The latest books by New York Times best-selling author J.A. Jance have very powerful themes. The mystery, Second Watch, is a J.P. Beumont novel in which the main character delves into his days in Viet Nam. Her second book, a re-release, After The Fire, is the author’s memoir in poetry and prose about her years trying to save her alcohol addicted husband. Jance’s writing style engrosses the reader in a storyline that is full of insightful material surrounding her personal experiences.
After The Fire is the journey of the downward trend in her life, how she constantly tried to cure her first husband. She wants others to understand that “people can rise above their problems. After he unsuccessfully went through treatment nine times I decided to divorce him. It was done to save myself because my anger got larger and larger as I chronicled in the poem, ‘Hidden Agenda.’ There was no laughter in my voice, and no smiles on my face. Sometimes tough love does not work. Given the final choice of me or booze he chose booze.”
Jance also references alcohol addiction in her fictional books. Second Watch discusses the main character Beaumont’s alcohol addiction. The author described to blackfive.net how his drinking got worse over the course of the first seven books, putting him in treatment in book eight, and remaining sober ever since. Using the experiences of her first marriage she describes Beau’s demons. Jance noted, unlike her first husband, Beau is “someone easy to like who realizes his faults and battles them. He realizes what is necessary to lead a successful life.”
Intertwined with the potent issue of alcoholism is losing a loved one to war. The most powerful parts of the book are when Beaumont thinks back to his days fighting in Viet Nam and his commanding officer, Lennie Davis. He is based on Doug Davis, a high school classmate of Jance. She successfully portrays the debts Americans owe to those who served in that war. The inspiration for the story came about as Jance remembered Doug’s service and sacrifice as well as his fiancé, Bonnie Abney, who was left behind. Both Doug and Bonnie’s story are told through Beau’s memories.
Jance told blackfive.net, “There is a huge piece of me in the book. I had my character Beau find his Purple Heart hidden away in a box because he never saw himself as a hero, and was influenced by society’s reaction to Viet Nam vets coming home. I could not let go of the story, because I needed closure regarding Doug. To honor Doug, I put a photo of him at the end of the book. It was taken two days before he died.”
Readers should not forget that first and foremost Second Watch is a suspenseful murder mystery. The mystery involves a cold case that J. P. Beaumont, the main character, was unable to solve while a Seattle rookie detective. He is a no nonsense guy while solving a case or facing his demons. As in all her Beaumont books Jance gives a shout-out to police detectives. Since this was a cold case there is the underlying theme of how police are haunted by the broken promises to the victim’s family for not being able to provide closure, the case that could never be solved.
In both books Jance is able to create a storyline that is poignant and captivating. She does not lecture, and instead crafts very powerful plots. In reading her books people can get a glimpse into who she is and where she has been. After The Fire and Second Watch are very riveting, fast-paced, and insightful books.