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Day of the Dead: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – July 20, 2004

3.7 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jance's third suspense thriller to feature ex-sheriff Brandon Walker and his family (after Hour of the Hunter and Kiss of the Bees) deftly mixes Native American mythology with a harrowing plot. An old Tohono O'odham woman, Emma Orozco, asks Walker for help in solving the brutal murder of her daughter, Roseanne, who was slain in 1970. Walker is able to take on the challenge because of his membership in TLC, The Last Chance, a privately funded agency that looks into old, unsolved crimes. This ingenious arrangement allows for great flexibility in the action of the story. As Walker searches for clues in Roseanne's death, he comes across similar murders—each with no leads, each involving a dismembered body left alongside a road in the Southwest. The reader learns more and more about the killers, the sexually voracious, utterly amoral Gayle Stryker and her husband, Larry, a truly effective pair of monsters. Meanwhile, Walker's dear friend Fat Crack Ortiz, a Tohono O'odham man, is dying of complications from diabetes. Most of Walker's friends, in fact, are Indians, as is his adopted daughter, Lani. He draws not so much knowledge as strength and perspective from them—no mumbo-jumbo here, only believable sensitivity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Resting both her regular series sleuths, Joanna Brady and J. P. Beaumont, this latest Jance mystery returns to Arizona's Tohono O'Odham reservation, also the setting for two earlier nonseries novels, Hour of the Hunter (1991) and Kiss of the Bees (2000). Retired cop Brandon Walker sets out to investigate a cold case, the mutilation murder of a 15-year-old Tohono O'Odham girl. Suspense builds gradually in the multilayered novel, which is filtered through multiple perspectives, each person adding a piece to a textured puzzle that tracks a pair of serial killers whose crimes extend backward across three decades. As in Jance's two series, the action is intermixed with well-placed social commentary, this time regarding the unconscionable ill use of reservation peoples by vicious mil-ghan (whites), even in the recent past. Although the Indian cultural backdrop is not as integral to the story as it is in Hillerman's novels, this will still appeal to Hillerman devotees as well as to thriller fans accustomed to a sheen of blood spatter and sex with their suspense. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688138233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688138233
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
J A Jance has the gift to write in different voices. There's the Sheriff Brady Series, the JP Beaumont series and now the Brandon Walker series. Readers seem to prefer one or two, and I'm a strongo Joanna Brady fan. Day of the Dead isn't even the same genre, much less style.

The book opens with a young girl's horrific story. Wrenched from a quasi-detention home in Mexico, the young girl thinks she's moving to a new lfie with adopted parents, where she can go to school. She wakes up to find herself imprisoned by people she had every reason to trust, tortured by unwanted sex, with no escape but death.

As other reviewers note, this novel is really suspense rather than mystery. We learn the identity of the evil Stryker couple, and we watch them spreading evil till the very end. The crimes are so ghastly (like some of Lawrence Block's grisly details in the Matt Scudder series), and the innocence such a contrast, that I wonder if Jance was trying to send a strong message.

Perhaps we're supposed to see a vivid example of a wealthy, pillar-of-the-community couple who can literally get away with murder. We can contrast their protected status with the vulnerable orphans they destroy and even the wife's lover, who comes to a tragic end after being framed for a murder.

We get fascinating glimpses into native culture, reminiscent less of Hillerman than of James Doss. Walker's adopted daughter, determined to become a medicine woman, emerges as the most human and likeable character in the book. More distracting were the series of flashbacks that interrupted the forward flow of the suspense. The story of Brenda, a Native American lawyer who gets drawn back to the reservation, seemed especially irrelevant, although the character was likeable.
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Format: Hardcover
We're fans of Jance, having read her some two dozen mysteries in the JP Beaumont and Sheriff Joanna Brady series. Jance has over time given us three quite different thrillers, which the author defines as stories in which the reader knows the culprits all along, with the suspense coming from the race between the bad guys and the good guys hunting them. These three novels, Hour of the Hunter, Kiss of the Bees, and this new one, Day of the Dead, are actually forming a series themselves, featuring ex-Sheriff Brandon Walker and his family, and the Tohono O'Odham Indian nation. Part of the book is used to expose us to the legends and practices, ala Tony Hillerman, of these native Americans, who in many cases are the victims of nearby evil white men. These sections of the book are interesting, but some will find they slow down the action and detract from the plot. A more balanced view is that they add illumination and evocative background to an otherwise dark storyline about child molestation, sexual deviance, and torture.

Walker gets involved when he's invited to join The Last Chance, a volunteer investigative foundation (managed by our buddy Ralph Ames, JP Beaumont's lawyer friend!); he promptly gets embroiled in a 30-year-old cold case involving a dismembered teenaged young Indian woman. Meanwhile, a new dismembered corpse, a Hispanic teenager, has just been discovered out in the desert; and the authorities who care (as opposed to the ones in charge) begin to suspect a link between the two. Before it's over, many more results of the serial killers efforts will become apparent, and will the rich bad guys escape and fly to Mexico?

Jance warns that the Walker set is "R-rated" compared to her normal fare; the plot is indeed disturbingly evil.
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Format: Hardcover
I want to start by saying that I am a diehard Jance fan. I love the JP Beaumont and Joanna Brady novels but I found this one so disturbing that I gave it up after 100 pages and just flipped to the end.

Why? It was very gory, graphic and disturbing. I, personally, felt no reason to have included such graphic, detailed child rape and murder scenes. The bottle scene and others were just too much for me.

When I read, I want to be entertained with a good story, perhaps some humor... and I don't want nightmares. This one definitely could give a sensitive soul nightmares for days.

I'm not giving up on Jance but, I disagree with another review, I don't see this character being her most memorable. It's just not a comfortable read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've been reading JA Jance books for years. I'd skipped this series but when I saw its book 5 intersected with the Beaumont series I felt I needed to read the first four. This is book three.

At the end of the book, the author explains the difference between mysteries and thrillers. In mysteries you learn the villain in the end. In thrillers you learn the villain in the beginning and gradually see what evil he does. This series is made up of thrillers. I'd prefer mysteries and had to push myself through this one as I had trouble dealing with the tension. The summary had lead me to be concerned that one of the Walker Family children was going to get enmeshed in the terror and I knew I didn't want to read about a fully developed character and in particular a child being victimized. Spoiler alert, this did not happen.

Putting the tension aside, this series does a wonderful job of weaving in the mythology and culture of the reservation. I really like that aspect of this series. The writing is excellent. This is good work. Perhaps Jance's best. It's just not my preferred genre. Still I'll push on so I can complete her other series.
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