Left for Dead
An Ali Reynolds Mystery by J. A. Jance
Review: Ali Reynolds comes to the aid of a former academy classmate, who is in a coma after being shot and left for dead after a routine traffic stop, in the aptly titled Left for Dead, the seventh mystery in this series by J. A. Jance.
The car was speeding and deputy sheriff Jose Reyes had an informal quota to fill. But as he approached the vehicle after it stopped, the driver took out a gun and shot him. Falling down a ravine, he feigned being dead while the driver took off. When he fails to check in, his station sends someone out to look for him. A subsequent investigation suggests that Reyes may be lying about the situation, that it was in fact an illicit drug deal gone bad. Ali is convinced Reyes is innocent, and arranges for his defense. Meanwhile, at the same hospital in which Reyes is recovering, a Jane Doe, the victim of a brutal assault and rape and left for dead in the desert, is also recovering. She was found by Alonzo Gutierrez, a border patrol officer, who wants to help not only identify her but also find her attacker, but is pulled off the case by his supervisor. "She's an illegal," he tells Alonzo. "That makes her somebody else's problem."
Every other chapter or so in Left for Dead follows what Ali is up to, but despite all this page time, she's really a rather minor player. She pulls a few strings here and there and rushes in to save the day at the end, but otherwise tends to fade into the background. The real star of this show is Sister Anselm, a scene stealer if ever there was one. She is an in-hospital patient advocate for Jane Doe — later identified as Rose Ventana, a teenaged runaway — and an astute judge of character, one who quickly assesses each situation and plans for countermoves as necessary. The most compelling interpersonal dynamic is between Al Gutierrez and Phoenix police detective Ariel Rush, two strongly developed characters in pivotal roles, who are also part of Jane Doe's storyline. Whenever they are present the narrative practically crackles with energy.
The storylines themselves are somewhat thinly plotted, though well executed, serving primarily as a backdrop to, or a stage for, this large cast of mostly fascinating characters in this mostly interesting play. (And it does read much more like a screenplay than a novel.) A plot thread eventually connects the storylines, but it seems more a matter of narrative convenience than necessity.
There's a lot to like about Left for Dead, but for series readers don't expect much in the way of Ali Reynolds solving a whodunit-style mystery.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided a copy of Left for Dead for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Betrayal of Trust
William Morrow (Hardcover), July 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061731150; ISBN-10: 0061731153
Touchstone (Hardcover), February 2013
ISBN-13: 9781451628685; ISBN-10: 1451628684
Location(s) referenced in Left for Dead: Tuscon, Arizona
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Left for Dead by J. A. Jance — An Ali Reynolds Mystery
Publication Date: February 2012
List Price: $25.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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