Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont and his partner/wife, Mel, receive orders from the State Attorney General to immediately pack their bags for a several-day stay and drive to the state capitol. Once they check into a tourist hotel, they are to wait in the coffee shop for further instructions. The very nature of their special homicide investigative work often leads to clandestine meetings, but it is the Attorney General himself who is impatiently awaiting their arrival. With an abrupt greeting, he hands them a cell phone and orders them to look at the screen.
"The aching knees, insomnia and other vestiges of an aging J.P. ring endearingly true to those of us who have traveled with J.P. on his troubled life journey."
As seasoned homicide detectives, J.P. and Mel have seen many shocking crime scenes, but they are unprepared for what plays out before them. What appears to be a teasing sext message featuring a pretty young teen girl turns into a snuff tape as she is strangled in front of a camera. In the stunned silence that follows, the Attorney General delivers the kicker: the cell phone belongs to Alex, the step-grandson and ward of the Governor of Washington, who confiscated it from him that morning as she caught him sneaking up a rope ladder to his third floor bedroom at the Governor's mansion. She immediately called the Attorney General for advice on how to handle what could become a political bombshell, especially if the scene goes viral through the social network. She specifically asked that J.P., a former school mate, handle the case personally and confidentially.
Alex, a reclusive and troubled 15-year-old, had only recently moved into the Governor's mansion as the ward of the Governor and his grandfather from an abusive home environment. He attends a private school, appears to have few friends, and is closer to the household staff than to his busy step-grandmother and seriously ill grandfather. However, if information leaks out before the facts are known, his presence in the Governor's mansion has the makings of a juicy front-page scandal. Whether the boy is directly connected to the events depicted on the video or not, the potential for unwanted publicity is incalculable.
J.A. Jance, who has steered J.P. Beaumont through three marriages and three bumpy careers, brings us our aging hero as he gasps and struggles up staircases that the younger Beaumont bounded like an Olympian a few short years ago. Jance's complex combinations of characters and logical progression of their lives define the story as much as the crimes he's called upon to solve. In BETRAYAL OF TRUST, the investigation turns the spotlight on predatory adults who take advantage of at-risk teens and the hazards of social networking and computer hacking in the virtual reality cyber-world frequented by today's young people. What happens to Alex and the people he's involved with causes J.P. to reflect on his own upbringing, where he was raised by unloving grandparents after his biological father died and his mother was thrown out on the streets because she was pregnant and unmarried.
While he and Mel are following the trail of a social worker who may be a predator, and dealing with the paparazzi and intrusion of privacy of the governor and her family, J.P. receives an email from an unknown woman claiming a connection to the father he never knew. At his advancing age, he thinks he has successfully buried the yearning for the truth about his past, but as more details emerge, the growing information picks at a wound that never truly healed. J.P. is torn between sticking with the investigation of the snuff film that has become a local crime scene, and digging up the truth about his own past.
The aching knees, insomnia and other vestiges of an aging J.P. ring endearingly true to those of us who have traveled with J.P. on his troubled life journey. Jance has succeeded in creating a lively cast of characters that endure through each book, and J.P.'s admirers are happy to see him limping off, if not into the sunset, at least to an orthopedic surgeon.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on August 1, 2011