Years ago, when Jim and I visited Bisbee for the second or third time, we had occasion to stay overnight at the Copper Queen to seek out the ghosts of Bisbee, who were said to inhabit this century old grande dame hotel. We were given an impromptu tour of the hotel by the manager. He proudly pointed out that Bisbee had its own author-made-good, who had her own room at the Copper Queen Hotel, or at least a room named after her.
J. A. Jance, was not born in Bisbee but grew up there. Curious but skeptical about any home spun novels that do not carry stuffy literary banners, I brushed J.A. Jance off for several years. Yet, I am a great fan of Barbara Kingsolver, a Tucson resident for years, and have read all Kingsolver's books on Tucson. I had not heard of Jance in any literary context, although I was aware that Jance has often graced the New York Times Bestseller list. Finally, this year, having enveloped myself in Arizona culture, I began to read J.A. Jance novels. It was my duty.
Here is what I found.
Her New York Bestseller suspense novels are a fast and fun read. Her novels just get better. In the series about Joanna Brady, Sheriff of Cochise County, Jance sprinkles tidbits about Bisbee and Cochise County throughout her novels. If you know Bisbee, these references are delightful, prompting readers to think, "I know where that is!" and prompts those that don't know where it is to find out. It is best to read these novels in order to get a sense of continuity about the life of Sheriff Brady as well as the tale of mystery and suspense. If you don't choose to read them in order, Jance sprinkles her novels with references to Joanna Brady's past , which bring the reader up to date gossip wise.
There are 17 novels in the Joanna Brady Series. The latest, Remains of Innocence, published this July, 2014.
Ms. Jance is prolific. She has written at least two more popular series; the J.P. Beaumont series about a Pima County Detective and the Ali Reynolds series set in Sedona. I have yet to read these, as I am only on my 6th of 17 Joanna Brady novels. I am looking forward to reading J.P Beaumont and would be pleased to see references to familiar places having lived in Tucson for the past 11 years.
Kudos to J.A. Jance! An Arizona Treasure!
Please visit J.A. Jance's website for a refreshing self portrait. We hope that she will be at the 2015 Festival of Books so that we may shake her hand.