Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I'm back to reading J.A. Jance.

In this wonderful book, you get your money's worth in stories.

At first I struggled with the book. It has what I would call a fragmented third-person point of view. The beginning scenes all feature different characters.

"I'll never keep these people straight," I thought. Then I got to the flowers.

In the Arizona dessert, once each year the deer-horn cactuses bud and produce beautiful flowers.  All the flowers bloom on the same night, and no one knows exactly which night until the blooming time is near.

Those flowers make the plant the Queen of the Night. Members of the Tohono O'odham Nation celebrate the beauty of the flowers.

The night the flowers bloom--that's the setting for the first murders to be investigated in the book.

One couple celebrating their anniversary, and three other people, a Native American couple and her young daughter, go to the same place in the desert to see the blooming of one of the dessert's largest Queens.

Both couples look forward to a special night, but it doesn't turn out that way. The four adults are murdered there. 

Dan Pardee and his dog Bozo find the bodies. Dan is an Iraq veteran who is now a member of the Shadow Wolves border patrol. Dan finds the now-motherless little girl wandering in the dessert.

And the story goes from there. 

Several police and sheriff's departments investigate.  There have been previous murders elsewhere too. The book comes to involve a host of people, each with his or her own story.

One storyline is a love story, the coming together of two people from opposing cultures and traditions.

From the murders in the dessert on, we know who committed the crimes, but still, this book tells a compellling story.

The tradition of the blooming plant itself, the night-blooming cereus, the Queen of the Night, dovetails with the stories of several people in the book.  That tradition describes Brought Back Child, a child rejected by others of another culture, and his grandmother, Old White Haired Woman, who saved him.

Jance's dedication at the beginning of the book is simple:  "In memory of Tony Hillerman, Old White-Haired Man, and all his Brought-Back Children."

This book is an excellent book. It is a worthy memorial for Tony Hillerman, an author many of us love.

I purchased this book through Mystery Guild.

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