By Phyllis Seesengood
JOPLIN, Mo. —
“Betrayal of Trust” is No. 20 in the “J.P. Beaumont” series but this novel was my first venture into reading any of J.A. Jance’s books and she has written at least two other series. This mystery may be read as a stand-alone, but reading some of the preceding novels should provide some interesting background on the characters.
“Betrayal of Trust” grips you from the start as J.P. Beaumont and Mel Soames are summoned to an audience with the attorney general of Washington state. Beaumont and Mel are married partners and both are Seattle detectives who work with the attorney general’s homicide team.
The attorney general shows the pair a smartphone containing what appears to be a snuff film of a teenage girl being strangled with a scarf. The phone belongs to Josh Deeson, the 15-year-old step-grandson of Washington Gov. Marsha Longmire.
The governor has two daughters from a previous marriage. The governor’s husband, Gerard Willis, had brought Josh to live with them after Josh’s mother died of a drug overdose. Josh turned out to be a troubled teenager, tormented by classmates at school and possibly a victim of cyberbullying.
Life had not been easy at the mansion since Josh came to live there. The governor had confiscated Josh’s phone after catching Josh sneaking back into the governor’s mansion after being out all night. When Longmire discovered the video on the phone, she immediately contacted the attorney general, hoping to keep the matter quiet until an investigation was over.
Beaumont and Mel question Josh but he denies knowing the girl or anything about the video; however, they find the scarf used to strangle the young girl under his mattress. Josh is clearly considered the prime suspect in her murder.
Later Josh is found dead ÑÊa presumed suicide. Did Josh kill himself because of guilt or were there other reasons? Beaumont isn’t convinced that Josh murdered the girl, but he still thinks there must be a connection between Josh and the video.
After the body of the murdered girl is found floating in a pond, Beaumont and Mel discover that she has a link to Janie’s House, a place for troubled and poor teens. It is there that they see the connection to Josh’s suicide. Is it possible that Josh could also be the victim of a crime?
As part of another plotline, Beaumont discovers the truth about his past. Early on in the novel, he receives a text message from a woman who claims to have information about a father he never knew; however, he sets aside this information so he can concentrate fully on solving the girl’s murder.
The prolific Jance tells a fast-paced story full of plot twists and surprises. The author treats contemporary issues of bullying, troubled teens, social networking, politics and predatory adults in an insightful and sensitive manner.
Realistic and lively characters populate this well-written mystery. J.P. Beaumont is a likable and complex character, and I fully intend to read more of this series as time permits.
This latest mystery is available at the Joplin Public Library in book and audiobook formats.