Book of the Day
*This review is a re-post from this summer. Look for the review of her new novel, Proof of Life, tomorrow!
Falling victim to a Ponzi scheme and losing everything you’ve worked for all your life is a terrifying prospect. In J.A. Jance’s latest Ali Reynolds book, Clawback (Touchstone), Ali’s elderly father learns his good friend’s investment company has been shut down by the SEC and all assets seized for distribution to creditors. Bob Larson and his wife have just lost their entire life savings with no hope of recouping anything. When Bob decides to confront his friend, he walks in on a double homicide and quickly becomes the number one suspect in the murders. Ali learns of his plight and resolves to not only clear her father’s name but recover some of the stolen and missing funds.
Clawback is told from several points of view, each with a stake in the mystery—the bad guys who are trying to flee with the funds, the loyal employee who hopes to salvage the firm’s and her own reputation, and of course, Ali and her parents. There are minor points that stretch the bounds of believability. After Bob is cuffed and taken to the police station, rather than ask for a lawyer, he twice volunteers the story of how he found the bodies. This seems so naïve as to be almost manipulative. The detective who orders him not to leave town has been watching too many Perry Mason reruns—the police have no authority to regulate the movements of someone who is not under arrest or in custody, and at that point, Bob is a free man.
But as usual, Jance does enough well that the reader will overlook these small glitches. The Larsons’ plight is compelling and frightening. America is not a country where being elderly and destitute is a desirable situation, and the Larsons’ refusal to wallow in their misfortune makes it easy to root for them. High Noon Enterprises, Ali’s firm, is staffed with computer experts the rest of us can only sit in awe of, but what will ultimately crack this case is good old-fashioned brains and legwork.
The Ali Reynolds series is one of three in Jance’s repertoire. Like Jance’s J.P. Beaumont, Ali has enough money to do the things she needs to do and remains likable and relatable. If a reader happens to pick up a random book rather than follow the series chronologically, Jance does an excellent job bringing together characters from previous books without spoiling the rest of the series. If Clawback is your first Ali Reynolds book, it probably won’t be your last.
Laura Stewart Schmidt: A lifelong reader and writer, inspired as a child by Harriet the Spy and Emily of New Moon. She minored in criminal justice in the hope that it would make her a more effective and knowledgeable mystery writer. Her Young Adult novel, Sweeter Than Life, was published by Martin Sisters Publishing in 2015. She has spent several years working as a community education coordinator, encouraging parents to read to their preschoolers and starting reading clubs for middle-school students. She also worked as a family court advocate for at-risk youth and parents suffering from substance addiction. Laura is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.