Ali Reynolds Book 16
J. A. Jance
Gallery Books Pub.
June 1st, 2021
Unfinished Business by J. A. Jance brings back the Ali Reynolds character. As with all her books Jance knows how to build tension and is a fabulous storyteller. This series, more than her other series, focuses and highlights the characters. In this installment there are three sub-plots: A new character, Mateo, has just been released from prison after sixteen years; a tenant who has anger management problems and sees everything as a humiliation; and Ali’s father who has dementia.
Mateo Vega will hopefully be added to the High Noon Enterprises team and readers can see his character grow in future books. Ali Reynolds and her husband B. Simpson own High Noon Enterprises, a computer security service based in Cottonwood, Arizona. Mateo was accused of killing his girlfriend, and though he was innocent, took a plea to avoid a life sentence. When the board finally paroles him, the only job available is working at a thrift store. Because he was a computer expert, while in prison he kept up his skills and decides to ask his former boss, Stuart Ramey, for a letter of recommendation. Stuart happens to work for High Noon Enterprises and is impressed with Mateo’s skills. Since there is an opening at the firm, Mateo is quickly hired. Just as he begins his new job, another employee goes missing.
“Mateo Vega has a case that strands both Arizona and Washington. I thought, who better to help solve the case than my perfectly good cold case guy, Beaumont. I wrote his scenes in the first person, so the readers understand his point of view, where he is coming from and what he is thinking. The Ali books are written in the third person. I tried to write him in the third person for this story, but he said, ‘no way Jose.’ After a few days of absolute frustration, I gave up. My new editor at Simon & Schuster never read a Beaumont book and tried to change his voice to third person. The moment I read that part I realized he was no longer this living, breathing character but was suddenly a cardboard cut-out. I hope readers will give it a chance and see that it ties into the story.”
The High Noon business complex contains extra offices, which are rented out to tenants for additional income. One renter is Harvey McCluskey, a crooked home inspector who’s two months behind on his rent. Ali and her employee, Cami Lee, go to McClusky’s office to serve an eviction notice, which Cami films on her IPAD. McClusky is embarrassed and infuriated, and vows revenge against the ladies. He kidnaps Cami and plans on torturing her. Needing all hands-on deck, they turn to the artificial intelligence Frigg who can hack into anything. This AI handles everything from background checks to strategic planning and can apply cyber-magic to tracking down Cami’s kidnapper.
“I wrote the protagonist as disturbing from the beginning. The reader knew the High Noon folks were in jeopardy long before those working there knew. He turned out that way because of his environment. His mother was mean; I based her on my parental grandmother. All three had anger issues, were easily humiliated, never took responsibility, and held grudges. I came to realize now how my grandmother influenced the writing of these characters. I did not see the resemblance between Broomy, his mother, and my grandma Busk until you asked the question.”
While all this is going on Ali must also handle family concerns. Her father, Bob, has dementia, and her mother, Edie, is having a hard time continuing to be his caregiver. They tried hiding the fact that he’s losing his memory and acting out. Edie is exhausted, Bob is depressed, and the couple have been isolating themselves. As the situation goes downhill fast Ali insists that her parents get help.
“I put in this book quote, ‘Lucid and rational one minute to off the charts the next.’ I spent several months the last year corresponding with a woman who had to put her husband into a memory care facility due to dementia. She cared for him at home until she could no longer do it. She died six months after he did. The cost on the caretakers’ health is insufferable. I was thinking of her in the back of my mind as I was writing these scenes. Seeing what happened to Ali’s mom was sad yet realistic.”
Serious real-life issues are addressed in this story. The characters make the story come to life and Jance does a wonderful job telling their story. Making a cameo appearance, speaking in the first person instead of the book’s normal third person, is J. P. Beaumont, the retired detective who is now solving cold cases. Fans of Beaumont will understand how his presence is only enhanced with first person narratives. This does not affect the flow of the story which is very fast paced.