Customer Reviews: Deadly Stakes: A Novel (Ali Reynolds Series)
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on February 8, 2013
I'm a long-time reader of J A Jance. I've always felt she created interesting characters, addressed some culturally relevant issues, and devised a suspenseful plot. I couldn't wait until her next Brady or Beaumont novels appeared! So "Deadly Stakes" was a real find, I thought: A new Jance novel!

What a disappointment. Not only is the Ali Reynolds heroine a little flat and uninteresting to begin with, she exists in a totally unreal environment of private helicopters, multiple houses, and apparently unlimited funds. Ali herself is Amazonian: she can be drugged, bound up, and crammed in the back of a car and still pop out of the trunk and run barefoot through broken glass. After it all, she can walk into a classy restaurant without her shoes (she's been pretty cut up during that glass encounter), and find a diamond engagement ring in her cheesecake, while her wealthy fiance-to-be looks fondly at her. And in the end, everyone comes out rich and happy--though at great sacrifice to the reader's sense of credibility.

It's a bore. This novel is formulaic, over-plotted, and thinly developed as far as characters and setting are concerned. Read the early Jance novels instead. They're much more fun.
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on April 2, 2013
J.A. Jance writes fabulous books...Brady and Beaumont are rich, interesting characters and the storylines usually sound, complex and believable. The Ali Reynold's series has always been a little weak but this book is awful. The plot is nonsense, Ali is ridiculous and there are pages and pages of inane conversations or pointless descriptions that I suppose are there to pad the book, since they serve no other purpose. Do I really need the life history of the BK Waitress? What is it exactly that Ali does for a living because she obviously has unlimited funds and is free 24/7 to do what she wants.This story was flat, insipid, ridiculous and pointless at various times, sometimes all at once. And spoiler---early on a woman's phone is found at a crime scene, then the victim's blood and a knife are found in the trunk of the same woman's car and her only alibi is her boyfriend, the victim's ex. While sure, this doesn't convict her, it is evidence and pretty damning at that yet Ali et al keep saying that the county attorney is jumping the gun, that they need to find evidence and imply that he is somehow picking on this woman (she of the phone and trunk). Huh?
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on March 6, 2013
The author of four popular mystery series, J. A. Jance opens DEADLY STAKES with a prologue detailing the life of Gemma Ralston, newly divorced and looking for a makeover at Video Glam. Gemma is the product of a drug-addicted mother, removed from her care and raised by her grandparents starting at the age of two. A hint of her mother's problems comes out when her grandmother offers this advice upon Gemma's entrance into college: "find yourself some dependable young man, preferably a pre-med student, and marry him....a surgeon...the guys who make the big bucks." Gemma did precisely that, marrying Chip Ralston but divorcing him when her financial expectations were not reached.

Jance fills the pages with numerous characters and multiple plot lines, so many that the reader has to take an occasional deep breath. But her story is well-crafted and keeps one's interest to its final word. We meet several major players before police academy-trained former reporter Ali Reynolds comes onto the scene. Ali learns about Gemma's death from her good friend, Detective Dave Holman, at her mother's election-night defeat party. He tells her that the main evidence at the crime scene is a cell phone, lost by its owner the night before. The individual is Lynn Martinson, Chip's current girlfriend, who has spent the entire morning looking for it.

When Gemma's body is identified, Lynn and Chip find themselves in deep trouble. Beatrice Hart, Lynn's mother, contacts Ali to help her when they are arrested. The cell phone found near Gemma's body points to them as chief suspects, though there is still the mystery of the male caller who texted the 911 call about the injured woman but was not at the scene when emergency help arrived. When Ali contacts Dave to break the bad news about her daughter to Beatrice, they hear that a second body has been found in the same remote area near Gemma's. The deceased man is identified as James Mason Sanders, an ex-con who had served prison time for counterfeiting.

Puzzling circumstances involving the dead man's son, A.J., will change his life. Detailed instructions about a gift from his father, with a plea to keep it a secret from his mother, arouse A.J.'s curiosity. He leaves school and drives to the isolated Camp Verde area, parks, and follows a dead end trail. He walks exactly 300 feet, ending at a boulder decorated with a painted heart; he is to dig behind the rock and will find the means to access a large cache of funds. His father's parting words are "Have a great life." Unnerved by discovering Gemma at the scene, A.J. makes the call to 911 and leaves, before locating the boulder.

Ali investigates the possibilities in the Ralston murder, but the man found dead near her pricks her penchant for all details. She delves into the fact that Sanders leaves behind a wife and child in the area. When Ali contacts Sylvia, A.J.'s mother, about her husband's death, she learns that a college prank with three other students landed Sanders in jail. Sylvia raised her son alone, protecting him from notoriety. She reveals that Sanders had given A.J. a car for his birthday, which she had allowed him to keep, as a gift of back child support. Ali's detective temperature rises on that information. Did the man come into a big source of money by illegal means?

Before its conclusion, the book introduces multiple characters, some of whom may be external fluff. However slight their part, each has a role in leading Reynolds to the solution. The Ralston family's support of Gemma following the divorce brings out a strange family dynamic involving the deceased father, his son and daughter. The rapidly moving story makes it a fascinating mystery, full of multiple suspects and numerous possibilities, but one solution. J. A. Jance fans are sure to be entertained by DEADLY STAKES and anticipating her next novel.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad
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on March 11, 2013
I have all of Ms Jance's Hardbacks in my library and this one I could not even finish. First, the details about some of the minor characters was way to much detail and had me putting down the book several times before finally giving up. Also Ali, who had become one of my favorite characters, is rather vapid, ie, kind of shallow and lacking direction. She seems to come thru each of the early plot scenes as an aristocratic empty female.

While I admit these criticisms may well be my own lack of interest in the many plot lines which needed development, I hope the next books on pre-order still will restore my love of her great past work.
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on February 11, 2013
Deadly Stakes by J.A. Jance continues the "Ali Reynolds" mystery series, making for the eighth book in the series. Fans of the series will love Ali's investigation techniques, and close calls throughout the book.

Deadly Stakes features the lovely Ali Reynolds, a "police academy-trained former reporter." She is the type of character who can go through just about anything, and still come out looking fabulous, oh and solve the crime or mystery before the police do.

The characters are a bit unbelievable, so is the plot and subplots of the story, but who really cares? It is fiction and an escape from reality. It is a fun read and continues the Ali Reynolds mystery series. Fans of the series will likely love it, and I think newcomers to the series will enjoy it as well. Just don't expect it to be very realistic.

* Thank you to the publisher of Deadly Stakes, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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on April 16, 2013
The reader is expected to dig back in their memory to recall the storyline where Ali was dealing with a cyber-stalker. This book moves forward from that time when Ali meets up again with Lynn Martinson. Once again, Lynn is involved with a questionable man. This time, Chip Ralston's wife is found stabbed to death in the desert. When both Lynn and Chip are arrested for the murder, Lynn's mother proposes to Ali that she checks things out under the guise of being an investigative reporter.

There are two narratives going on in this book, the first presented involves a teen out in the desert looking for a hidden treasure that his ex-con father had buried for him. If it had not been for A.J. being in the same place as the stabbed woman, the body would never have been found. Then during the investigation, the body of James Sanders' (the ex-con father) is found in the same area. Now things are getting a bit twisty. The second storyline involves Chip's mother who is battling Alzheimer's and a sister that refuses to allow Chip near, even though Chip is a renowned Alzheimer's specialist.

Did one storyline help the other or was it just a coincidence that helped to fill in the holes I will never know. What the story does reveal is that if it were not for cyber experts in the name of B. Simpson and his trusty sidekick. Ali could have very well been the next body found in the desert. Then what would the very handy and gun toting Leland Brooks do about his upcoming family reunion.

I know that last part made you say "what". I do hope that JA Jance uses that opportunity to make her next book about Leland and his upcoming trip back home. He is my favorite character of the series and I wish that we could see more of his humor.

I have come this far with the Allison Reynolds series, but I cannot say that I love the books. They are simplistic and predictable and tend to fall into the beach read category for me. Others may not see it that way, but there really is no depth or thought provoking moments in her books.
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on June 21, 2013
Anyone who reads J A Jance's series about Allison Reynolds knows she is a larger than life character and expects her to perform amazing feats. And she does it again. I agree that this book is a little less interesting that her previous but it is still worth reading.
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on November 30, 2014
J.A Jance has become one of my favorite, preferred authors. The Ali Reynolds series is quickly becoming my favorite series of the four she has written: J.P. Beaumont (Seattle, WA Policeman Detective) was her first series, Joanne Brady (Cochise Country, AZ Sheriff; my favorite and my introduction to the southwest when I moved to Cochise County, AZ 3 years ago), and the Walker Family (Pima County (Tucson), AZ Sheriff) is her fourth series are all excellent. Having said that, it would be very difficult for me to decide which of the four series is my favorite. I supposed the favorite would have to be whichever series Jances' latest book is from. Can't wait to read more!

My only other favorite, preferred authors is Kathy Reichs, author of the "Temperance Brennan" or "Bones" series, which I would assume most TV watchers and medical/forensic mystery readers know of. She writes several series as well: Virals (teenage mysteries)' Eposure, Code and Seizure.

As both a retired U.S. Army NCO and forensic psychologist, I find these series extremely engrossing and highly enjoyable. I would recommend them to anyone who has an interest in mystery stories. The Reich series for medical/forensic/police mysteries and J.A. Jance for non-standard Sheriff/police mysteries. They are truly worth your time and energy. And, on Kindle especially, the price is inconsequential.
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on April 16, 2016
I've never met a Jance book I didn't like. Although Beaumont is my favorite, I have come to like ALI quite well. I found this book a bit different but as enjoyable as ever. How can you not love a nun who walks softly but carries a big stick! My only question is how our author keeps her writing fresh after so many books? I am addicted to her books and to her. How can you not love a prolific author who still answers her emails personally?
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on August 5, 2015
The only complaint I have with Jance;s books is the fact that sometimes there are so many characters and it is hard to keep them straight as to who is the bad guy and who is the good one! How about listing them in the front (or back) of the book so the reader can refer to them until they get them into their proper places. In this book there were several different police forces and it was difficult to remember which cop worked for who???
Her books always keep you trying to solve the mystery of who dunnit and that is the hook that keeps you reading!
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