J. A. Jance, who has a passion and penchant for working the dogs in her lives into her stories, has done it again with Bella, the Where-Did-You-Come-From Dog.
Melissa Gramstad at Simon & Schuster sent the novella to me by previous Killer Nashville Guest of Honor J. A. Jance and it somehow did not appear on my radar, until now. I’m glad she sent it.
“A Last Goodbye” by J. A. Jance was a fast, fun read. I’ve followed the books and characters of Jance for years and was delighted to read that one of those characters, Ali Reynolds, was finally getting married to her longtime significant other, B. Simpson. It was supposed to be a small Las Vegas wedding, attended by a few close friends and, of course, Ali’s family. Those familiar with Jance’s work will already know the main characters and it is for us readers that the eBook was written. But it is not the main characters that become the central character in what should be Ali’s wedding weekend. This ends up being a story, not about a wedding, but about a dog.
I have to say this one thing, and maybe it’s because I’m from the generation of sad dog books. This is not a spoiler, but at the same time I’d prefer not to mention this at all, but I have to because it made me hold off reading for a few days: there is a dog. And nothing bad happens to the dog. I’ve casually known Jance and her delightful husband Bill, read most of her books, known her love for animals, and I was sure that she wouldn’t do anything against character, but there was a dread all the way through – I’m thinking Ol’ Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows – that for some reason made me think something bad might happen. I guess it’s the picture on the cover of the adorable long-haired dachshund beneath the title “A Last Goodbye.” Anyway, the dog does fine. It’s everyone else who has to make some decisions.
Ali’s grandson finds this dog – later identified as Bella and based upon Jance’s own current dog by the same name – during Christmas in a most dangerous way. Who is the owner? That’s the question. And what to do with the dog in the hotel while Ali is supposed to get married? That’s the other. What was meant as a weekend wedding now doubles as a mystery to find who owns the dog and why it was abandoned the way it was.
Of course Ali finds answers to the mysteries brought on by the dog and this proves to be a great segue for the series as Ali changes her life. And – as Jance would probably agree – what is better to mark changes in one’s life than a dog?
The ending and the story all tie up nicely in the consistent and true Jance way. For fans, it is a story worth reading as we wish Ali well as she moves on in her new life with B.
So here’s a toast to Ali and B, to J.A. Jance and us: long lives, and many wonderful years ahead. This book hints the course.
Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com). He is founder of Killer Nashville (www.killernashville.com) and Killer Nashville Magazine (www.killernashvillemagazine.com). In addition to selling over 1.5 million copies of his own books, Stafford’s latest projects are the documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.oneofthemiracles.com) and writing the music CD “XO” with Kathryn Dance / Lincoln Rhymes author Jeffery Deaver (www.jefferdeaverxomusic.com). He is currently writing a film script based on Peter Straub’s “Pork Pie Hat” for American Blackguard Entertainment (www.americanblackguard.com).
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