal involvement, the sheriff assigns Ali to the hospital where the burn victims was taken, to handle the press and see if she can uncover any information to help identify the woman. There she meets Sister Anselm, an elderly nun who is a nurse and patient advocate for very serious cases, earning her the media name of the Angel of Death....and someone with an interesting story of her own. Someone wants her patient dead, but Sister Anselm and Ali are going to do their best to discover what is really going on.There are a number of things I liked about this book...and a few I did not. Let's take the negative first. Some aspects of the plot required some suspension of disbelief. As an example, a lengthy stake out in the visitors waiting room involving a red wig and pink pants suit...not so believable for me. The ending just a bit too easy and pat. But on the positive side, there is a lot to recommend this book. The book is well written, the story entertaining if not extremely memorable. And there are a number of very good and likable characters, including Ali's houseman/assistant/majordomo Leland Brooks, her injured Iraq veteran daughter-in-law and the very smart and capable Ali herself. This is the fifth in this series, a series which is only one of several Jance has written, and if these characters are going to make a reappearance, I would be interested in checking out any future installments.Some good characters and an entertaining story overcome some issues I have with this book and would have me give it a slightly qualified recommendation.
This wasn't a bad read. The main character seems a bit too insightful and perfect, solving the mystery without a lot of police assistance. The story kept my interest and the pacing was solid.
Trial by Fire - J. A. JanceI won¿t bore you with a recap of the story since so many others did a better job at it than I can do. What I will tell you is why I did like this book and why, at the same time, I didn¿t like this book. I¿ve been a fan of Ms Jance¿s since I found, at my local library, the Joanna Brady books. These I would describe as police procedural/suspense novels and they had wonderful stories, excellent plotting, wonderful mysteries and terrific characters with a lot of depth and realism. ¿Trial by Fire¿ is the first Ali Reynolds book that I have read. I haven¿t read anything by Ms Jance in quite a while, and I was thrilled to be offered this book. I loved the Joanna Brady books so why not this one? What I didn¿t take into account was the change in Ms Jance's writing style. I know authors get bored writing the same way and the same thing all the time, but this was a bit of a shock to me. This book should really have not been labeled a suspense; not that it wasn¿t, it had it¿s moments of suspense. But the fact is, this book read much more like a ¿cozy mystery¿, a bit fluffier and way less hard-boiled than the average suspense novel, less down and dirty action and had way more of the ¿warm and fuzzy¿ factor than I want in my suspense books.One problem I had is with the oddness at the end, when the suspect is finally caught and just confesses to everything without a care in the world. It was too neat and to clean to be believable. It was almost as if Ms Jance wrote too much before that and had to find a quick way to tie it all up. The secondary story was very interesting and received short shrift as far as I was concerned.Aspects of this book reminded me a lot of Christian novels too. It was interesting to learn of Sister Anselm¿s back story but it wasn¿t all that necessary to go into so much depth, nor was it necessary to give so many pages over to the other two burn victim¿s stories. I just couldn¿t see how they helped the story progress..I liked this book if I think of it as a "cozy mystery", and will most definitely be buying the others in this series and even the next one coming up, but as a novel of suspense it left something to be desired. All in all I just think it was mislabeled and had the wrong style of cover; had it been labeled as something else, with different art, I may not have had the same expectations as I did when I started this book.
Ending was exciting
This is a good read. I bought it on my nook. This is a series , but I read it as a stand alone and you can too.
This is the 5th in the series. Have enjoyed each one. It is a hard story to put down. You want to find out who did it and why. Will definitely the rest of the series.