Until Proven Guilty (J.P. Beaumont #1) by J.A. Jance

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“The little girl was a treasure who should have been cherished, not murdered. She was only five – too young to die – and Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont of the Seattle Police Department isn’t going to rest until her killer pays dearly. But Beaumont’s own obsessions and demons could prove dangerous companions in a murky world of blind faith and religious fanaticism. and he is about to find that he himself is the target of a twisted passion…and a love that can kill.”

-Synopsis from back of the book


*spoilers ahead*

I want to start by saying that I enjoyed this book and thought it was a great read. I recently read Desert Heat by J.A. Jance, and that made me want to circle back to some of her other books, (the Beaumont series, the Ali Reynolds series) just for fun.

I always like to start books from the beginning of the series – there is simply no other way to read a series in my opinion, unless you mistakenly read them out of order (which I have done before, and I really hate).

I really liked Desert Heat, thus my expectations for Until Proven Guilty were a little high. Were they met? I’m not sure, only because the book I thought this was from the beginning, turned out to not be the same book by the ending.

The synopsis tells me this book is about a murder, religious fanaticism, and that we are being introduced to Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont who has a dark past and gets caught up in this case in a way that makes him a target of the killer. That is definitely a book I want to read.

The first few chapters were great. I was so ready to read about this secretive cult and watch J.P. Beaumont and his partner Ron Peters investigate the so-called church that the murdered girl was a member of.

“The easiest ones to solve are the hardest ones to understand, the husband and lovers and wives and parents who murder the people they ought to cherish instead of kill. The random killers, the ones who pick out a victim at a football game or a grocery store, are easier to comprehend and harder to catch. That’s the problem with homicide.”

-J.A. Jance, Until Prove Guilty

Then Anne Corley comes in, and her character takes over the rest of the book. Don’t get me wrong, in hindsight I see that Anne Corley’s mission was an honorable one. She wanted to bring justice for the children who suffered at the hands of adults. Why would you not support that mission?

But the way she is introduced she becomes shrouded in suspicion and I, as the reader, was not on her side for the majority of the book. I was waiting for Beaumont to wake up and realize how much he was compromising this case by spilling every detail to her.

But the plot completely shifted away from the religious cult, and although Anne Corley was involved in the initial murder and subsequent murders, it felt like if there was no real connection to the cult, then why tease the reader by making them think that’s what it was going to be about? Am I supposed to like Anne Corley after all of that? I think so, but I still feel indifferent towards her because of how she played Beaumont, not to mention I don’t think it did his character any favors to have him look that weak.

If one plot or the other had happened (either we are investigating this cult, or Anne Corley is in town to mess with J.P. Beaumont) then I may have liked the story more; or, if Anne Corley had been introduced in the beginning and been characterized differently, I could have been on her side from the get-go.

The rushed marriage, all the secrets, why was J.P. Beaumont okay with that? I want to think that it was “normal” for the times (this book was first published in 1985) but everyone around him thought he was rushing things, so all it did was make it look like he was being extremely gullible.

Despite all of that, the way I rate books is based on the writing, how motivated I was to finish it, and whether it kept my interest. I really enjoyed the writing in Until Proven Guilty, and I found the story to be compelling. So I’m giving it a five-star rating for those reasons. But, based on some other Goodreads reviews, I think other readers had similar issues with the plot swinging back and forth.

Am I going to read the rest of the J.P. Beaumont series? There’s a good chance I will be circling back to this series in the future. I just really enjoy Jance’s writing style, and I will never not be in the mood for a good thriller/mystery.

I plan to read the first Ali Reynold’s book, Edge of Evil, soon and then decide which series to continue with. There’s no reason why I can’t read both or all three, but out of these two I’m leaning towards continuing with the Joanna Brady books.

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