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BIRDS OF PREY


by J. A. Jance

William Morrow & Co. (2001)
ISBN: 0-380-974407-X

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

The latest installment in the J. P. Beaumont series is okay. Just okay. Not great. Not good. But better than no J. P. Beaumont book at all. It saddens me to say that. I usually like J. A. Jance's writing. Even the non-Beaumont books. But this time out, the pizzazz just isn't there.

For starters, Beaumont is no longer a policeman. (The book is being marketed as suspense rather than a police procedural.) He's "under employed" -- without a job, but looking for one, when he reluctantly agrees to accompany his grandmother -- yes, grandmother -- on her honeymoon -- yes, honeymoon -- an Alaskan cruise.

Several friends who read the galley before I got to it complained that they didn't like Beaumont out of the Seattle setting. Not a problem for me. I've always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise so I thought I'd really enjoy this setting. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting into the book. I read the opening pages five or six times before I could get far enough into the book where Beaumont appeared. And even then, I found the secondary characters both annoying and uninteresting. I had to force myself to keep reading. Eventually things smoothed out and my interest picked up. But frankly, had this been an author I was unfamiliar with, I would never have gotten beyond the opening pages.

Diehard fans will no doubt cut the author some slack and read the book despite my grumblings, but this is no place to start if you are new to the series. I sincerely hope that by the next J. P. Beaumont outing, the author will be back on track with the caliber of writing her fans have come to expect. When she's good, she an outstanding storyteller. When she's bad, she's only okay.

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