“Blessing of the Lost Girls” is J. A. (Judith Ann) Jance’s latest book. As the title indicates, this novel is about missing and murdered Native American women. Few people realize the problem of these missing and murdered women. While a work of fiction, the fact is many missing and murdered American Indian and Alaskan Native women never receive national attention. In 2021 there were more than 5,000 unsolved cold cases of Indigenous women. Murder is the third-leading cause of death of Indigenous women. This novel helps bring attention to this problem.
New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance has written over 60 mystery novels since 1985. I have read every one of her books and highly recommend them all. Her first series is the J. P. Beaumont series, which features a Seattle police detective. Second is the Sheriff Joanna Brady series set in Cochise County, Arizona. Another involves the Walker family set in Arizona, with influence from the Tohono O’odham Indians. Her fourth is about Ali Reynolds, a former news anchor, with some books set is Los Angeles and some in Arizona.
Occasionally Jance has characters from the different series working together to solve crime. I and many of her fans enjoy seeing our longtime favorite characters join together. “Blessing of the Lost Girls” combines Dan Pardee of the Walker family, who is an agent with MIP (the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force), Sheriff Joanna Brady and Brady’s daughter, Jenny. Dan is the son of a murdered Native American woman, which gives him a special interest in the problem of these missing and murdered Native American women. While this novel is part of a long-term series, the reader will not have trouble joining in the story.
Jance usually begins her novels with the discovery of a dead body. In this book, she begins with the name and details of a serial killer. I usually do not like a mystery that begins this way. But this novel is a testament to the mastery of Jance. She is able to maintain the suspense of the novel and the interest of the reader.
Pardee is assigned to the cold case of Apache descendent Rosa Rios, who disappeared three years ago. He encourages Rosa’s mother to submit Rosa’s dental records to the crime database. A match is made to an unidentified body that was found in Cochise County. Dan contacts Sheriff Brady. Soon, they realize details of the murder match several other unsolved crimes. Dan and Joanna believe Rosa was a victim of a serial killer. One common denominator is that several of the victims had connections to the rodeo circuit. Sheriff Brady’s daughter, Jenny, is part of the rodeo circuit and has potential evidence for the case. Jenny, a criminal justice major, gets involved in the hunt for the killer.
Much of the book is told from the serial killer’s chilling perspective. While the thought process of a serial killer is difficult to read, the details are not graphic and add to the suspense of the novel. Jance includes some of the Tohono O’odham folklore at the beginning of many of the chapters. Jance was a librarian on the Tohono O’odham reservation when she was younger. She likes to bring Native American folklore to her readers.
While J. A. Jance has not received any of the acclaimed mystery writer awards, her work is immensely popular. She has over 21 million copies of her books in print. I love her characters and have followed them over the years through their hardships and joy. I am always excited to see a new book added to a series. I highly recommend all of her novels.
Cathy Lay Mayor grew up in Cullman and graduated from Cullman High School in 1976. She says when she writes book reviews, she tries to remember what Mrs. Gilbert taught her in 11th-grade English. She lived in Dothan for more than 30 years and is married with three adult children and six grandchildren. She retired to Panama City, but still calls Alabama home.