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A high-risk pregnancy. A dangerous secret. When her case turns deadly, can this investigator avoid racking up a fatal debt? Despite her injuries, PI Kelly Pruett is eager to get back to work. So when a mommy-to-be hires her to locate her estranged dad, Kelly is thankful for the straightforward missing-persons case. But as she rummages through his trash in search of clues, she uncovers gambling debts to gangsters… and a blood-soaked severed finger. With her investigation no longer cut-and-dried, Kelly’s hunt takes a deadly turn when her quarry is found driven off a cliff to his doom. And she’ll need more than her cop boyfriend’s help to expose the truth when the mob sends her a cease-and-desist notice with an explosive ending. Can the determined detective take on the mafia and make it out alive? Denied is the second book in the gripping Kelly Pruett Mystery series. If you like strong heroines, off-the-charts tension, and breathtaking twists, then you’ll love Mary Keliikoa’s action-packed story.
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