cover image Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire

J. A. Jance, . . Touchstone, $25.99 (357pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-6380-8

In bestseller Jance's middling fifth Ali Reynolds thriller (after Cruel Intent ), the ex–TV journalist takes over a media-relations job at the county police department in her hometown of Sedona, Ariz., after the previous flack is sent on administrative leave for misconduct. Soon after being fitted for the mandatory Kevlar vest, Ali goes to the site of a subdivision fire that has left an unidentified woman in critical condition. All signs point to arson, but the fire's amnesia-ridden survivor is the only one who knows the truth. With the help of a hospital nurse who's also a nun, Ali—mostly undercover in a red wig in the hospital's burn unit waiting room—slowly pieces together the victim's identity and her relationship to the fire. That Ali is essentially cast as a stenographer, surreptitiously transcribing the conversations of those visiting the victim's room, narrows the window for heart-racing action. A desert shoot-out tacked on toward the end adds some excitement. (Dec.)