Cold Betrayal by J. A. Jance brings into focus two riveting sub-plots. What the stories have in common is the interplay of the family dynamics. As with all of Jance’s novels she explores some kind of societal issue at the same time creating a thrilling story.
The first plot involves the daughter-in-law of the main character, Ali Reynolds. The girl’s grandmother, Betsy, is in danger: she’s been receiving anonymous threats, culminating with someone breaking into her home and turning on the gas burners in an attempt to kill her. Unfortunately, the local police do not believe the elderly woman’s conjectures, regarding her as someone with dementia. The second plot, has Sister Anselm returning as she solicits the help of Ali to determine the identity of a pregnant Jane Doe who has come under her care, a woman who appears to have escaped from a dangerous cult. As Ali works on both cases she learns that the victim’s families cannot be trusted. Both situations have women who are marginalized and are betrayed by family members.
An interesting aspect of the plot is how Jance has women initially portrayed as subservient, while other women are very dominant. The cult depicted in the story is based on the real life cult centered in Colorado City, Arizona that has basically been given autonomy for approximately the last sixty years. They force pre-teens into marriage, do not allow most to be educated, and refuse them freedom of action. What comes to mind is the treatment of women under the Taliban rule. The other plot has the grandmother depicted as being old and someone who can no longer fend for herself. The author appears to make the point that not all seniors should be stereotyped, put under lock and key, seen by the younger generation as incompetent, and no longer considered a value to society.
These women are contrasted with Ali, Sister Anselm, and the Arizona Governor Virginia Dunham. All these women are no nonsense who would not hesitate to kick-a–. They are independent, courageous, and intelligent. Jance noted, “I am offended by the ignorance of some women who dub themselves as feminists. They should take a look at what is happening not only in Arizona, but across the globe. In this day and age they are absolutely ignoring the whole issue. Here is an idea, how about treating all people as people. This is one of my core beliefs.”
She also explained why Ali is not officially a private investigator. “In Arizona no one can get an investigator’s license without spending years in some form of law enforcement. I could not turn Ali into a private eye because it would be illegal. I did not want to turn her into a law breaker.”
Jance gave a heads up about the novella, A Last Goodbye, written as a shout out to her dog. It is a mystery about a stray miniature dachshund, Princess, found by Ali’s grandson. The author based this fictional dachshund on her own dog, Bella. “We found Bella abandoned on a street four plus years ago. We figured she had been raised in an apartment because she is totally cool with an elevator and would not go out in our backyard unless she was on a leash.”
Both Jance’s latest book and novella are very interesting reads. The novel will make the reader think about how the elderly and women are treated within some cultures in the context of a thrilling plot.