Cruel Intent is a murder mystery by J A Jance featuring her Ali Reynolds character. This was my first Jance novel and it will also be my last.
0 out of 10 stars.
There are several issues with the writing of this book which explains why the hardcover was so darned cheap. While most murder mysteries focus on the murder, this novel totally focuses on Ali as a person and she’s quite unlikable. That makes for a very slow read. The author’s writing style is to tell the reader a story rather than to show them. Very little action, but a lot of telling us how Ali feels about things. On many pages, practically every other sentence begins with a participle phrase. In fact, it begins the first line of the novel: Sipping a cup of freshly brewed Colombian blend… The story is told from the point of view of more than 30 characters. If anyone anywhere had an interesting or not so interesting thought, their point of view will eventually appear, right down to the bus driver who drove the victims’ kids to school, the valet at the parking garage, and anyone else. Many of the facts about the murder aren’t shown, they’re told and often told through Ali’s viewpoint. They are so obscured by her warped value system that it’s difficult to make out what actually happened rather than what she thinks happened. There are pages and pages and pages devoted solely to a backstory dump of everything that’s ever previously happened in Ali’s life. The murder mystery part of this novel takes up less than one fifth of its pages, so it’s a very boring read unless you’re rich, like toying with men, and hate women which is Ali’s prevailing attitude.
Since fourth-fifths of the novel is about Ali and only one-fifth is about the actual series of murders, I’ll review the novel the same way.
Ali Reynolds is about fifty and widowed. She’s wealthy and a snob. Her son Chris doesn’t like her and neither does his fiance, an amputee who Ali disapproves of because she’s not “whole”. Her parents run a diner and Ali treats them as though they are beneath her, but never fails to visit them for free food. Chris is very close with his grandparents who have fallen in love with his fiance. Currently, Ali has bought a very expensive mansion to be renovated which includes a butler, Leland, who waits on Ali hand and foot. She sits around all day long watching the workers work. But she calls this working when she berates other women for not having jobs. She has a blog that she started when her husband left her and then was murdered. In the blog, she felt sorry for herself and whined about everything he had done to her. Now other women in the same boat write in and tell their stories. Her advice is to stop whining and get a job, the same advice she gives to women who are the victims of serious domestic abuse and trying to protect their children. After a lot of this advice, her readers left her blog and went elsewhere, so she handed the blog over to someone else and only logs in occasionally to sound superior and tell women she knows nothing but that they should stop whining and get jobs. Ali was dating one of the town cops, Dave Holman, who she decided to take a break from. Now that he’s spending all his time with his daughters, she’s angry and jealous and very bitter. The contractor in charge of her renovations, Bryan Forester, is now accused of murdering his wife Morgan. Ali has zero interest in the two seven year old twins left without parents. She does have an interest in spending time with the cop investigating the murder, Dave, and in getting Bryan off so he can finish her renovations. This is what 280 pages of this novel are about. The entire life history of this shell of a woman.
The murder mystery which is a little more interesting is about a serial killer named Peter Winter who has thus far murdered five pretty thin blondes who cheated on their husbands. He started with his wife Rita and now chooses women who look just like her: Candace Miller, Melanie Tyler, Debra Longworth, and Morgan Forester. Morgan, interestingly enough, wasn’t just cheating on her husband with Peter, who went by the name James O’Connor. She was also cheating on her husband with Mathew Morrison who thinks her name is Susan Callison. That further complicates this mystery. Peter’s secret is that he keeps souvenirs of his murders: photos of them before and after he murders them, and a key ring with their wedding rings on it.
The rest of the novel is a lot of overdescribing everything and nonsense that has nothing to do with anything except the author is padding her book. <Sigh>
Winters has planted enough evidence to frame both the husband, Bryan, and her other lover, Morrison, which makes it difficult for the cop, Dave, to get a handle on who really did it. Halfway through the novel, not much had happened in the way of the murder mystery. It was mostly about Ali.
I hate giving novels 0 stars because the plot, the pacing, and the writing have to all be pretty bad to give that low of a rating. But this is a case where the writing was bad, the plot was thin and poorly-paced, and the protagonist of the book was someone I absolutely hated. Too much of Ali’s feelings are constantly interjected into the storyline until everything is about Ali and her very repugnant opinions on women. If I get this bitter and hateful toward other women when I get this old, someone please shoot me.
0 out of 10 stars.
Reviewed by Jill (a proud homemaker and stay-at-home mom).