4 out of 4 stars
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Out of the Darkness: A Mary Jane Morris Mystery is J.J. Jorgens' third novel featuring the lawyer turned private detective. In the latest volume, Mary Jane wakes up in a hospital room and her boyfriend, Lorenzo informs her that she was the victim of a gunshot wound to the leg. Apparently, she also hit her head, and as a result of the trauma, she is suffering from the loss of her sight and memory. Fragmented memories begin to surface, and she seeks to unravel the pieces related to her injuries and how they are connected with the disappearance of her filmmaker friend, Adam Stone. Faced with what may be her biggest mystery yet, Mary Jane fears her crime-solving days may be over. Will she regain her sight and will her memories ever completely return?
Meanwhile, Mary Jane is plagued with nightmares and begins to receive threatening phone calls from a Russian stranger. Frustrated by her slow recovery process, she feels the need to drop off the radar until she can find answers to some of the questions related to the case. After informing her friend and colleague D.C. Police Chief, Harlan Larson of her plans to disappear, and despite Lorenzo's concerns as the lead physician on her case, she concocts an elaborate ruse involving a press conference and an imaginary travel blog. With the assistance of her roommate Sally's teenage son, Jackson, they embark first by catamaran, then on an old cabin cruiser to seek refuge on the Bay home of Adam's grandmother, Margaret Stone. What follows are a remarkable series of twists and turns related to Russian spies, hidden gold, and a possible historical connection to George Washington and Benedict Arnold.
Having not read Jorgens' previous two Mary Jane Morris mysteries, I was curious if the third book would stand on its own. I'm pleased to say it does. The book is well-written, and the fast-paced plot includes a cleverly intriguing story within the story. It's obvious Jorgens is no stranger when it comes to developing strong female characters of various ages. In the spirit of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Mary Jane is a fiercely independent protagonist in her late thirties; supporting characters Nadya, Antonia, and Margaret represent strong women ranging from seventeen to eighty. While the story also includes a cast of well-developed male characters, it's pretty clear the women are running the show. Even so, my favorite is Jackson, the sixteen-year-old son of Mary Jane's roommate, Sally, who is nicknamed J. J. interestingly. Wise beyond his years, and with exceptional photography and computer skills, he acts as M.J.'s loyal assistant on the case. However, it was his quick wit and wry sense of humor that I found endearing.
There was one inconsistency in the plot that bothered me. Throughout the book, Mary Jane was meticulous about covering her tracks as well as instructing Jackson and Grandma (Margaret) to do the same. However, there was a specific instance where she let her guard down in a way that was not only uncharacteristic but also put Jackson in danger. I'm unable to go into more detail without revealing spoilers, but I will say my suspicions were confirmed later in the plot. Furthermore, I didn't feel Jorgens addressed the character’s oversight to provide clarity.
Despite the previously mentioned inconsistency, the book was a professionally edited entertaining read worthy of a 4 out of 4 star rating. I recommend it to fans of mysteries with strong female leads comparable to Lisa Scottoline and Sue Grafton novels.
Out of the Darkness
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