Monday, August 06, 2018

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: Proof of Life by J. A. Jance

Proof of Life by J. A. Jance (William Morrow, 2017) is the 23rd title in the long-running series that follows the career of J. P. Beaumont, first as a Seattle homicide detective and then as he works in other agencies. This is the first title in which Beau is completely retired from paid employment. He is bored, restless, and not sure what to do with his time. His younger wife Melissa (Mel) is now Chief of Police in Bellingham and works long days so he must rely on his own resources.

A former crime reporter for the local newspaper approaches him at a restaurant one night. The retired reporter is writing a book on the crimes he covered during his long career and he wants to consult Beau about a murder that Beau investigated and that continues to haunt him. Beau reluctantly agrees and before they have a chance to meet, the reporter dies in what appears to be an accident. The timing seems off and when he’s asked to investigate the death, Beau becomes convinced it was deliberate murder.

In the meantime Mel is called to the scene of ongoing domestic violence and manages to imprison the abusive husband and to move the mother and her children to safety. The shelter will not take the family dog so Mel brings the Irish wolfhound home temporarily. Beau knows nothing about dogs and his education as a canine caretaker is a significant story line.

Between calling in favors to get information about the reporter’s death, as his access as a private citizen is restricted to Google, and integrating his new dog into his home, Beau’s days are suddenly full. When the fingerprints of a ruffian from a local gang are found in the reporter’s home, Beau starts looking for him. Within days, the gangbanger is killed in a hit and run, which helps Beau convince the Seattle police to investigate both deaths as suspicious.  

I find the inventive methods authors use to handle the aging of the main characters in their long-running series intriguing. Some authors slow the aging process so much that it is almost nonexistent, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser for instance. Spenser refers to his Korean War experience in his early outings. If he aged realistically, he would likely not be working out at Henry Cimoli's gym in the current releases. Others try to create situations in which the character can convincingly continue to investigate beyond the point at which the character formally retires from the role he or she filled at the inception of the series. Ian Rankin has said several times that he did not know the mandatory retirement age within the English police at the time he created John Rebus or he would have made the character younger to begin with. As it is, Rankin retired Rebus at the correct age and then brought him back as a member of a special team that investigates cold cases.

We first met J.P. Beaumont in 1985 in the Seattle Police Department. Jance gave him a logical career progression, moving him into more senior positions and then finally retiring him. Now it seems he’s on the brink of a new career as a private investigator. I look forward to his next adventure in this reliably readable series.

·         Hardcover: 368 pages
·         Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition (September 5, 2017)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0062657542
·         ISBN-13: 978-0062657541

Aubrey Hamilton © 2018

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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