Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Witness by J. A. Jance

“Witness” by J. A. Jance, Dangerous Women Edited by Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press, Trade Paperback, $13.95

Francine has spent the last twenty-five years as a high-school guidance counselor. Now her friend Mindy comes to her for help. Mindy tells a tale of suffering, the result of mental abuse by her husband of a year. The way Mindy dresses, Francine suspects that the abuse is more than mental.

After receiving a call from her husband, Larry, Mindy leaves their impromptu lunch. Francine goes home. She starts cleaning out the belongings of her husband who died three years ago. As she is packing things up she remembers how happy they were and how much he cared for her. She wanted those things for Mindy, and she is upset that Mindy is having to endure abuse.

Then Francine starts thinking about Larry, how little she knows about him. Then she remembers from a party at their house that Larry has a large gun collection. She then makes the rather illogical leap that Larry will shoot her. He will shoot her this afternoon.

Francine then jumps into her car and drives to Mindy’s house. When she arrives she overhears something that turns her world upside down.

Ms. Jance is a skillful writer. She shows Francine working herself from mildly concerned to desperate fear for her friend’s life completely within character.

In short, well done with a nice twist at the end.