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12 September 2013

J A Jance: Second Watch

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A fascinating 'prequel' to a long running series
Authors find it difficult to keep up the momentum with a long running popular series. Over nearly 30 years J A Jance has written 21 books in the J P Beaumont series and in this book she has found a way to keep her series young by writing a fascinating prequel where "Beau" looks back at his early life, especially his early days as a detective in the Seattle PD and his time in Vietnam.

Beau is getting old and has opted for knee replacement surgery after years of discomfort. To get it all over at once his doctor agrees to do both knees at the same time. When waking up from surgery under very strong pain killing medication he is visited by people from his past who look real and speak to him about things that happened a long time ago. Are they drug induced hallucinations? No one else sees them but they are so real to Beau and bring back some things from his early life that continue to haunt him.

The first visitor is a lovely girl, Monica, who was the victim in his first homicide investigation. During a routine Sunday afternoon "Second Watch" Beau was first on the scene when her naked body was found in a barrel of waste cooking oil. Beau had promised her parents that he would find the killer but despite intensive investigations the case is still unsolved. He knows that he must reopen the case and hope that new forensic technology may provide some answers.

Beau is also visited by his commander in Vietnam, charismatic and natural leader Lieutenant Lennie Davis who saved Beau's life but lost his life in the process. This reopens the unhealed wounds of a Vietnam veteran and Beau vows to track down the fiancé that Davis was never able to marry. In doing so Jance explores explores the loss, heartbreak and personal cost of the Vietnam War. It is even more telling because the story is based on the the real Lennie Davis, who Jance knew at high school.

Jance has made Beau young again with this clever prequel which connects the past to the present. Other authors have written prequels (Lee Child/Jack Reacher, Daniel Silva/Gabriel Allon, and Vince Flynn/Mitch Rapp) but this is the most unusual, clever, and moving of these kind of prequels that I have read.

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