I’m still on the fence about this series. I can see the promise, and I’ve read Jance’s other series, set in Bisbee, Arizona and featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady, which I really like. But man, this one is showing its age and NOT IN A GOOD WAY, fellow readers.
I have read the first two books at some point, so I restarted here, at book 3. Let’s talk about the 1980’s, shall we? Trial by Fury (really terrible title, btw), was published in 1986, 2 years after I graduated from high school. I was either 19 or 20 when this book was published.
There are several plot points which look just incredibly tone deaf today. J.P. Beaumont himself is a misogynist asshat, and there is a whole (important) side plot which I am about to spoil in annoyance.
If you ever intend to read this book (and I don’t necessarily recommend that you do) you should skip the next part of the review. I couldn’t figure out to use spoiler tags, so sorry.
There’s a plot line about a group of cheerleaders who are making a game of “seducing” the teachers in order to win some sort of an unidentified prize. The book put the entire responsibility for this enterprise on the teenage girls, acting as though the men were entirely blameless in the entire thing. This is a very 1980’s attitude. It also ignores completely the fact that these were grown-ass men – and men in positions of authority – who had a responsibility to, I don’t know, NOT fuck students.
So, yeah, that brought back memories of the slut-shaming and misogyny of my high school years.
Anyway, moving on to book 4!
Slightly better title for this one, in my opinion. The book itself still had issues – there was slightly less overt misogyny, but we had the delightful opportunity to revel in Beaumont’s homophobia. Ah, 1989: the height of the AIDS crisis, when people still openly attributed AIDS to God’s hatred of gay sex.
The mystery itself was better than the last book, and was interesting, although the ending was dumb.
So, why am I continuing to read this series, you might ask? Well, they are set in Seattle, which is a favorite city of mine. I moved to the PNW (Portland, not Seattle) in 1989, the year that she published book 4, and I’m really curious to see if and/or how she weaves in the grunge years and Seattle’s creative explosion, which is about to happen and which had an echo effect on my hometown of Portland.
Also, as I mentioned, I like her Joanna Brady series, which doesn’t show nearly as much of the misogyny and homophobia as these books. She didn’t start writing that series until 1993, so it has slightly less unreconstructed redneckery. I’m curious to see how she redeems J.P. Beaumont, and he really does need some redemption.