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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Long Time Gone by J.A. Jance

Long Time Gone by J.A. Jance. New York: William Morrow (An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), 2005. ISBN: 0-688-13824-1

The State Librarian, Jan Walsh, my boss (well my manager reports to her, so she's HIS boss, which makes her ultimately MY boss, too) has a program called “Washington Reads.” Each quarter—four times a year—she chooses a theme, something to do with Washington and then selects a group of books relating to that theme. Each collection includes some books for adults, some for young adults, and some for kids.

Recently, Jan's topic was mysteries with Washington settings—whodunits that take place in our own beloved Evergreen State. In connection with this themed collection, State Library staff put together a much more comprehensive bibliography of Washington whodunits.

So, needing something to read during my lunch hour at work one day, I decided to try working my way through Jan's short list (heaven forbid I should try to tackle the LONG list!). An obvious advantage to this notion is that copies of all of these books are held by the State Library, and are located on the public shelves two floors down from where I work, and I can check them out with my state library card. All I have to do is go down to the second floor, find the book on the shelf, then go on down to the first floor, where the circulation desks are located, and check it out.

So, J.A. Jance's Long Time Gone was my first foray into the universe of Washington whodunits. Jance is long established as a writer of police procedurals set in the greater Seattle area. Sixteen (16!) previous J.P. Beaumont mysteries are listed inside this one. In this novel, at least, Beaumont works as an investigator for the Washington State Attorney's Special Homicide Investigation Team, known as . . . well, you can work out the acronym yourself. This is quite obviously NOT true to life, as no real world bureaucracy would be allowed to create such an acronym.

The title, Long Time Gone, refers to Beaumont's resurrection of a 50-year old unsolved murder case, witnessed by the Mother Superior from a small Whidbey Island convent when she was a small girl. Now her repressed memories of the brutal murder are resurfacing under psychiatric hypnosis. Both the victim and the assailants are linked to a very prestigious local foundation that supports Seattle's arts and music—symphony, opera, art museum, etc.

Stirring up this very old pot naturally creates waves. People involved in the original affair start dying. A retired police detective who was involved in the original investigation. One of the principles, now an old woman, falls down some stairs. Was it murder? Was it an accident?

Since Beaumont works for the state's attorney general, he can pretty much do as he pleases when it comes to the more local authorities. Jance puts in a real jerk of a police officer in the Seattle Police Department, the kind of guy who almost turns apoplectic with rage whenever Beaumont comes near, and Beaumont lets him know he doesn't give a damn. This is great for the reader, who gets to vicariously enjoy the pleasure of telling off an asshole.

For those, unlike me, who have been following Beaumont's life and career over these many novels, there may also be pleasure in Jance allowing J.P. to experience the beginnings of a possible romantic relationship, after having apparently lost his previous love interest in a previous volume.

There is nothing difficult, deep or particularly complicated in the story as it unfolds. Just good, straightforward, if lightweight story telling. Reading a J.A. Jance is the literary equivalent of devouring a box of bonbons, to use an old-fashioned term.

Personally, I prefer just a bit more depth, a little more something, even if I'm not entirely sure what that something is. If you want an example, though, try Folly, another Washington whodunit on the list, which I reviewed back in 2004. But if you're looking for an easy to read, entertainingly written bit of literary fluff, set in Seattle, resolving a police procedural style mystery, grab a J.A.Jance.

As for me, there are simply too many books, too little time. It isn't likely that I'll use any more of my precious reading time here.


  • Well, that was my opinion at the time. I've since changed my mind, and have read several more Beaumont mysteries, and may very well end up reading them all before I'm through!

    By Blogger Will, at 8:26 PM  

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