Quest for Justice

After an odd crime takes place in Tucson, Jessie Dancing takes up the compelling case

"I got away with murder once, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen again. Damn. This time, I didn't do it."

Right out of the gates, Louise Ure's third novel, Liars Anonymous, straps you in and carries you along on one young woman's quest for justice—initially for herself, and then for someone else far more vulnerable.

The woman is Jessie Dancing. Her name isn't actually Dancing; she had to change it after spending so much time in the headlines of Tucson's news after she was tried for the murder of a man named Walter Racine. Jessie wasn't convicted, but the trial destroyed most of her personal relationships, and a number of people—a Tucson detective among them—still believe she was responsible. Which she was: She shot Racine after her best friend, Catherine, told her that Walter had abused her for years. After Catherine's accidental death, Jessie saw Walter get a little too close (in her view) to Catherine's daughter, so she shot him, and felt no remorse as she hid the gun, pleaded not guilty and went on with her life.

Her post-acquittal life led her to a job in Phoenix at HandsOn, a service drivers can call for assistance during an emergency. While on duty one night, Jessie receives a call from the car of Darren Markson, a real estate mogul who has, apparently, been in a crash. As she listens in, Jessie hears what sounds like a fight. She reports the crime to the police, but she can't suppress her own curiosity. She drives to the car's location in Tucson, where she finds what she believes to be a crime scene—and a teenage girl named Felicia. The girl runs away, and Jessie tracks her down—only to watch her get blown up by a car bomb a few days later.

Jessie tries to cooperate with the authorities, telling most, if not exactly all, of what she has seen and heard to an officer named "Deke," a family friend who believes her. Unfortunately, Deke's partner is the steely Len Sabin, who considers Jessie to be the one that got away—guilty of the crime against Walter and a suspect in everything she does. Her proximity to the blown-up girl leads Sabin to believe that Jessie is involved. Jessie, determined not to take the fall for something she didn't do, goes in search of Felicia's friends and family, and finds out that Felicia was involved with an older man named Carlos. Sure that Carlos had something to do with Felicia's death, Jessie goes after him. She doesn't find Carlos, but she does find his older brother, Guillermo, who joins her search—and draws Jessie's romantic interest with both his calm demeanor and a relentlessness to match her own.

Jessie is a fun person to go through a book with. She's spunky and self-confident, with enough neuroses to be relatable but enough gumption to make her a believable heroine. Her mistakes are exasperating; law-abiding citizens will cringe every time she poses as a reporter, sneaks through a window or picks up a knife or a gun, but they'll also agree with the ultimate goals of her actions. There's pain in Jessie's life, which she doesn't ignore. But she copes, through extreme bursts of exercise, through a set of intimidating tattoos and sometimes through casual sex. The nature of her quest keeps changing, but her resolve remains intact.

Ure is a master of pacing. She manages to propel the story along while still taking time to explore emotional intricacies. The book is full of teases, surprises and suspense—plus even a touch of romance. Ure keeps us just as convinced as Jessie that she's on the right track in her detective work, leaving us just as stunned when the case twists in a new direction.

All in all, Liars Anonymous is a taut, satisfying read, complete with thrilling fights, tearful breakdowns and a bloody, bang-'em-up ending.

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