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P.I.

A Killing Rain, P.J. Parrish, Pinnacle Books, $6.99.

A Killing Rain by P.J. Parrish

P.J. Parrish is writing one of the sharpest P.I. series around at the moment - why she (they, actually this is a team of two sisters) are not accorded larger acclaim or bestselling status is a mystery - these books are well written, have wonderful characters and plots, and move the P.I. genre along its developmental path. A Killing Rain finds P.I. Louis Kincaid living, as he has for several books now, on Captiva Island, and in this novel, he's thrust into an uncomfortable situation with a woman he's been interested in for a while. Susan Outlaw is a public defender, and she's single with a son, Ben, and on their first date Louis not only doesn't get to take her out to a restaurant, he's confronted with her ex-husband, a less than savory individual named Austin Outlaw. Louis is left in the very uncomfortable middle, uncertain where he wants a relationship with Susan to go. The point becomes moot, however, when Austin and Ben disappear after a father and son outing and it appears that Ben has either been kidnapped or is dead. This, of course, is an ideal way to ratchet up both tension and the reader's investment in the story; but because all of the characters are well drawn - Louis himself, Susan, even the creepy Austin, you are inevitably drawn in as the noose around the men who have Susan's son begins to tighten.

The story eventually involves the two men who have kidnapped Ben as well as a larger story involving illegal workers in the sugar cane fields of South Florida. Parrish manages to effortlessly tie together a police investigation, Louis' rather unorthodox hunt for Ben, the illegal workers, and the troubles of the kidnappers themselves into a completely compelling narrative. The ending left me both disturbed and eager for the next installment of Louis Kincaid's journey. You may find yourself disagreeing with the choice he makes at the end of the book; but Parrish has so thoroughly laid the groundwork for both directions Louis could take that the choice is both moving and believable. Louis is quickly becoming one of the characters who belongs in the private eye canon - he's made a space for himself alongside guys like Spenser, Amos Walker, and Elvis Cole, and at this point, I anticipate his return every bit as much as I do that of Spenser, Walker, and Elvis.

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