Monday, August 3, 2015

Queen of the Night by J. A. Jance

Anna Faktorovich's academic study on mysteries and romances which I reviewed here, led me to try the mystery author J.A. Jance, who I'd never read before.  I was intrigued with what Faktorovich wrote about this author in her study.  So I took a look at descriptions on Goodreads of the books she'd written,  and decided that I'd probably enjoy reading this one.  It's a crime thriller rather than a mystery.  Readers won't need to see the major serial killer case solved.  The suspense lies in how the perpetrator's crime spree will finally be stopped. 

Queen of the Night is actually #4 in a series, but reading out of order never dismays me.  I believe that books ought to stand on their own.  If they don't, it's not my responsibility to remedy the situation by reading other books.  I will only read more books by the author if  I am hooked by the first one I tried.  That's why I'm so careful about my choice of first read by an author.  The Queen of the Night has a story line that deals with the legends and customs of the Tohono O'odham of Arizona.  I tend to like mysteries and thrillers that involve Native American background.  I definitely knew that I'd come to the right place when I saw that Jance had dedicated the book to Tony Hillerman.


The book opens with a really wonderful Tohono O'odham legend that is both feminist and anti-war about how the night blooming cereus flower came to be.   The annual blooming of this flower is a pivotal event in the plot.  I also loved discovering the concept of  "ghost scent".  This means that the scent of the night blooming cereus reminds the Tohono O'odham  of its story.

Yet it was a quote from Psalms that kept on running through my head when I thought about the stories of a number of the characters in this book.  I heard it  sung in Hebrew in my mind, but the best English version of the quote is:  "The stone that was rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone." (Psalms 118:22) Over and over Jance shows that people who are despised triumph.  I'm fond of underdogs, so this is very heartwarming to me.  The backgrounds of Dr. Lani Walker and Dan Pardee are the most compelling examples.

I do feel that Jance reached deep for the full humanity of all the prominent characters including the serial killer.  I don't mean that they were all sympathetic, but I understood where they were coming from.  We saw the heart of some of the relationships depicted in this novel.  The relationship between Diana Ladd and Brandon Walker was particularly moving.

This was a strong book that also taught me a bit about the Tohono O'odham.  I will definitely want to read another book in this series soon.                                              

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