For more years than I can remember, I've been a fan of J.A. Jance's J.P. Beaumont mysteries. Beaumont, known to his friends as Beau, is a recovering alcoholic, a former Seattle cop turned private investigator. The stories are written in the first person, as all good detective novels should be. It was not until years later that I realized that J.A. Jance is a woman writing in the persona of a man, and carrying it off seamlessly (no mean feat). Somewhat later in her career, Jance started a second series featuring Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady. The Brady mysteries are written in the third person, and they have an entirely different feel, both in terms of gender and level of grittiness.
Jance's latest novel, Partner in Crime, (Morrow, $24.95, 384 pages, ISBN 0380977303) winner of this month's Tip of the Ice Pick Award for best mystery novel, addresses a longtime desire of fans, namely that Beau and Joanna meet. It would be fair to say that both detectives are of the type-A personality, and fireworks are inevitable when they get together.
When a murder in Arizona turns out to have connections to a Washington state civil case, Beaumont is assigned to the investigation by the state Attorney General. Little does he realize that his trip will launch the biggest turf war since the days of Wyatt Earp. Adversaries at first sight, Beaumont and Brady must forge a working relationship or shoot it out at the OK Corral! Interestingly, the parts of Partner in Crime featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady are written in the third person, while the Beau Beaumont parts are written in the first person, which is a thought-provoking device, and less confusing than it might seem at first blush. Nashville-based writer Bruce Tierney is a lifelong mystery reader who was weaned on the Hardy Boys.