~~Moved from GR~~
Edge of Evil
by J.A. Jance
This was my first J.A. Jance book. I also plan for it to be my last.
Despite my low rating, I have no violent outrage; it just irritated me in a multitude of different ways. This was mainly due to my own personal outlook: this book definitely has a bad case of Did Not Do the Research and I tend to be very quickly exasperated by incorrect real-world details and inconsistencies. I also found the protagonist to be self-righteous, unlikeable, and egocentric. The author attempts to make various political statements about issues like ageism, domestic abuse, and gun control, and there is something rather impressive here: in several cases, I considered that the strawmen won the debate.
What pushed it over the edge was one particular authorial conceit: Jance has her character start blogging. While I understand the benefits here, such as allowing her character to speak in first person, I thought it not only fell flat, but also caused the rest of the book to do an impressive pratfall. Ali as blogger is disgustingly indiscreet, posting personal details and histories of those around her; for example, details of her friend's death, her own marriage, and more. At some point she attempts to switch to pseudoanonymity....after having posted everyone's names, marital problems, past histories, etc. Hun, h'it don't work that way. I think someone should have taken her to court for slander. She is also impressively egocentric, and views a blog with curated comment section (curated as in she only posts the comments she likes) as a "conversation." She tends to appropriate the grief of all those around her. Her friend dies? Make it about her. Her father has a terrible accident? Ali must undertake the terrible sacrifice (which all the characters treat as impressively noble) of waiting tables at the family restaurant. A woman contacts her about domestic abuse? Ali feels afraid for herself. Add to this that any disagreement to her point of view comes from shrewish strawman commenters spewing hatred as well as what would otherwise be reasonable objections, and I got extremely impatient. All of her commenters apparently have a second-grade reading level, as they write in simple sentences with words less than three syllables. Because the rest of the plot apparently isn't unrealistic enough, Ali ends up in contact with an abusive husband whose wife leaves him, leading him to decide to hunt Ali down. If someone was that insane, attacking any internet persona that his wife read, he would been in an insane asylum far before Ali encountered him.
I found the characters to be unlikable, most of them intentionally so, and found the mystery to be problematic. Ali's friend goes off a cliff in her car; since this is a murder mystery, we of course all know that she was pushed. Apparently, the police are unable to tell the difference in the snow tracks--a forensic impossibility. A typed, unsigned suicide note is found, with no evidence of where it was typed. The police take it as true without question. The list of improbable and naive elements goes on and on, leading to a bad case of Did Not Do The Research.
My major issue with this book is that I am one of those people who always sweat the details, and this book has a multitude of small inconsistencies, contradictions, and plot holes. I couldn't warm to the main character and was therefore unable to forgive the improbabilities and lack of research. If you are more easygoing about the plot and facts, then I think this might very well be a cute cozy mystery involving small-town life.