Jance weaves two plots together in ‘Proof of Life’

By: 
Jan Jones
Columnist

It’s been a long time since I read anything by J.A. Jance. “Proof of Life” is one of a long list of books featuring J.P. Beaumon. As one of her earliest works, it contains information about Beau’s history, including his marriages and career as a Seattle police detective.

In this book, Beau has retired, gotten his knees replaced and become very restless. Finally sober, he has mended fences with his adult children. With an inheritance from his second wife, he purchased a penthouse condo in downtown Seattle. It suited his bachelor needs but needed serious upgrades when he married former partner Mel Soames.

To escape from the chaos of the city, they also have a small home in Bellingham where Mel is now chief of police. The book contains two storylines. In one, Mel has agreed to foster a very large dog named Rambo. Its family is in “no dogs” safe housing after a vicious domestic abuse incident. Beau is skeptical but does his best to care for her and soon befriends a homeless man and his big dog at the dog-walk near the condo.

The second plot opens when Max Cole approaches them at a restaurant. He and Beau have a contentious relationship but remain civil. Max was once a famous online reporter, but it is obvious that the old man isn’t well at all. He tells Beau that he is writing a book that will include allegations of wrongdoing by some powerful people in the Seattle Police Department. He also hints that his life could be in danger.

The next night there’s a fire at Max’s house and he is dead. Beau is surprised to get a note from Max’s goddaughter, Erin, asking him to attend the funeral. Beau knows Erin through an old and tangled cash that also involved Max. She wants Beau to investigate Max’s death. Beau isn’t a private investigator, but he does have some contacts in the police and fire departments.

It doesn’t take long to find tidbits that point to a former nemesis, Lawrence Harden. His late wife was the former mayor and ran a very successful antique shop featuring imported treasures. He is now married to a tiny woman named Bian Duong. Using old contacts, Beau goes to Max’s house and notes that all electronics are missing but suspects they’ll find fingerprints on the power cables. They belong to a young man named Duc Nyguen. He had been with Max the night he died but was killed in a hit and run only hours later.

As he follows clues, Beau learns that Rambo is actually a very well-trained guard dog named Lucy. After he learned how to work with her, Lucy became a joy to be with.

The trail leads him to Lawrence Harden’s stepson. He was living at a home for chronic addicts when he met Max. His body was found on Harden’s doorstep, dead from alcohol poisoning. Odd, since he’s been sober almost a month.

Beau’s stubborn digging ruffles feathers at the Police Department until Detective Kevin Blaylock is gunned down. Now Beau is convinced that all four deaths somehow lead to Lawerence Hardin’s door.

His guess is close but off by one. The real culprit is Bian Duong. She has been running an illegal drug and gun business out of the antique shop and masterminding cold blooded murders. She’s also been keeping Lawrence drugged claiming he had dementia.

As that case is wrapping up Mel and Lucy are attacked by the man who terrorized his family. He manages to stab Lucy before the homeless man’s dog, Billie Bob, brings him down. Miraculously, Lucy survives her wounds and her family agrees to let Beau and Mel keep her as they hope to adopt a much smaller dog for their new home.

Over a lifetime I’ve noticed that even the smallest kindness can create positive results. Good things really do ripple out.

AT A GLANCE

Book: Proof of Life (A J.P. Beaumont Mystery)

Author: J.A. Jance

Publisher: William Morrow

Year published: 2017

Number of pages: 368