As a graduate intern at a Sacramento CBS-affiliate television station, Joan became involved in the story that would ultimately form the basis for her nonfiction book, "Little Girl Lost: A True Story of Shattered Innocence & Murder", which sold over 250,000 copies worldwide.
Today, Joan is the author of two novels in the Tess Alexander Mystery series: "A Just Reckoning," published in February of 2021, and "A Cruel Oblivion," published in November of 2021.
In addition, she has authored feature articles, commentaries, profiles, and columns which have appeared in dozens of national and regional magazines and newspapers. Among them are AARP Magazine, Sacramento Magazine, Sierra Heritage, and the Sacramento Bee newspaper.
Joan’s first novel, "A Just Reckoning," was named a finalist in the Independent Author’s Network 2021 Book of the Year Awards in the mystery category. She has also been the recipient of awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Writer's Digest magazine, and New Millennium Writers.
As the founding executive director of a county-wide child abuse prevention organization, she has a strong commitment to issues of personal violence, exploitation, and social justice, subjects she explores in many of her books.
An avid dog-lover, Joan writes two newspaper columns on life with companion animals, syndicated in four California and Colorado newspapers.
She teaches Communication Studies at a California community college, and lives in northern California’s Mother Lode region.
A Cruel Oblivion: A Tess Alexander Mystery
Staring down into the yawning grave, investigative journalist Tess Alexander inhaled the dirty gray fog, then gave a long sigh that briefly briefly parted the mist in front of her before closing in again.
It made no sense: Rennie Matlock was finally getting her life together, finally shaking off the horrors of her earlier years and moving into a hopeful future where the past no longer chained and haunted her. The young woman’s sudden and violent suicide gnawed at a corner of Tess’s mind like a vile worm, leaving an inky trail of doubt behind.
A decade before, media pundits and mental health experts alike had somberly, head-shakingly declared that Rennie’s act of plunging a letter-opener into her mother’s neck was unfathomable and without motive. Here was a lovely, seemingly well-adjusted teenage girl from a prominent and wealthy San Francisco family, suddenly gone completely mad.
But Tess knew the dark truth that helped explain the inexplicable, and understood the roots of terror and hopelessness that had driven Rennie's fury. She knew too that the long and spinning years between then and now had brought the young woman a small measure of redemption, and that she was opening the door to a new life that perhaps even included extending herself a fragment of mercy, if not forgiveness.
Baffled by the abruptness of Rennie's anguished descent into an inescapable abyss of despair, Tess vowed to uncover the impetus behind her suicidal act. She had no idea how potentially lethal that effort would be.
A Just Reckoning: A Tess Alexander Mystery
Slicing into the poisonous underbelly of the global sex trade, investigative journalist Tess Alexander finds herself catapulted into an unspeakable world that she barely knew existed.
It also puts a target on her back.
This isn’t the first time Tess’s work has put her in danger, but this new investigation puts her in far worse peril than anything she’s faced before. It begins after she meets Katia Voitenko, who as a child living along the Black Sea coast of Crimea was kidnapped and sold into decades of sex slavery. Hearing Katia’s appalling story, Tess becomes determined to unmask the ruthless criminals behind the international sex trafficking ring that enslaved the young woman.
Her search for the ringleaders drives her thousands of miles from the safety of her northern California home to the streets and alleyways of Ukraine, Crimea, and Great Britain.
During the course of her investigation—and with the help of a collection of characters that includes a Ukrainian revolutionary, an officer with London’s Metropolitan Police Department, and one of the leaders of a transnational organization dedicated to rescuing victims of the sex trade—Tess uncovers the sinister extent of the trafficking operation, and almost pays with her life.
Little Girl Lost: A True Story of Shattered Innocence and Murder
Officer George Coelho swallowed hard and asked the teenage girl to start at the beginning. He was still having troubling believing that these two kids had slaughtered eighty-five year-old Anna Brackett in her own home just hours before.
With very little prompting, Shirley Wolf, barely fourteen years old, described how she and her companion, fifteen-year-old Cindy Collier, committed the murder, taking great care to include each terrible detail. The seasoned cop had to keep reminding himself that the sweet girl sitting there smiling at him was a vicious killer.
After she finished, Coelho went into the next room to gather both girls’ bloody clothes, and picked up the flowered diary Shirley had mentioned at the end of her confession. Thumbing through the book, he found the final entry, scrawled in Shirley’s own juvenile hand: “Today Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.”
But the real story behind this horrific crime lay in what this book’s author discovered later: the terrible forces of family neglect and hideous sexual abuse that robbed the two young girls of their childhoods, and may have driven them to kill.
*Out of Print - Available Used Only*