It’s said that the term posh is an acronym derived from sea travel from Britain to India, a mnemonic for “portside out/starboard home,” meaning, book a ship cabin on the left for the outward voyage and on the right coming home for the best views. I was reminded of that advice when on the Verde Canyon Railway, sitting in a first-class car, the Sycamore, on the portside. As it turned out, starboard would have been the better choice for views of the canyon, river, and historical sites. The “port” side was usually a rock wall on the journey from Clarkdale to Perkinsville.
Still, the journey provided the opportunity to finish a J. A. Jance novel set in nearby Sedona, Trial by Fire (2009), which features Ali Reynolds, a former LA reporter who has returned to her hometown following the murder of her estranged husband (leaving her independently wealthy, which is always helpful to a narrator). In
the previous four novels, Reynolds manages to help solve several crimes, and some of those characters (but not the criminals) reappear in this tale. The set-up is that she has been hired on a temporary basis to handle media relations for the county police station, which introduces not only Sedona but also Cottonwood, the Village of Oak Creek, and other towns that the traveler may visit.
Reynolds helps solve an arson fire in which a woman is critically injured and a Klee painting is destroyed. Along the way, she encounters Sister Anselm, termed the “angel of death” as she functions as a patient advocate for those who most likely will not survive. This thriller includes disguises, car chases, and unethical journalists.
Jance is a best-selling author, known primarily for her Joanna Brady mysteries, and Ali Reynolds doesn’t seem to come up to the mark in comparison. Still, this novel may be a guilty pleasure for reading set in the beautiful red rock country of Sedona, Arizona—although perhaps more guilty than pleasure.