Birds of Prey: A Novel of Suspense

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9780380974078: Birds of Prey: A Novel of Suspense

A survivor of childhood trauma, two marriages, twenty hard years with the Seattle Police Department, and the bottle, Jonas Piedmont Beaumont has spent far too much time trolling the darker waters of human nature. In the wake of a devastating professional tragedy, he has decided, at long last, to pull the pin. But there is no safety in semiretirement for a man who, long ago, chose to make a violent world his home.

Temporarily at leisure, Beau has agreed to chaperon his newly wed grandmother on her honeymoon cruise to the Gulf of Alaska. His time aboard the Starfire Breeze is meant to be an enjoyable diversion, a respite to allow some deep psychological wounds a chance to heal in the bright sun and clear, crisp northern sea air. It also places him squarely in the sights of a feisty group of middle-aged divorc&eacutees.

But death is everywhere, even at sea. Beau's brief idyll is abruptly shaken when one of his new admirers, mysteriously disappears -- and is shattered when a security videotape shows her taking a fatal fall overboard. Like it or not, the burden of investigating a heinous crime is once again on Beau's shoulders. And this one is carrying the seasoned detective into uncommonly dark and dangerous waters. Adrift a thousand miles from home, J. P. Beaumont suddenly finds himself submerged in a terrifying conspiracy that, if allowed to proceed unchecked, could have disastrous consequences, not only for Beau and his shipmates, but for the future of the world they all hope to return to.

In Birds of Prey, J. A. Jance masterfully demonstrates her rare and winning ability to combine riveting suspense, intelligence, vivid color, and poignant humanity into one magnificent whole. No one in her field is better at exploring mortal strengths and frailties while exposing the complex shades of evil that can shroud the human soul.

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Review:

After 20 years in the Seattle Police Department, J.P. Beaumont has been put out to pasture. The hero of 14 J.A. Jance crime novels has called it quits after the murder of his partner. But if Beau is out to pasture, what is he doing out at sea? Beau is on the Starfire Breeze, an Alaskan cruise ship, "for one reason and one reason only: to serve as my newlywed grandmother's chaperon."

He's also getting mistaken for a gold-digging gigolo by a band of middle-aged divorcées, led by one Margaret Featherman, who carries an anything-but- featherlight grudge against her ex-husband, successful neurosurgeon Harrison Featherman. Is it just a coincidence (as both claim) that Margaret and Harrison are on the same cruise ship? Or that Margaret is doing her best to seduce one of her husband's patients, who in turn has a crush on the good doctor's daughter?

But the biggest potential coincidence of all is a horrific one, when Margaret is pushed overboard into the icy Alaskan waters. The only witness to the murder is an Alzheimer's victim. But when Beau starts poking around (after mistaken identity issue number two, in which the captain conveniently assumes he's an FBI agent), he discovers that Harrison was himself the target of a conservative medical ethics group with a deadly agenda. As the ship moves slowly amidst the icebergs, Beau finds out that there's a lot hidden under these particular waters.

When Jance concentrates on the mechanics of her story, this Beaumont novel is perfectly entertaining. But when she strives for sentiment (or humor), her style tends toward an aw-shucks ham-handedness. Here's Beau talking about his partner, killed by an abusive ex-husband: "Her sons are orphans, and no amount of psychobabble from Dr. Majors is going to change that. No amount of talking it over and 'getting it out of my system' will alter the fact that Sue won't be there to see her boys graduate from high school or college. She'll never be the mother of the groom at a wedding or have the chance to cradle a newborn grandchild in her arms." If Beau is thinking about coming out of retirement, one hopes he'll stick to the basics. --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

J. A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, and five interrelated thrillers about the Walker family, as well as a volume of poetry. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.

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