Synopses & Reviews
From New York Times
bestselling author J. A. Jance comes a chilling tale of suspense, where romance turns deadly at the hands of a man whose heart is filled with...
On a dating site, singleatheart.com, bored housewives can find romance with married men looking for sex without strings. But these married singles are flirting with more than just their vows. At the heart of this seemingly innocent service, a vengeful computer hacker is playing games with people's lives...and deaths.
Ex-television journalist Ali Reynolds just wants a break from excitement. In the midst of a remodel, the last thing she expects is a murder investigation that will stop the construction on her home. But when the savagely murdered body of stay-at-home mom Morgan Forester is found, Ali's contractor Bryan is the prime suspect. Bryan swears he has nothing to do with his wife's murder — but as the investigation progresses Ali seems to be the only resident of Sedona who believes him.
Determined to prove Bryan's innocence, Ali unknowingly lands herself directly in the path of a calculating killer. In a world filled with encrypted computer traps and life-threatening lies, will Ali be able to decode the actions of a ruthless man determined to destroy women — before he uses his wicked website to find her?
"As if remodeling an old mansion near picturesque Sedona, Ariz., isn't stress enough for Ali Reynolds, the plucky former TV newscaster must also deal with cybernetic lonely hearts, frustrated lust and murder in bestseller Jance's uneven fourth Ali Reynolds thriller (after Hand of Evil). After serial killer Peter Winter claims his fifth victim, who happens to be the unfaithful wife of Ali's contractor, Bryan Forester, homicide detective Dave Holman suspects Bryan did it. At considerable personal risk, Ali has to clear Bryan in order to get her house ready for Thanksgiving dinner with her gossipy, meddling mother, Edie; her son, Chris; Chris's amputee fiance; sometime boyfriend Holman; and the rest of her cozily predictable entourage. A too conveniently noted license plate number and some unlikely Taser-wielding by Edie undermine credibility. Still, Jance's trademark breathless pace compensates for stale situations and shallow characterizations. Author tour. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Jance has honed her talent for writing entertaining, accessible mysteries that readers can zip through in a weekend....Consider this as mostly a pleasant diversion for backyard or beach rather than a thrilling page-turner." Booklist
Ex-anchorwoman Ali Reynolds finds herself in the midst of more than just a house renovation when the project is interrupted by a brutal murder... and the killer may be close to home.
About the Author
J. A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family, and Edge of Evil. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
Reading Group Guide
1. Ali doesn't know Bryan Forester very well, and yet she's convinced he's innocent of his wife's murder. What makes her believe in him? Why does the rest of the community, people who have known Bryan his whole life, assume he's guilty?
2. When discussing her second husband, Ali always uses his full name: Paul Grayson. Why does she do this? Considering their history, is this a defense mechanism?
3. "I always tried to raise him to be independent, Ali thought ruefully. I may have succeeded too well" (pg. 88). How would you describe the various parent-child relationships in Cruel Intent? Consider Ali and Chris, Ali and her parents, Bryan and his daughters, Leland's friend Prescott and his children, amongst others. Which emotions are driving factors in these relationships?
4. In her video on Singleatheart.com, Morgan Forester says she doesn't want to go to her grave wondering about the Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is." Does the video provide honest insight into Morgan's life, or is it another one of her manipulations? Which other characters might wonder is that all there is?
5. Describe Ali's relationship with Dave Holman. Is he jealous when she defends Bryan? If so, is that one of the reasons he's convinced of Bryan's guilt?
6. Why does Ali turn down work offers from her agent, Jacky? What does she want to do with her life?
7. What drives the killer and how does he choose his victims?
8. "The truth was, Ali wanted to go, too. Bryan Forester was part of her life; so were his girls. If there was anything she personally could do to help them, she would" (pg. 195). There are many other people Ali is quick to help. Is this simply her nature, or has she learned to relate to those in need of help? When should she volunteer, and when should she allow people to protect themselves?
9. What do Ali and Leland mean to each other? Why does he keep his feelings about her somewhat secret from Ali?
10. In the end, is the killer more upset that he was caught, or that he was caught by a woman?
Enhance Your Book Club:
Ali Reynolds is not the only one who keeps a blog. To learn more about J.A. Jance, visit her blog at: http://www.jajance.com/jajance.com/Blog/Blog.html
The Sugar Loaf Café is the hub of activity in Cruel Intent. Hold your book club meeting at a local, old-fashioned café or diner. Or better yet -- try J.A. Jance's Sugar Loaf Sweet Role recipe available at: http://www.jajance.com/jajance.com/Sugar_Loaf_Cafe/Sugar_Loaf_Cafe.html
Morgan Forester claims Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is" inspired her to seek something more out of life. Find a recording of the song and play it before your meeting. Which songs might inspire other characters?