Dance of the Bones by J.A. Jance


Read August 2016
Recommended for fans of Jance’s Walker/Beaumont series

Note to self:

Do NOT pick this up again. Yes, I know you are a bit desperate for a solid mystery series and thought you’d check out Jance in the hopes of rekindling the old J.P. Beaumont suspense. But it’s true; you can’t go home again, at least not after you’ve been reading competent, coherent and suspenseful stories.

I think this book was meant to be a bit of fan-bait, a melding of her J.P. Beaumont and her Brandon Walker series. I haven’t checked out the Walker series; in fact, when I ended up moving on from Jance, I don’t know that she (or her ghostwriters) had started it yet. I had the strong feeling that this was paying homage to the Walker character and where he was in his life at the moment–or actually, where all the people who were significant in his life were. There’s a bit about a granddaughter or medicine woman or tribal friend someone who was trapped in a cave twenty years ago, and I think I recognized that book, but nothing else. Honestly, it felt like I was dropping in at the family reunion of a friend from high school: it was the dimmest of connections and little more than a list of names and biographies.

The narrative is a kaleidoscope of perspective, and I’m pretty sure I don’t mean one of those cool fractal ones, but more like a screenprint of one worn for three days by an attendee at a Grateful Dead concert (no, it wasn’t me). It is made worse that one of the first perspectives is that of a man who is killed. We jump forward decades into the future and get his former friend/partner, the viewpoint of the killer, Walker, the medicine woman, a sullen fifteen-year old kid, and J.P., at which point I quit. Did I mention the reunion metaphor? Actually, it’s more like looking at their pictures in a yearbook than meeting them in person. You see, she’s effectively removed the mystery (who was killed and why) and all that remains is puzzling out the connections between people from two different book series.

It says something that the most interesting thing about the story was the Native American myth that was doled out in pieces at the beginning of chapters. Maybe that’s the hook to the Walker series; I don’t know. I will say that it makes me really uncomfortable when Native stuff is written by non-Natives, particularly because most Native American cultures are very protective about their stories and rituals. It would be one thing if it was out there in more-or-less popularized sources (ala Grimm’s fairy tales or Aesop’s fables), but when it’s clear that most southwest Native groups are very protective of their cultural history and appropriation, it just makes me as uncomfortable as fuck to see it in a best-seller that is apparently meant as fan-bait, particularly when it is only a fragment of the story and not the whole purpose as one can hardly do justice to the issues of appropriation.

I’m torn between a ‘yawn’ and a ‘yuck’ rating; the ‘yawn’ because it was just boring, and the ‘yuck’ because of the surface integration of Native culture.

Reminder: you can’t go home again. And sometimes, that’s okay.


About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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