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Today we are really pleased to welcome back New York Times bestselling author, J.A. Jance, to Alternative-Read.com
Unfinished Business by J. A. Jance
Review by Elise Cooper
Unfinished Business by J. A. Jance brings back the Ali Reynolds character. As with all her books Jance knows how to build tension and is a fabulous storyteller. This series, more than her other series, focuses and highlights the characters. In this installment there are three sub-plots: A new character, Mateo, has just been released from prison after sixteen years; a tenant who has anger management problems and sees everything as a humiliation; and Ali’s father who has dementia.
Mateo Vega will hopefully be added to the High Noon Enterprises team and readers can see his character grow in future books. Ali Reynolds and her husband B. Simpson own High Noon Enterprises, a computer security service based in Cottonwood, Arizona. Mateo was accused of killing his girlfriend, and though he was innocent, took a plea to avoid a life sentence. When the board finally paroles him, the only job available is working at a thrift store. Because he was a computer expert, while in prison he kept up his skills and decides to ask his former boss, Stuart Ramey, for a letter of recommendation. Stuart happens to work for High Noon Enterprises and is impressed with Mateo’s skills. Since there is an opening at the firm, Mateo is quickly hired. Just as he begins his new job, another employee goes missing.
The High Noon business complex contains extra offices, which are rented out to tenants for additional income. One renter is Harvey McCluskey, a crooked home inspector who’s two months behind on his rent. Ali and her employee, Cami Lee, go to McClusky’s office to serve an eviction notice, which Cami films on her IPAD. McClusky is embarrassed and infuriated, and vows revenge against the ladies. He kidnaps Cami and plans on torturing her. Needing all hands-on deck, they turn to the artificial intelligence Frigg who can hack into anything. This AI handles everything from background checks to strategic planning and can apply cyber-magic to tracking down Cami’s kidnapper.
While all this is going on Ali must also handle family concerns. Her father, Bob, has dementia, and her mother, Edie, is having a hard time continuing to be his caregiver. They tried hiding the fact that he’s losing his memory and acting out. Edie is exhausted, Bob is depressed, and the couple have been isolating themselves. As the situation goes downhill fast Ali insists that her parents get help.
Serious real-life issues are addressed in this story. The characters make the story come to life and Jance does a wonderful job telling their story. Making a cameo appearance, speaking in the first person instead of the book’s normal third person, is J. P. Beaumont, the retired detective who is now solving cold cases. Fans of Beaumont will understand how his presence is only enhanced with first person narratives. This does not affect the flow of the story which is very fast paced.
Elise Cooper: J. P. Beaumont makes an appearance?
J. A. Jance: I have two publishers, the Ali books belong to Simon & Schuster, while all the other books belong to Harper Collins. One of the new characters, Mateo Vega, has a case that strands both Arizona and Washington. I thought, who better to help solve the case than my perfectly good cold case guy, Beaumont. I negotiated a peace treaty between the two publishers to let Beaumont visit Ali’s world.
EC: Even though the Beaumont parts of the books were written in the first person it melted into the story?
JAJ: I wrote in the first person, so the readers understand his point of view, where he is coming from and what he is thinking. The Ali books are written in the third person. I tried to write him in the third person for this story, but he said, ‘no way Jose.’ After a few days of absolute frustration, I gave up. My new editor at Simon & Schuster never read a Beaumont book and tried to change his voice to third person. The moment I read that part I realized he was no longer this living, breathing character but was suddenly a cardboard cut-out. I hope readers will give it a chance and see that it ties into the story.
EC: This is a character-based story?
JAJ: As I write a story I am always interested in the people, what makes them tick before and after this awful event that happened in their life.
EC: How would you describe Cami Lee?
JAJ: She has been front and center in several of the books. She is strong and partially based on my two granddaughters. These little girls started their lives in orphanages in China before they came to the US as adoptees. When I am writing about Cami, I have my two granddaughters tip toeing in the back of my mind. Cami is tiny but tough.
EC: You have a new character, Mateo?
JAJ: I am pretty sure he is a keeper. He got his second chance after being incarcerated for sixteen years. In future books we will see how he lives his second chance. He is remarkable, smart, a hard worker, helpful, and values friendships.
EC: How would you describe the Artificial Intelligence Frigg?
JAJ: When I was writing one of my books my husband suggested I write about an AI. Even though I knew nothing about it I wrote Frigg into a story. She started as the partner of a want- to-be serial killer. Now she is trying to conform, but still working outside the lines. After I finished Man Overboard, the book that introduced Frigg, I thought she was done for, but my editor did not want me to kill her. So, I had her switch her allegiance to Stuart Ramey who works for High Noon Enterprises. Now she also offers comic relief in the books. She does not have a good grasp of acronyms and they go over her computer head.
EC: How would you describe Harvey “Broomy” McCluskey?
JAJ: He was disturbing from the beginning. The reader knew the High Noon folks were in jeopardy long before those working there knew. He turned out that way because of his environment. His mother was mean; I based her on my parental grandmother. All three had anger issues, were easily humiliated, never took responsibility, and held grudges. I came to realize now how my grandmother influenced the writing of these characters. I did not see the resemblance between Broomy, his mother, and my grandma Busk until you asked the question.
EC: You have a quote in the book about dementia?
JAJ: You are referring to this one: “Lucid and rational one minute to off the charts the next.” I spent several months the last year corresponding with a woman who had to put her husband into a memory care facility due to dementia. She cared for him at home until she could no longer do it. She died six months after he did. The cost on the caretakers’ health is insufferable. I was thinking of her in the back of my mind as I was writing these scenes. Seeing what happened to Ali’s mom was sad yet realistic.
EC: What about your next book?
JAJ: It will be out about March 2022. Its title is Nothing To Lose, a J. P. Beaumont book. In an earlier novel, number fourteen, Breach of Duty, his partner Sue Danielson dies in an act of domestic violence. Her two young sons were sent to live with her parents in Ohio. But the younger son decides to find the other set of grandparents in Alaska. Now grown up, he has gone missing, and his older brother asks Beau to help find his younger brother.
Unfinished Business by J. A. Jance
In this heart-pounding and sharply written thriller from J.A. Jance, the “grand master of the genre” (The Providence Journal), Ali Reynolds’s personal life is thrown into turmoil just as two men show up on the scene–a former employee of her husband’s who has just been released from prison and a serial killer who sets his sights a little too close to home.
Mateo Vega, a one-time employee of Ali Reynold’s husband, B. Simpson, has spent the last sixteen years of his life behind bars. According to the courts, he murdered his girlfriend. But Mateo knows that her real killer is still on the loose, and the first thing he’s going to do when he gets a taste of freedom is track him down.
After being granted parole, a wary Mateo approaches Stu Ramey of High Noon Enterprises for a reference letter for a job application, but to his surprise, Stu gives him one better: He asks him to come on board and work for B. once again. Just as Mateo starts his new job, though, chaos breaks out at High Noon–a deadbeat tenant who is in arrears has just fled, and tech expert Cami Lee has gone missing.
As Ali races to both find a connection between the two disappearances and help Mateo clear his name with the help of PI J.P. Beaumont, tragedy strikes in her personal life, and with lives hanging in the balance, she must thread the needle between good and evil before it’s too late.