Friday, July 29, 2011

Betrayal of Trust by J.A. Jance: A review

It starts with a snuff film of a teenage girl being strangled with a blue scarf. Shocking enough, but more shocking still is where it is found - on the cell phone of the step-grandson of the governor of Washington. It was found by the governor herself who then contacts her attorney general and soon J.P. Beaumont and his partner in life and on the job, Mel Soames, are being assigned to investigate. 

J.P. and Mel are members of the attorney general's Special Homicide Investigation Team - that's right S.H.I.T. It gets worse. Their boss is named Harry Ignatius Ball, or Harry I. Ball. Those jokes aside, their mission is not at all funny. They are charged with investigating murders that are of a sensitive nature, and this apparent murder certainly fits the bill. 

It gets even more sensitive when the grandson, Josh, is found hanging from a makeshift rope of ties in his room on the third floor of the governor's mansion. He has committed suicide, but why? Did he kill the girl and then kill himself in remorse? When they had questioned him, he denied to J.P. and Mel that he had any knowledge of what had happened or how the video got to his cell phone. Was he lying or are the reasons for his suicide more complicated? 

The plot goes along with the detectives as they painstakingly follow leads and develop evidence. Their first task is to figure out who the girl in the video is and where the body is. But in checking Josh's cell phone and computer, they uncover evidence of another crime, a serious case of cyber-bullying. It begins to seem as though that might have been the motive for Josh's suicide. There appears to be a sinister clique of rich and privileged kids who enjoy making life miserable for others and they have been able to make life very miserable indeed for certain kids and maybe even to snuff some of those lives out. 

J.A. Jance knows how to write mysteries. She has created a winning team in Beaumont and Soames and she follows them step-by-step, in the best manner of police procedurals, as they unravel the complicated webs surrounding teenage culture and two unnecessary teenage deaths. She plays fair with the reader, and, although I had my suspicions,  it wasn't until near the end, when J.P. began to figure it out, that I knew who the culprits were. 

I had read a few other J.P. Beaumont mysteries, but that was years ago. I've not read them all, nor have I read them in sequence, but this latest one stood on its own very well. I felt that I was able to know enough of Beaumont's history to be able to easily follow along, and the book kept my interest right up to the end.

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