The Juan Doe Murders Library Binding – Nov 2000
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About the Author
Edgar Award Nominee If you love CSI or NCIS, you’ll love the mysteries of Noreen Ayres. This Edgar Award finalist was writing memorable and compelling crime fiction with a focus on forensics long before those shows emerged on the scene. She broke new ground in the crime fiction genre with The Juan Doe Murders and her two prior suspense novels featuring Smokey Brandon, an ex-Las-Vegas-stripper-and-police-officer-turned forensic criminalist. Smokey finds herself involved cases that cut a little too close to home – and Ayres’ plucky heroine is as sunny and complex as the Southern California world where she solves crimes. In addition to her novels, Ayres is also an acclaimed short-story writer. Her stories have been featuring in many mystery and suspense anthologies and earned her an Edgar Award nomination for “Delta Double Deal,” her contribution to the collection The Night Awakens. For gritty police procedurals with a fun and sexy twist, Noreen Ayres’ Smokey Brandon series can’t be beat. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The battlefield. Blood and fear, hatred and death. But it isn’t only the battlefield where these things lie. Even here, in the arms of the supposed “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” the roar of the battlefield shrieks aloud – carrying blood and fear, hatred and death to the innocent, the child, the weak wishing only for food, shelter, a new life.
As a Forensic Specialist, Smokey Brandon knows all about the horrors visited on those who can’t protect themselves. The children, the immigrants, the women and men who are lost and hidden. And California’s newest serial killer is the latest to prey upon the hidden and the vulnerable. Of course, in Orange County the whole Ideal is ‘cover it up, because it couldn’t ever happen in our perfect little rich-man’s world”. But the horrific mutilation of the first victim sets all Smokey’s warning signals flaring. And as the bodies of Hispanics pile up, it is a race to find the perpetrator.
Ayres is brutally realistic in her portrayals of the crimes, the characters, and the attitudes that make up the undercurrents of a deeper story – the immigration, sometimes illegal, of Hispanics across the borders from Mexico to the US. You are dropped right in on the first scene from the beginning, no build-up, no easing in. Just a mutilated young girl, left to rot in a filthy bedroom, in a filthy house.
This was my first Smokey Brandon. Her third book, after “Carcass Trade” and “A World the Color of Salt”. I fully intend to go back and read the first two in order to “catch up” as it were.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is a 5 star without a doubt. Ayers is a new writer for me. However, this is her third book featuring Smokey Brandon. The first two "A World the Color of Salt"and "Carcass Trade", were written in the mid 90's.
Ex-cop and ex-Las Vegas stripper Smokey Brandon is now a forensics specialist (CSI) working from the crime lab in Orange County, CA. Her partner, and lover, is Joe Sanders. Smokey's job is to collect, analyze, and preserve the physical evidence from crime scenes. She aids in the solving of horrible murders through meticulus investigation.
She is very good at her job.
This book doesn't have the usual basic buildup to the story. Ayres starts in the middle of the crime scene and you get the full force of what Smokey sees. A young Hispanic woman who was beaten, raped and mutilated. She had been in the country for about six months. Smokey has the edge on the police, she has access to the crime lab and the pathology lab. She notices that some of the Hispanic murders of young men, even though they happen in different parts of the county, are similar.
I liked that the story not only delved into the forensec science but we got to see the softer side of Smokey. She is a bird watcher and volunteers with various cleanup and aid groups. She even has a pet guinea pig.
The characters are very well developed and the murder/thriller plot is very realistic. Ayers paints a vivid picture of the murders and the effect on everyone involved. The added presure to solve several seemingly random cases. It is Smokey who supects that they are connected. When Joe's son, David, contacts her about several of the deceased men she has another decision. Should she trust David and check his suspesions or take him to the Detectives on the case?
I had the Kindle version and listened straight through. Several times I backtracked to check an area or clue. I like to verify facts.
I saw the title of the book and that is what caught my attention I didn't even read the blurb to this book and that is something that I normally don't do. I have to say after reading the blurb I know that Smokey is a female. For the longest time I kept wondering if Smokey was a male or female and though it wasn't a big thing it drove me crazy.
Now I see this book is part of series but it does good as a stand alone so it doesn't seem you miss anything from not reading the previous books.
Smokey is a crime technician and now she is trying to put together the pieces of what connects all these people that seem to be possibly Hispanic. While she is trying to put the puzzle together she also is trying to help out her I believe boyfriend Joe's son David and what he is going through.
David seems to be harboring a secret and when it finally comes out it seems what he knows can help solve who the victims of the crime are.
There is some action not a lot, but the author was very detailed in telling us what was going on. Especially inside the ME's room. I learned some things that I never knew before such as one of them being lighting a paper towel to let the gas be released inside of a body. That was very cool fact to add into the book.
Though the story line was good and I believe I will pick up more books from this author, the character Smokey was not one I connected with. Even though I think the job she has is freaking amazing she felt very flat for me.
I also though the way she would talk to David about his problem that he had going on didn't feel real enough for me. It was like she didn't know what to say to him I suppose? When you read the book the dialogue between them two characters you may know what I mean.
There is some romance but nothing that takes away from the murders or crime solving of what is going on. Nothing is really too gruesome in the book being as there is not graphic detail of the murders but you do get an idea.
Great writing right from page one to the end. The Juan Doe Murders is the first book I’ve read by Noreen Ayres, and the third Smokey Brandon forensic mystery. Normally, I’m turned off by first person narratives. But the writing is so wonderfully concise that I couldn’t stop reading. Ayres describes forensic procedures in intimate accurate detail. Her descriptions of evidence collection and the politics of policing is spot-on, and her imagery is faultless. Here’s an example of imagery to die for: “Irvine is a vast, flat, master-planned and virtually antiseptic city so dirt-free you could drop a sandwich, pick it up, and eat it without a thought. A breeze could blow between buildings of the business park where the body was found and not lift a single leaf. It was not a place where you might imagine a man to be sitting against a white wall with a bullet drilled through his head.”
Notice the way her alliteration works? That’s poetry in action.
Ayres mixes narration with realistic dialogue. Not too much of either, just the right mix. Reading The Juan Doe Murders is a pleasure. The story flows effortlessly.
The storyline itself is a hardboiled mystery with plenty of dead bodies. Smokey Brandon is a county-wide crime scene investigator in California. Unidentified Hispanic John Does are turning up all over the place, one right after another. One common denominator is the lack of shell casings at the scene, even when the victim is a supposed suicide. How does one off himself with an automatic and not leave behind a shell casing? Also linking several of the victims is the same name on fake IDs: Hector Rios. And the gun-shot residue on their faces indicates they were each shot up close and personal-like.
What I especially liked about this novel were the details other authors often miss: an ME lighting a paper towel above the victim’s abdomen to ignite and disperse smelly escaping gasses released during the Y-opening at autopsy; behaviors of wild birds and other animals, including bloodhounds and guinea pigs; vivid descriptions of California flora; observations of various ways co-workers interact with one another on a daily basis and when under stress; the intended and unintended complications of interpersonal relationships that mess up innocent lives. Ayres takes her sweet time to tie together a lot of loose ends, and the story’s pace does drag a bit in the middle. But there is enough emotional and sexual tension to hold the reader’s interest as complications abound.
The Juan Doe Murders isn’t a perfect novel, but it is an entertaining and enlightening read. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good police procedural.
I received an ARC of this title in exchange for a fair review. I loved Ayres writing so much, I bought her other Smoky Brandon titles from Amazon.
I was well into the second chapter before realizing—or more likely being told—that the first-person protagonist is a woman, and it didn’t help that she was often referred to as Brandon, which is actually her surname. The twist here is that she’s not a detective, but rather a crime-scene specialist, though in no way does this come across like an episode of CSI. As one might expect from the title, the dead bodies are Hispanic, which leads to a somewhat different take than might be otherwise anticipated.
Halfway through her lover dies. . . or not. . . or maybe. This would have been a useless plotline, except that his son is part of the investigation. At the end she admits she didn’t do anything to really help the investigation, the violent ending having taken away the necessity of arrests and trials.
It wasn’t till I was reading the author blurb at the end that I found out this was the third in a series, but since it never occurred to me, that must mean it can be easily read without the others.
3.5/5 rounded up