When the high school principal goes missing, little does Sheriff Joanna Brady realize that the case is going to involve her family. First her own daughter Jenny is the one who finds the principal’s body while out horseback riding one morning. Then a photograph of the crime scene is posted on several kids’ Facebook pages and Joanna realizes that photograph could only have come from Jenny. When a second murder occurs during a charity event that her mother is chairing, Joanna begins to look for a connection between the two victims. The only problem is that the principal, Deborah Highsmith kept to herself and appeared to not have any local friends so finding her next of kin and trying to find out anything about her was difficult. A call in the middle of the night from someone who saw the news story brought more startling news-the victim was not who she claimed to be. At this point the plot begins to take a turn that could have easily become too over the top to be believable, but fortunately, Jance managed to weave the victims’ stories together in a fascinating tale with several unexpected twists.
Readers get a lot of family versus work issues in this book and it’s done in a good way. The fact that Joanna’s daughter is involved puts Joanna’s personal life front and center throughout this book. Her struggles to be a full-time Sheriff as well as a mother to her teenaged daughter and toddler son work to make Joanna seem more real to readers. Another plot line in the book also involves Joanna’s personal life. Readers of the series know her father was killed by a drunk driver when she was young. Butch, Joanna’s husband, is reading her father’s journals, and stumbles on to some things that put her father’s death in a different light and brings her closer to closure with some of the more unpleasant things her parents lives.
While it is not necessary to have read all of the pervious books in the series, I think readers would want to have read some of them at least to get a feel for the characters. The author does however give a pretty good thumbnail sketch of the back-story throughout this book, so it would be possible to start with Judgment Call, the fifteenth book featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady. I have to say, probably my favorite of the series so far.