Skip to main content

Day Of The Dead


Day Of The Dead

J.A. Jance is primarily known for two series: one involving Seattle
homicide detective J.P Beaumont and the other concerning Cochise
County, Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady. DAY OF THE DEAD returns
Jance's readers to yet another of her creations --- ex-sheriff
Brandon Walker --- in a tale that touches, albeit briefly, on
Jance's own past.

Jance and her family were, unknown to them at the time, the
intended targets of a serial killer in 1970. DAY OF THE DEAD itself
begins with a grisly vignette from 1970, when two Arizona highway
workers make a horrible discovery. The victim is a teenaged girl
named Roseanne Orozco; her murder goes unsolved for over thirty
years, until her mother, Emma, goes to Walker for help. Walker is
now part of a private foundation known as The Last Chance (TLC),
which investigates cold, unsolved murder cases at the behest of the
survivors. Walker's dogged, painstaking investigation unearths a
trail of similar murders, all of them sharing an unspeakable
methodology and a lack of discernible clues.

DAY OF THE DEAD is not a mystery. The reader learns early on who
the murderer is --- actually, it's murderers. Larry and Gayle
Stryker are pillars of the community, running a charitable medical
foundation that has provided them with a lavish lifestyle and an
inexhaustible supply of young victims. Their arrangement --- he
tortures the victims, she murders them, he cleans up the scene ---
is chilling, all the more so because we only get a hint here and
there of how they came to be. The meat of the story is if, and how,
Walker will discover who and what the Strykers are. The story is
played out against the backdrop of the Arizona desert and the
Tohono O'odham reservation, with the occasionally uneasy melding of
the Indian and European cultures.

Those who have not read HOUR OF THE HUNTER and KISS OF THE BEES,
the first two Brandon Walker novels, may find parts of DAY OF THE
DEAD rough sledding. While Jance makes an admirable attempt to fill
in parts of the backstory, it occasionally interrupts the flow of
the present narrative. Jance's talent is such, however, that one is
compelled to keep reading even through the occasional rough spots.
There are multiple reasons for this --- the Strykers, TLC, the
cultural differences, and Walker's stoic determination to see his
investigation through --- so that what results is a novel that is a
compelling, if momentarily confusing, read.

Brandon Walker, in the short space of three novels, may well be on
his way to becoming Jance's most memorable character. Fans of
Jance's two other series who have not availed themselves of the
Walker novels should do so, and DAY OF THE DEAD is a major reason
why. Recommended.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

Day Of The Dead
by J.A. Jance

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0688138233
  • ISBN-13: 9780688138233