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What is the Joanna Brady series about?
Joanna Brady is the main protagonist of J. A. Jance’s Arizona mystery series. She’s the elected sheriff of Cochise County, and it’s not easy every day.
When drug dealers murdered her lawman husband, Joanna Brady vowed she would carry on his good work no matter what the cost. With grit, courage, and dogged determination, this mother challenged the status quo.
As newly-elected Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, she must battle the prejudice and hostility of a mistrustful, male-dominated police force as she is faced with the challenge of raising her young daughter while also solving crimes and dealing with personal issues.
How to read the Joanna Brady Books in Order?
Every book in the Joanna Brady series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Desert Heat – A cop lies dying beneath the blistering Arizona sun. The police brass claim that Andy Brady was dirty, and that his shooting was a suicide attempt. Joanna Brady, his devoted wife and mother of their nine-year-old daughter, knows a cover-up when she hears one… and murder when she sees it. But her determined efforts to hunt down an assassin and clear her husband’s name are placing Joanna and her surviving family in harm’s way.
- Tombstone Courage – As newly elected Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, Joanna Brady must battle the prejudice and hostility of a mistrustful, male-dominated police force and solve a grisly double homicide that threatens to tear the sleepy desert community to pieces.
- Shoot Don’t Shoot – A prisoner languishes in a Phoenix jail cell, accused of brutally slaying his estranged wife. No one believes the man is innocent, except Joanna Brady, in town for a crash course in police training. She is out of her jurisdiction—and possibly in over her head.
- Dead to Rights – A woman is cruelly cut down in a remote corner of Arizona, killed on her nineteenth wedding anniversary by a drunk motorist. A year later, the driver himself dies badly, and all suspicions point to the slain woman’s still-grieving husband as his murderer. But the truth is rarely black and white in the long Southwestern shadows, and Joanna Brady is not rushing to condemn the tragic widower so quickly.
- Skeleton Canyon – A pretty, popular teenager never returned from her secret tryst in Skeleton Canyon. Maybe she stumbled onto something terrible, something too dangerous to know. Now dark secrets about a future hideously destroyed are pulling Sheriff Joanna Brady of Cochise County into a lethal nest of lies and greed.
- Rattlesnake Crossing – A gun dealer is the first to die, his entire stock of weapons cleaned out. But the killer isn’t finished yet, as a series of brutal, blood-chilling murders paralyzes the small Southwestern community the maniac has chosen to feed upon. Sheriff Joanna Brady knows that she is the one who must protect the town she was chosen to serve. But her desperate hunt for a murderer is leading her into terrifying places.
- Outlaw Mountain – What kind of monster would savagely murder a 71-year-old and leave her battered corpse to rot in the Arizona desert? But the slaying of a senior is only one thread in a bloody tapestry—as death follows death in horrific succession, leading Joanna Brady to risk everything as she seeks answers in the lethal shadow of Outlaw Mountain.
- Devil’s Claw – In the desert, a Native American woman is dead—an ex-con once jailed for the murder of her husband—and her teenage daughter has vanished into the long shadows of the night-still canyons. Now, as Joanna Brady stands on the brink of a new life and new happiness, death is summoning her once more, calling her down a twisted trail of hatred, greed, and devastating consequence to the black heart of the Dragoon Mountains.
- Paradise Lost – The desecrated body of a missing Phoenix heiress lies naked, lifeless, and abandoned in the desolate beauty and lonely terror of the high desert night. A hideous crime is inviting death once more into Sheriff Joanna Brady’s world.
- Partner in Crime – This is a crossover with the J.P. Beaumont series. The dead woman on a cold slab in the Arizona morgue was a talented artist recently arrived from the West Coast. The Washington State Attorney General’s office thinks this investigation is too big for a small-town female law officer to handle, so they’re sending Sheriff Joanna Brady some unwanted help—a seasoned detective named J.P. Beaumont.
- Exit Wounds – A body lies lifeless in an airless trailer, surrounded by seventeen others. It is a crime unspeakable in its conception and execution—a nightmare strangely connected to a grisly slaughter in a neighboring state, where the corpses of two women are found tied up, naked, and gruesomely posed on a rancher’s land. A day that started out hot has already turned blistering for Joanna Brady.
- Dead Wrong – Juggling a family and a career has never been easy for Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady. Now the impending birth of her second child only adds to her burden, especially when two brutal crimes fall under her jurisdiction.
- Damage Control – A car carrying an elderly couple goes off the side of a mountain and tumbles into oblivion. A note pulled from the wreckage suggests the tragedy may have been a double suicide—but an autopsy later suggests something different. Joanna Brady will not allow murder to go unpunished in her jurisdiction—even if her path to the truth is twisting and dangerous… and leads to shocking revelations about those entrusted with caring for the helpless.
- Fire and Ice – This is another crossover with the J.P. Beaumont series. Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont is working a series of murders in which six young women have been wrapped in tarps, doused with gasoline and set on fire. Their charred remains have been scattered around various dump sites, creating a grisly pattern of death across western Washington.
- Judgment Call – Joana Brady wrestles with her conflicting roles of law officer and mother when her daughter discovers the murdered body of the local high school principal, and the ensuing investigation reveals secrets no parent wants to hear.
- The Old Blue Line (novella) – Faith, Butch’s ex-wife, has been murdered, and the evidence points to him. Stunned, Butch quickly realizes that the black-hearted woman is going to ruin him again, from her grave. Lucky for Butch, the Old Blue Line, a group of retired former legal and law enforcement coots, have taken it upon themselves, as a favor, to make sure he doesn’t cross that thin line. After the dust settles, Butch’s life is again upended—when a little red-haired ball of fire, Sheriff Joanna Brady, takes a seat at his bar.
- Remains of Innocence – An old woman, a hoarder, is dying of emphysema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In cleaning out her house, her daughter, Liza Machett, discovers a fortune in hundred dollar bills hidden in the tall stacks of books and magazines that crowd every corner. Tracing the money’s origins will take Liza on a journey that will end in Cochise County, where Sheriff Joanna Brady is embroiled in a personal mystery of her own.
- No Honor Among Thieves (short story) – Ali Reynolds and Joanna Brady join forces to take down a group of murderous smugglers, a case that starts with a truck crash that spills Legos all over the highway.
- Random Acts (novella) – Another Ali Reynolds/Joanna Brady crossover. Sheriff Joanna Brady has a lot on her plate—she is up for re-election as sheriff, pregnant with her third child, and her eldest is packing up to leave for college. Then Joanna is woken in the middle of the night by a call reporting a motor vehicle accident. Her mother and stepfather’s RV ran off the road at high speed and hit the pillar of an overpass.
- Downfall – A puzzling new case has just hit Sheriff Joanna Brady’s department, demanding every resource she has at her disposal—as well as help from neighboring law enforcement agencies and the Feds. The bodies of two women have been found at the base of a nearby peak, known to Bisbee locals as Geronimo. Is this a terrible accident, a case of murder/suicide, or a double homicide?
- Field of Bones – This time Sheriff Joanna Brady may expect to see her maternity leave through to completion, but the world has other plans when a serial homicide case surfaces in her beloved Cochise County. Rather than staying home with her newborn and losing herself in the cold cases to be found in her father’s long unread diaries, Joanna instead finds herself overseeing a complex investigation involving multiple jurisdictions.
- Missing and Endangered – When Jennifer Brady returns to Northern Arizona University for her sophomore year, she quickly becomes a big sister to her new roommate, Beth Rankin, a brilliant yet sheltered sixteen-year-old freshman. For a homeschooled Beth, college is her first taste of both freedom and unfettered access to the internet, and Jenny is concerned that she’s too naïve and rebellious for her own good. Her worries are well-founded because one day Beth vanishes.
- Blessing of the Lost Girls – Driven by a compulsion that challenges his self-control, the man calling himself Charles Milton prowls the rodeo circuit, hunting young women. He chooses those he believes are the most vulnerable, wandering alone and distracted, before he strikes. For years, he has been meticulous in his methods, abducting, murdering, and disposing his victims while leaving no evidence of his crimes—or their identities—behind. Indigenous women have become his target of choice, knowing law enforcement’s history of ignoring their disappearances. With Sheriff Joanna Brady’s help, Dan Pardee, a field officer with the newly formed Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’s Task Force, is determined to reopen the case.
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This article was last updated on September 26, 2023.