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by J.A. Jance
William Morrow, September 2013
368 pages
ISBN: 0062134671

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

While getting a double knee replacement, Special Homicide Investigation Team (need I spell the acronym?) operative J.P. Beaumont experiences powerful hallucinations brought on by the anesthesia. In his drug-induced dreams, a cold case, The Girl in the Barrel, haunts him, as do glimpses of his service in the Viet Nam war, years before. These triple threads: cold case, knees, and 'Nam run on parallel courses through Jance's latest J.P. Beaumont novel. The usual colorful characters, such as Harry I. Ball, make an appearance, bringing a wry smile.

The cold case is as follows: A set of twins finds a nude young woman's body in a barrel of used cooking grease. Shortly after Beaumont begins investigating the case as a newby police officer, he and his partner are promoted to separate departments of the police force, and Beaumont is encouraged to let the case lapse. What he, in his inexperience, does not know is that the evidence for the crime, and the evidence for his own promotion, are quietly disposed of.

Jance always mixes a dollop of social commentary with her murder mysteries. Beau's ongoing fight with alcoholism and Sheriff Brady's constant need to prove herself effective despite her gender are setpieces readers have come to expect and enjoy. In SECOND WATCH, the Viet Nam veteran commentary is just such a trademark Jance touch. However, Beaumont's 'Nam past has never before made an appearance, and it seems strange to have post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms so many years after the fact.

Despite the "added on" feeling of the Viet Nam sections, the book does envelop the reader in a characteristic Jance universe: there are bad guys out there, but the good guys are good in deep and decent ways. The bad humans have left a torturous trail to mark their greed and ruthlessness, but Beaumont and his partners are persistent and bring justice to the murdered girl.

Cathy Downs, is Professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. On the side, she is a longtime fan of the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, September 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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