cover image Kindred Crimes

Kindred Crimes

Janet Dawson. St. Martin's Press, $17.95 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-312-04464-0

California PI Jeri Howard's new case seems straightforward: find Renee Mills Foster, nee Elizabeth Renee Willis, a wife who packed her bags, left her young son with her mother-in-law, emptied the joint bank account and took off. But the plucky and very resourceful Howard picks up a convoluted trail leading to a double murder committed 15 years earlier--a teenage boy's shooting of his own parents. Mark Willis, having confessed to the murders and served his time, is now trying to blend into a small-town community, an attempt made difficult by his sister's disappearance and Howard's investigation. To solve her case, Howard has to piece together events that led to the murders, determining where Mark's two siblings--Elizabeth and Karen, then 14 and nine, respectively--were when they occurred. Child abuse, adultery and blackmail are just a few of the sins hidden behind both disappearance and murder. This first mystery, winner of a contest sponsored by the publisher with Private Eye Writers of America, features dialogue, plotting and characterization that come close to the work of some of the genre's more experienced writers. Dawson keeps suspense and interest at high pitch even for readers who correctly distinguish the guilty and innocent. (July)