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Trial by Fire: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – December 1, 2009

Book 5 of 10 in the Ali Reynolds Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In bestseller Jance's middling fifth Ali Reynolds thriller (after Cruel Intent), the ex–TV journalist takes over a media-relations job at the county police department in her hometown of Sedona, Ariz., after the previous flack is sent on administrative leave for misconduct. Soon after being fitted for the mandatory Kevlar vest, Ali goes to the site of a subdivision fire that has left an unidentified woman in critical condition. All signs point to arson, but the fire's amnesia-ridden survivor is the only one who knows the truth. With the help of a hospital nurse who's also a nun, Ali—mostly undercover in a red wig in the hospital's burn unit waiting room—slowly pieces together the victim's identity and her relationship to the fire. That Ali is essentially cast as a stenographer, surreptitiously transcribing the conversations of those visiting the victim's room, narrows the window for heart-racing action. A desert shoot-out tacked on toward the end adds some excitement. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

Former L.A. anchorwoman Ali Reynolds, now living in Sedona, Arizona, is asked by the county sheriff to fill in for his media-relations officer. Soon she becomes involved in the case of a woman who was badly injured in an arson fire and has no memory of the event or even her name. The feds take over the investigation from the county, but Ali is asked to help out by the victim’s hospital-appointed advocate, Sister Anselm. When the sister disappears, a worried Ali goes to find her and discovers she has been kidnapped. Fast pacing, surprising plot twists, and a strong, principled heroine make for a satisfying read. The fifth in the series. --Sue O'Brien

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416563806
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416563808
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.A. Jance is the top 10 New York Times bestselling author of the Joanna Brady series; the J. P. Beaumont series; three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family; and Edge of Evil, the first in a series featuring Ali Reynolds. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.

Customer Reviews

Have read all of J.A. Jance Ali Reynolds books.
A good mystery novel should keep you interested,involved and guessing which this does very well.
I never put the book down once I started and I will likely read it again in the future.
Old Sparkie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In J. A. Jance's "Trial by Fire," forty-seven year old Alison (Ali) Reynolds is a financially well-off widow who has just completed remodeling her home in Sedona, Arizona. Her son, Chris, is married and her parents are healthy and active. There is no special man in her life and, although Ali is a trained journalist, she is currently unemployed. When the sheriff of Yavapai County, Gordon Maxwell, asks her to handle media relations for his department, she accepts his offer. Although she has no formal training in law enforcement, Ali has a weapons permit and, in the past, she has gotten into "one scrape after another, sometimes dealing with some very bad people."

Ali's new position turns out to be a bit more stressful than she had anticipated. Not only do her colleagues resent her, but she must also remain calm under extreme pressure. The case occupying everyone's mind involves arson and attempted murder. An unknown perpetrator left a woman bound and naked in a burning house. Although Ali's mission is to handle the press, she is not content to sit on the sidelines. Instead, she aggressively pursues leads and ultimately endangers her life to catch the perpetrator.

Jance is a competent writer who keeps her well-constructed plot moving along briskly. She skillfully depicts her Arizona setting and has created a group of varied and intriguing characters, especially the multilingual Sister Anselm Becker. Sister Anselm is a trained psychologist who works as a patient advocate. The nun's patients look upon her as their guardian angel. However, she can turn into a pit bull when a pushy visitor tries to harm those in her care. The heroine, Ali, is spunky, smart, fearless, curious to a fault, and compassionate. Although there is a minor romantic subplot, it is downplayed.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ali Reynolds is getting ready to enjoy some leisure when Sheriff Gordon Maxwell offers her a temporary job as his media representative. She fends off reporters' questions with skill and grace, but after one day on the job she is sidelined, to sit on the hospital burn unit and wait for information about a newly admitted burn victim. A woman, identity unknown, who was pulled at the last minute (and probably too late) from a deliberately set house fire.

Ali spends her time in the burn unit waiting room, hoping to gather some clues abou the mystery woman, but soon finds herself drawn in to a web of complicated relationships and underhanded schemes. From public relations she soon slides into amateur sleuthing, and finds herself in an ever more dangerous situation.

So far, so good, but the author has filled the book with enough characters to populate a small town, each with their own personal history, baggage, unhappy childhoods and marital cheating. Author Jance tell us all about them, along with their own side-plots and sub-plots, most of which are never resolved. Do we ever find out who the mystery woman really is? Or, who set the fire? Or why? And what about the Paul Klee painting that was burned up in the fire? You'll have to read the book to find out, but it's hardly worth the effort.

J.A. Jance is a best-selling author, but this book is only mildly interesting, and leaves more questions unanswered than resolved. It might be good for an airplane read, but overall I don't recommend it. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By T. Edmund on January 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This was a good read, with a few nitpicky bits which I'll rant about at the end so as not to spoil anything

After a slightly weak opening (a victim in a fire actualy wakes in the blaze and thinks 'why would I be in hell') Trial by Fire, begins as Ali Reynolds is offered a job as a media consultant or some such, for the police. She recieves a fairly icey reception from her new colleauges, but this has nothing to do with the plot so its not really mentioned again.

Ali joins forces with a nun who cares for the burnt lady mentioned above, and together they try to find the perp behind it all.

In Jance style the main focus in on characters personal lives and background rather than car chases or gunfights, so if thats what you like then this is the book for you.

A Touch of ranting.

First of all, the nun instructs Ali to buy a wig and sit in the waiting room of the burn unit to spy on the family of the burned woman. Not so much a bad plan, but its just such a ridiculous image. In fact much of the book is spent with Ali in a wig listening in to the family. Its a little silly and a little yawn worthy

Second of all, the story gets starts to become melodramtic towards the end. While Jance had skillfully set up a number of characters who may have been the attackers, in the end the whole thing was only over a stolen painting (a very valuable one at that but it was still a stretch to imagine someone going to the trouble to commit a murderous arson to steal it)
So the author created a contrived backstory for the villian, which was something along the lines of the victim's dead ex-husband raped his sister (the villian's mother) but she didn't get any money out of it. Anyways it was all a bit much.
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