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Review: Betrayal of Trust, by J.A. Jance

Josh Deeson is a troubled 15-year-old living in the governor’s mansion with his grandparents. Having lived a life of poverty up until his mother’s death, he is a fish out of water. He sneaks out at night using a rope ladder from his third floor bedroom. When he is caught, he’s grounded and his grandmother, Governor Marsha Longmire, confiscates his cell phone.
That’s when the trouble starts. The phone contains a video of a snuff film, a young girl being choked to death with a blue scarf. Governor Longmire, wishing to keep things as quiet as possible, phones her friend the attorney general. He, in turn, contacts the Special Homicide Investigation Team, the acronym for which becomes something of a running gag for several chapters.
The team is headed by J.P. Beaumont and his partner (and wife) Melissa Soames. They go to the mansion and quickly determine a couple of things. From Josh’s reaction to the film clip, they are sure he has never seen it before and was not involved in its production. But they also find the blue scarf tucked under his mattress.
So they aren’t at all sure just how Josh is involved, and they have no idea who the dead girl is. But they are detectives and they call on all their many resources and gradually figure things out. What is perhaps most interesting about their search for the truth is the subtle way in which Jance turns what could easily be a straightforward crime novel into a book with a social conscience.
Josh, as a representative of all the underprivileged youngsters in the area, is joined by a large group of similar kids who frequent a sort of group home called Janie’s Home. Kids can come in during the day and get cleaned up and use the computers and bring a little civility into their lives. They can also receive some schooling from the rich kids who are brought in from the nearby rich kid’s school. The relationship between the two groups provides Jance with room to offer some insights into the social structure . . . and is the focal point for solving the mystery of the snuff film.
And besides the acronym joke, there is a character who crops up here and there and whose name is Harry I. Ball.