A Book Spy Review: ‘Field of Bones’ by J.A. Jance

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Field of BonesCochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady returns for her 18th go-around in J.A. Jance’s latest thriller. 

Following the events of Downfall (2016), Joanna Brady is enjoying maternity leave following the birth of her daughter, Eleanor Sage. In her absence, Tom Hadlock has taken over as acting sheriff, keeping Brady’s seat warm, until a chilling discovery rocks the small Arizona town, forcing him to bring Joanna back before she’s ready. 

It all started when Jack Carver, a teenager with a habit of poaching, finds a skull in the desert, miles away from civilization. Dragged down to the police by his mother, June, Jack confesses his findings to Hadlock, then turns over the skull. Following the directions provided by Jack, Tom returns to the scene to investigate, never once expecting to find the gruesome scene that awaits. . . when he literally walks into a field of bones. The horrifying discovery proves that someone has been using the desert as a dumping area for human remains, indicating an active serial killer is on the loose.

As a turf war breaks out between multiple jurisdictions and agencies, Joanna returns to her post, albeit reluctantly and only after some coaxing from a longtime foe, to oversee things and manage the nightmare while putting her years of experience and acute attention to detail to good use, helping in any way she can to find the deranged killer, a man known only as the Boss, who kidnaps his victims, then holds them captive and tortures them before finally killing them and dumping their disfigured bodies.

As the manhunt for the killer gets underway, it’s all hands on deck as Joanna and her colleagues race to identify the murderer and save his last batch of victims before it’s too late. 

Though it starts out a little slower than past books, Jance does pick up the pacing in the final act, but only after a stretch of downtime dedicated to developing her cast of characters, including several newcomers. While longtime readers will likely enjoy the abundance of details provided for the characters’ backstory and history, those new to Joanna’s universe may find themselves skimming those pages in an effort to get back to the meat of the story, which at its core is very well done. The Boss is a terrifying, perfectly hateable antagonist, which is just what you want in stories like this as it drives up the tension and naturally raises the stakes. Instead of relying on a big, unseen twist or shocking reveal, Jance drives suspense in other ways, challenging Joanna, who’s never before had to race to find a killer while also caring for an infant. 

Field of Bones is another solid thriller from J.A. Jance, who continues to flesh out Joanna Brady, her fan-favorite protagonist, while continuously throwing new obstacles, both privately and professionally, in her path and forcing her to deal with them.

Book Details

Author: J.A. Jance
Series: Joanna Brady #18
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062657577
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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