A Kelly Pruett Mystery #1
Publisher: Epicenter Press
Date of Publication: May 12, 2020
Number of Pages: 232
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A dying wish. A secret world. Can this grieving investigator stay on the right track?
PI Kelly Pruett is determined to make it on her own. And juggling clients at her late father’s detective agency, a controlling ex, and caring for a deaf daughter was never going to be easy. She takes it as a good sign when a letter left by her dad ties into an unsolved case of a young woman struck by a train.
Hunting down the one person who can prove the mysterious death was not just a drunken accident, Kelly discovers this witness is in no condition to talk. And the closer she gets to the truth the longer her list of sleazy suspects with murderous motives grows. Each clue exposes another layer of the victim’s steamy double life.
Can Kelly pinpoint the murderer, or is she on the fast track to disaster? If you like intricate family dynamics, secrets, including plot twists and turns, then this story is for you. DERAILED is the first book in the Kelly Pruett Mystery series.
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Portland, Oregon has as many parts as the human anatomy. Like the body, some are more attractive than others. My father’s P.I. business that I’d inherited was in what many considered the armpit, the northeast, where pickpockets and drug dealers dotted the narrow streets and spray paint tags of bubble-lettered gang signatures striped the concrete. In other words, home. I’m Kelly Pruett and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
I’d just finished invoicing a client for a skip trace and flicked off the light in the front office my dad and I used to share when a series of taps came from the locked front door. It was three o’clock on a gloomy Friday afternoon. A panhandler looking for a handout or a bathroom was my best guess. Sitting at the desk, I couldn’t tell.
Floyd, my basset hound and the only real man in my life, lifted his droopy eyes to meet mine before flopping his head back down on his bed. No help there.
Another rap, louder this time.
Someone wanted my attention. I retrieved the canister of pepper spray from my purse and opened the door to a woman, her umbrella sheltering her from the late October drizzle. Her angle made it hard to see her face, only the soft curls in her hair and the briefcase hanging from her hand. I slipped the pepper spray into the pocket of my Nike warmup jacket.
“Is Roger Pruett in?” she asked, water droplets splatting the ground.
She hadn’t heard the news and I hadn’t brought myself to update R&K Investigation’s website. I swallowed the lump before it could form and clutch my throat. “No, sorry,” I said. “My dad died earlier this year. I’m his daughter, Kelly.”
“I’m so sorry.” She peered from under the umbrella, her expression pinched. She searched my face for a different answer.
I’d give anything to have one. “What do you need?”
“To hire a P.I. to investigate my daughter’s death. Can you help me?” Her voice cracked.
My stomach fluttered. Process serving, court document searches, and the occasional tedious stakeout had made up the bulk of my fifteen hundred hours of P.I. experience requirement. Not that I wasn’t capable of more. Dad had enjoyed handling cases himself with the plan to train me later. In the year since his death, no one had come knocking, and going through the motions of what I knew how to do well had been hard enough. Now this lady was here for my father’s help. I couldn’t turn her away. I raked my fingers through the top of my shoulder length hair and opened the door. “Come in.”
IT’S ALL IN THE GUT
You’ve heard the adage, follow your heart? Well, my tried and true has always been my gut. I’m one of those individuals that feels every emotion in my stomach. Fear, joy, dread, excitement, anger, sadness. It’s all there. Sometimes swirling like acid. Sometimes bumping around like butterflies taking flight. There are times when I can’t tell which emotion is prevailing. But if I take a minute to pay attention, and heed it’s advice, it’s been pretty spot on through the years.
One such instance was when I turned 35 and decided I might like to start a company. Launching out on my own meant leaving a very cushy job with full benefits, a month of vacation, a month bonus at holiday. You get the picture. And for the reward of leaving that behind, I’d be jumping into a business I had zero experience. My head, and most of my friends and family, thought I’d lost it. But as scared as I was, my gut said worst case scenario–I could go back and get a job in the field where I had 18 years of experience. I trusted that gut and today, well, let’s just say, I get the luxury of writing full time.
Which brings me to the next major gut check. I’d picked up the pen again at 50. And while I was revising the novel that debuted in May 2020, I had submitted my other novel to a small press. I’d done it on a whim and at the push of a friend at the time. To my surprise, I got an offer. However, in the meantime, I had been querying agents and getting some good responses. So much so that it became a question of if I took the offer, would that hurt the chance of getting an agent?
The thing is, I wasn’t especially proud of the book that got the offer. I had to make a decision—was that book the one I wanted to debut with? It wasn’t my strongest work. They were telling me it would have littles changes—my gut knew it needed more than that. And putting out something that wasn’t high quality could undermine what efforts I was making to get that agent on the other work.
It was a very hard decision, but ultimately, I quit listening to my head and to the voices outside of myself and tuned into my gut. It said if what I really wanted was an agent, it would be okay to pass on the offer. Despite being terrified that no one would ever want any of my stories again, I did just that.
A few months later I would sign with my agent. A year after that I would get the book deal that includes my debut, DERAILED.
Every choice is so personal and independent. But the truth is, there are no wrong decisions. There are only the ones that feel right in your gut. So the next time you’re at a crossroads, quiet everything around you and listen. You might be surprised what you’ll know by exactly how you feel.
Have you had a similar experience? What is your barometer for knowing your path? I’d love to know!
This is such an impressive debut and packs a powerful punch in such a small package! At just over 220 pages, this is a tightly woven mystery that makes every action and word count from the very beginning. Kelly’s work into determining the truth behind the mysterious death of a young woman starts immediately, and short, intense chapters keep the pace moving and the tension mounting. Readers will fly through this story quickly, but feel like they’ve come away with a new friend in Kelly.
As her first potential murder case as a private investigator, walking through the story from Kelly’s perspective allows the truth the unfold right along with the reader, while also bearing witness to her process. Every twist and turn is shocking for both Kelly and the reader, making the mystery incredibly difficult to pin down until the final reveal. Because I read so many mysteries, cozy mysteries, and thrillers, it wasn’t hard for me to spot one tiny detail that led me to instantly figure out who was responsible for all the crimes, but not why, which was such a surprise to find out. However, there are quite a few red herrings and suspicious characters lurking around to keep readers guessing until the very end.
“Secrets have a way of catching up.”
As the story progresses, there is such a perfect blend of unveiling new pieces of the puzzle to move the mystery forward, while also delivering character backstory without it feeling like an information dump. It is all so seamlessly interwoven with never a dull moment in between. Still reeling from her recent divorce, the untimely death of her father, and balancing life as a working mom, Kelly is a remarkably relatable character that many women will identify with. There are so many conversations to be had surrounding family dynamics as well as their unfortunate dysfunction; however, with the last line, I’m rooting so much for such an unlikely partnership that will hopefully be exactly what each person needs.
Overall, this was a fast paced, engaging, and easy read that will resonate with readers who enjoy their mysteries with a little more edginess. This book really set some high expectations for future installments of the series, which I am now highly anticipating!
I was provided a free copy of the book. This is my honest and thoughtful review.
Mary Keliikoa spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails. She has had a short story published in Woman’s World and is the author of the PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series.
At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her writing companions/fur-kids. When not at home, you can find Mary on a beach on the Big Island where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.
Many thanks again to Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours and the author! It was a pleasure reading, reviewing, and hosting! And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more opinions and extras!