Joanna Brady, Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, is back for her seventeenth go-around in J.A. Jance’s latest mystery novel, Downfall.
This time around, Brady is pregnant and grieving the loss of her mother and stepfather, who both died in what appears to be a tragic car accident. Her bereavement period is cut short, though, when one of her deputies confirms a 911 caller’s report that there are two dead bodies at the bottom of a mountain cliff known as Geronimo.
Joanna has a bad feeling about the scene from the very beginning as she and her deputies race to collect evidence (with the help of state crime-scene analysts) before a large storm rolls in. Initially, all they know is that two women are found dead next to each other. Whether they were pushed off the ledge above or jumped is the real question, one that Joanna sets about trying to answer.
One of the victims is identified as a student named Desiree Wilburton. Due to the nature of her studies, Joanna and her team believe that the young woman might have been in the area studying certain plants and cacti before her death. That conclusion was drawn rather easily thanks to the evidence, but connecting her to the other victim proves to be the real challenge.
The other victim, Susan Nelson, is a teacher and the wife of Drexel Nelson, a local preacher. The second curveball of the investigation, after unearthing no evidence tying Susan and Desiree together, is Mr. Nelson’s reaction and body language to hearing that his wife was found dead. Joanna can’t help but note that the man acts suspiciously okay with losing his wife, especially for a proclaimed man of God.
With the investigation ongoing, Joanna’s life is made increasingly more difficult with the upcoming election, where she faces stiff competition for keeping her job. On top of that, there’s mounting public pressure for the local law enforcement to do a better job after a string of crimes, including a homicide, shakes the community. And, as always, there’s the personal battle within Joanna, who always fears that her job is keeping her from being an effective wife to her husband, Butch, and mother to their son, Denny.
As Joanna tries to keep it all together, a job made tougher by the baby growing inside her and the toll it takes on her body and emotions, she soon makes a startling realization about the deaths of Desiree and Susan. It’s during those pages, roughly the last quarter of the book, where Jance is at her absolute best, mixing suspense with a final twist that reveals the killer in grand, you’ll-never-see-it-coming fashion.
Downfall is everything readers have come to expect from J.A. Jance. Packed with the kind of breathless suspense that will have you racing to the finish line, the bestselling author delivers another crowd-pleaser that longtime fans of her series are sure to enjoy.
Author: J.A. Jance
Pages: 383 (Hardcover)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: September 6th, 2016 (Order now!)