Judy Bruce is a resident of Omaha, Nebraska where she lives with her husband and two children. She has a law degree from Creighton University. Judy is also the author of the Voices in the Wind series. She maintains a website at judybruce.com and a blog at heyjoood.com.
“An epic portrayal of a romance born out of the rubble of World War II.”
– Kirkus Reviews
After a man is murdered in a Halloween haunted house, a psychic Midwest lawyer investigates the killing in this sixth installment of a series.
Thirty-year-old Megan Docket, an attorney in tiny Dexter, Nebraska, specializes in estate planning, but—as described in five previous novels—she has found herself investigating and solving criminal cases, most recently a double murder, and has killed many times in self-defense. She’s helped by a warm community of friends and family and by the supernatural: Megan is warned of danger by presentiments and voices she hears in the winds scouring the dry bluffs near her house. As the book opens, Megan is still traumatized by recent events, such as the loss of her unborn child, and is troubled by problems in her new marriage to Jay Young, a lieutenant in the State Patrol. In need of distraction, she agrees to help plan a haunted house for Halloween. Finally open to the public, the house becomes the site of a murder, and the sheriff arrests the wrong man. Megan and her allies set out to find the truth, leading to a dangerous confrontation with the real killers—who hold her mother and Docket Law employees hostage. To outwit them, Megan will need to muster her associates and mount a daring rescue. Bruce (Game Six, 2018, etc.) provides, as always, a strong sense of place, diverse characters, and a twisty mystery. The main investigation story is rounded out by domestic concerns, such as Megan’s worries about her new marriage. Contradictions in her character make her a complex subject, one as likely to protect herself with deadly force as to generously help others. But these strengths become overwhelmed by the tale’s giant plethora of names and relationships, which (even with effective exposition) overtake the storytelling, slow the pace, and burden readers with attempts to keep things straight. Book 5 provided a cast list, but this one has no such memory aid. In addition, the voices-in-the-wind plot element becomes a little tired, even perfunctory, in this outing, which doesn’t live up to previous volumes.
An overly complicated mystery with an engaging protagonist.
Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2019
Page count: 250pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020
A psychic small-town lawyer in western Nebraska investigates a double murder in this fifth installment of Bruce’s mystery series.
“Life calmed down a bit—I hadn’t killed anyone for several weeks.” So begins Megan Docket, 29, in describing her latest adventure. Though not a violent person, Megan just seems to invite the kind of trouble that requires lethal self-defense. A lawyer in small-town Dexter, Nebraska, Megan has a gift: She hears the voices of the dead in the wind sweeping the dry bluffs near her house and gets psychic impressions of danger, whether past or to come. She has a good relationship with local law enforcement—in one case, especially good. She’s dating Lt. Jay Young, a sheriff with the State Patrol. So when Megan is asked to look into the deaths of Junior and Val Percival, she’s allowed to thoroughly investigate. Re-experiencing the events and sensing evil, Megan is sure it’s murder by a third party, not a murder-suicide. Megan happens to be the executor for the couple’s estate, which is unwelcome news to Kenny and Helen Percival, now guardians to Junior and Val’s 15-year-old son, Mitch, who is profoundly autistic. With the help of her close-knit group of family and friends, Megan untangles snarled threads, including a family feud and insurance fraud. She also wonders whether to trust Jay and her deepening feelings, especially after a disastrous visit to his family at Christmas. Bruce (Fire in the Wind, 2017, etc.) keeps up a crackling pace in her fifth Docket novel, helping the reader keep track of a large cast through good exposition and a cast list. Megan’s psychic abilities help nudge her in the right direction but aren’t overly convenient, giving her room to demonstrate her lawyerly and investigative chops. As with the previous novels, Megan’s personality interestingly blends compassion and practicality. She’ll kill if she has to but pleads with God, “Please don’t let me be evil.” A few clever surprises keep readers guessing until a satisfying outcome.
Another fine series entry featuring a well-rounded heroine whose psychic abilities are just some of her gifts.
Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2018
Page count: 239pp
Publisher: Merriam Press
Review Posted Online: March 30, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018
This fourth mystery in a series pits a psychic Nebraska attorney against local racists.
For a small-town lawyer, Megan Docket leads a dramatic life. She hears eerie voices of the dead in the wind that sweeps through the dry, rugged land of Dexter, Nebraska, and she gets strong premonitions of trouble to come—and there’s always trouble, it seems. Megan has “killed four men in the last four years, which must be a record for Nebraska attorneys under the age of thirty.” It was self-defense, but sadly, the most recent attack killed Megan’s unborn baby and destroyed her marriage. This time, trouble starts when a burning cross is set aflame on her land, apparently to intimidate Megan’s family friend/father figure, James Wilson, 65, one of Dexter’s few black citizens. He suffers a stroke, which brings friends and family to town for help. Megan’s uncle brings along Raz and Nori Peters, Lebanese Christians like Megan’s maternal side of the family, who are lying low after political troubles at home. As Megan forms a Night Posse to investigate the cross burning (and additional hate crimes), she becomes uneasily attracted to Raz. When another death occurs, Megan is arrested. Events build to a violent confrontation with a dangerous killer as James’ health worsens. Though Megan uncovers several truths, her experiences severely test her faith in friends and God. As in her previous novels, Bruce (Cries In the Wind, 2016, etc.) presents a distinctly realized, fully populated world. At times, the welter of names and interrelationships can become daunting, but Bruce provides good exposition to help keep track. Megan’s personality interestingly combines practicality and ruthlessness with thoughtfulness and deep compassion. She’s good at her job, skilled with a gun, serious about her faith, appreciative of hot men, and generous with money. Bruce keeps the plot moving at a crackling pace, and the action nicely intertwines with Megan’s personal crisis regarding James’ living will and tragic losses she’s suffered.
Another good entry in this series, starring a thoughtful, earthy heroine who’s a magnet for danger.
Pub Date: April 15, 2017
Page count: 268pp
Publisher: Merriam Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2018
In this third volume in a series, a Nebraska attorney with psychic abilities investigates some old murders, putting herself and others in danger.
Megan Docket considers herself a magnet for trouble. Though not yet 30, she’s managed to kick a few hornets’ nests, not to mention she’s “killed three men in three years.” She had good reasons, but the memories disturb her. Four months pregnant and reconciled with her husband, Brian, she’s not planning on more trouble, but newly recovered evidence stirs up the decades-old disappearance of three women and a subsequent house fire. No bodies were ever found, but a man was convicted, who admitted to arson but not murder. Walking the property where the house once stood, Megan hears voices in the wind, a special ability she possesses. Unbearable, agonizing wails of two women tell her that she must investigate and that the third woman didn’t die at the scene. But when Megan looks into several fishy matters, she’s strongly warned to back off—as when her horse is shot and killed. Brian wants her to drop it, but he can’t influence her; that, and other tensions, threaten their marriage. Megan draws on her close network of friends and relatives for support, and though she unravels several lingering mysteries, finding the truth comes at a very high cost. Bruce (Alone in the Wind, 2016, etc.) again offers a tight, nicely observed mystery with thriller and paranormal elements, continuing to develop relationships from the first two novels. She handles Megan and Brian’s marriage problems with great sensitivity to both points of view, and Megan’s bulldog inability to let things go becomes central to the plot, a good tie-in. Bruce also brings in the paranormal aspect with subtlety; Megan’s insights provide her with important clues, but her ability isn’t overmined for plot convenience. The plot, with multiple interrelating characters and events from both now and 20 years ago, can get a little confusing, but Bruce does a fairly good job of keeping the reader oriented.
Another well-written mystery featuring murders and secrets in a harsh, haunting landscape.
Pub Date: July 13, 2016
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Merriam Press
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016
A stirring historical novel that plumbs the depths of war for the possibilities of love.
Bruce (Voices in the Wind, 2015) sets her latest novel in the Soviet Union during World War II. Elena Nevskaya is a complex protagonist: a committed Communist, a devout Christian, and, despite her love of Russia, a political dissident who’s contemptuous of Bolshevism. Snatched from university life to serve as a medic in a war that’s already killed her husband and brother, she’s quickly forced to confront the bleakness of her circumstances. She witnesses unspeakable carnage and struggles with her simmering hatred for German invaders: “Yes, I did want my country to destroy the Germans. Yes, I did want the injured to live. But at what cost to me?” Transferred to a hospital on the front, and crushed by disillusionment, she rescues a wounded Nazi clinging to life. Although moved by sympathy to help him, she’s initially overwhelmed by disgust, seeing him as a personification of Nazi ideology. But Friedrich Halder turns out to be a university man, as well as a deserter who was conscripted into service in order to avoid being sent to a concentration camp. What improbably ensues is a mutual recognition of each other’s humanity, a kind of truce, and then the kindling of a romance. For fans of historical fiction or romance, this is a deft combination of the two genres, written in a wise, often poetical prose. The overall tale is dark and catalogs the murky depths of human depravity, but despite the realistic grittiness of its portrayal of war, it’s thankfully leavened by considerable doses of humor and hope. At its core, it’s a story about an attempt to maintain one’s humanity while witnessing, and even participating in, stark inhumanity. Elena and Friedrich fall in love, and in doing so, each concedes the other’s value.
An epic portrayal of a romance born out of the rubble of World War II.
Pub Date: April 6, 2015
Page count: 266pp
Publisher: Merriam Press
Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
Favorite line from a book
"It was the best to times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness..."
Passion in life
My family (and the stories I concoct when I'm not thinking about them).
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