Although fictional Joanna Brady is the sheriff of Arizona's Cochise County and lives in its county seat of Bisbee, J.A. Jance's 15th Brady mystery begins many miles to the east — in Greater Barrington, Mass.
“The Remains of Innocence” is a …
“The Remains of Innocence” is a convoluted collection of parallel stories beginning with young waitress Liza Machette discovering a quantity of money in the home of her mother, Selma, a bitter, angry woman who is dying of emphysema. Liza uses a portion of it to repair the run-down, cluttered house of a hoarder, where she and her brother endured a difficult , abusive childhood. Their father deserted early in their lives. Who was he?
(A gentle, lighter touch is Liza's habit of categorizing the folks in town by what they order from her at Daisy's restaurant.)
The house burns down on the day of Selma's funeral. Liza's landlady is murdered and a mysterious stranger warns Lisa that she's in danger, due to her father's crime connections. With help from her boss at the restaurant, she decides to flee to Arizona, where her brother Guy lives. He is Cochise County's medical examiner and leads an unusual private life.
Meanwhile, in Bisbee, Sheriff Brady — a true professional, but also a wife and mom — is puzzling over the death of a mentally handicapped young man, whose body is found in an abandoned limestone cavern, with a badly abused kitten.
Contemporary forensic techniques are in force and Brady is in contact with the law officer in Massachusetts.
In the meantime, Liza is fleeing across the nation via an interesting Underground Railroad system designed for abused women and additional murders occur, while Brady deals with a pair of evil teenage twins in Arizona.
Jance's plotting keeps the reader intrigued throughout — criss-crossing the country and its varying geographic features — although several murders accomplished via mob-style violence were more gruesome than this reader might wish to imagine.
Puzzle pieces eventually are fitted together, of course, although Liza's future is open to speculation.
This prolific writer, Jance, who lives in Arizona and Seattle, has — in addition to the 15 Brady books — published a longer series featuring J.P. Beaumont, a number of single titles and a book of poetry. A master storyteller, she has more than 20 million books in print — fast-paced thrillers that could make a fine vacation read.