Read as part of CBR13Bingo: New Series. The Kelly Pruett series debuted in 2020. Book two came out this year.
In the “About the Author” section, the reader learns that Mary Keliikoa didn’t get the chance to publish this book until she was 50, despite trying to begin a writing career in her 20s. Things like family and work (she is, or was a lawyer) kept getting in the way. I appreciate that story a lot.
And perhaps it made me appreciate her debut effort more. I always appreciate contemporary mysteries that have the DNA of the hardboiled classics but add their own twists to it. I don’t doubt that Keliikoa has read Raymond Chandler but unlike many of her contemporaries, she learned the good lessons. Kelly Pruett fits the loner PI model but she’s also a single mom trying to rebuild her life and, on top of that, her daughter is deaf, adding texture to her circumstances that feels real.
I appreciated Kelly’s character, even though I found it hard to believe she was 32 (again, being graceful here but as a millennial, there aren’t many nods to being a millennial). Fortunately, Keliikoa forsakes corny, cliche dialogue in favor of speech and characters that feel real and come together to make for an interesting mystery. Throw in the bleak, rainy, rustic Portland background and it was an entertaining tale.
I’m not sure I was a fan of the reasons why the victim died. I can’t get into that without spoiling. Beyond that, however, this was a fun read from an exciting new voice.