Keliikoa’s second entry in the Kelly Pruett Mystery series finds PI Kelly Pruett recovering from a gunshot wound to the arm and eager to get back to work. Returning home from a stakeout, Pruett runs into a woman from her past, an old classmate named Stephanie Burnotas. Stephanie is pregnant and her father, Vince, is missing, so she hires Kelly, who at first is happy to take a simple missing persons case—but then she finds evidence that Vince was indebted to the mob and discovers a severed finger covered in maggots. Things quickly worsen when Vince’s car gets discovered at the bottom of a cliff, and the mob takes measures to stop Kelly from asking further questions.
This is an action-packed novel with a strong heroine, a likable cast, and an engaging central case. The pacing is strong, and the narrative possesses that ineffable quality that can only be called “readability.” Vince’s death is mysterious, and Kelly proves adept at thinking it through: “Had it been raining that night? There were no streetlamps. Nothing to illuminate the road except for two headlights piercing the void. The rubber of his tires leaving solid ground. Sailing. Dropping. Hitting tree limbs on his way down. The jolts waking him. Had he realized in that moment where his car would land?”
Keliikoa vividly draws these characters. It’s easy to like Kelly, who recently lost her father, and to feel why her mother—who faces some danger once the mob gets wind of Kelly’s investigation— means so much to her: “My mother didn’t say as much in words as in action. Reassurance came in the form of a longer hug, brushing my hair, one-sided conversations where I rambled on about my fears that I’d never be pretty. Or skinny. Or normal.” This swift, exciting thriller hits its marks in mystery and action, but the heroine is what will stick with the readers after the last page.
Takeaway: An appealing detective and nice twists and turns enrich this mystery.
Great for fans of: Jennifer Hillier, Shannon Kirk.
Production grades Cover: A- Design and typography: A Illustrations: N/A Editing: A Marketing copy: A
A novice private investigator looks into the disappearance of her friend’s father in this second installment of a mystery series.
Derailed (2020) introduced 32-year-old Kelly Pruett, whose father died and left her his Portland, Oregon, private detective agency, R&K Investigations. She’d never handled anything like a murder case before but successfully untangled a mystery while uncovering family secrets and facing danger that left her with a bullet wound. Now it’s May, some months afterward, and Kelly is weighing whether to continue as a private eye or find a safer job when Stephanie Jacoby, an old high school friend, shows up, asking for help finding her missing father, Vince. He’s been out of touch since Thanksgiving. Though Kelly fails to find Vince at his deserted house, she does discover a severed finger—not his, it turns out—in the kitchen trash. Tracking down leads related to Vince’s gambling habit uncovers links among a bowling alley, a racetrack, a trucking company where he worked, the enterprise’s bookkeeper (also his money-lending landlady), and a projected water park of political and economic importance. As Kelly also juggles family matters and a new romance, her sleuthing again puts her in peril. As she did in her first Pruett novel, Keliikoa deftly marshals the story’s twisty interconnections, doing a fine job of keeping readers oriented as things march toward an ending with several surprises in store. Kelly is an appealing character, smart and hardworking as she feels her way through, and her PI work is nicely balanced by complications in her personal life. These include the difficulties of dating a new man under the eyes of her neighboring ex-mother-in-law and a reappraisal of her father, who left her feeling betrayed in Book 1.
A solid sequel with a relatable detective and an enjoyably knotty plot.