She stood, her eyes serious, her face tight. “I understand. You’re very
disappointed in me and my betrayal of our friendship.”
I got to my feet, feeling much better with that weight off me.
“See the thing is, Linda, I’m not. I’m done. There’s a difference.”
Mary Keliikoa, Denied, Kindle Loc. 4060
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 Mary Keliikoa’s Kelly Pruett mystery series. It was released May 11. Derailed is the first in the series, which I recommend reading first.
Mary’s main character, Kelly Pruett is a private investigator who takes over her late father’s PI business. She’s trying to juggle work in a dangerous field and part time parenting of an eight-year-old deaf girl, shared with her ex-husband. She’s also trying to forge a new relationship with a cop, but living next to her ex mother-in-law makes being discreet hard.
When an old classmate asks Kelly to find her father, Kelly wants to help. Kelly’s memories of the classmate’s attentive father spur her to take the case. But, she finds it isn’t quite as simple as she thought. Floyd, her Bassett Hound, helps her investigate. Gambling is at the center of the story, but maybe that isn’t the only issue.
Please welcome Mary Keliikoa to WWK. E. B. Davis
How do you pronounce your last name? It is a mouthful, isn’t it! It’s Hawaiian, and as such, every vowel is pronounced. So it’s ke-lee-ee-koa.
Are your settings real or based on real places? The answer is it really depends. In an upcoming series out in 2022, the location is based on several real places, compiled to make one location. In Denied, however, I did both. Portland, Oregon is where PI Kelly Pruett lives and works from—home base if you will. But Riverview, Washington shares the stage and that location is based on a city near Portland. I gravitate towards creating a fictional spot when I want more creative license than the actual location could provide.
Why doesn’t Kelly want to attend high school reunions? Kelly had a few close friendships during her school years, but her lone-wolf-ways started early on in her life. Ultimately, with so much on her plate and not feeling like she has a lot in common with her classmates—being a PI, a single mom to a deaf daughter, her father dying and taking over his business—she’s not anxious to return.
How did Kelly come to drive an old Spitfire Triumph? Is it fast? Does it aid her investigations? The Spitfire was a car her father gave her when she graduated from high school. It is fast, but it doesn’t always aid in her investigations as it’s a bit recognizable. But the connection to her father makes it hard to part with.
Kelly makes note that Detective Kuni is from the
islands. What islands? Why did Kelly initially call him?
Detective Kuni is from the Hawaiian Islands. A little unknown fact (until now!)—Detective Kuni was inspired by my husband’s uncle who spent years as a homicide detective in Oregon. Kelly calls him because her client/former classmate had spoken with him initially when she couldn’t get a hold of her father, Vince, and requested a welfare check. When Kelly finds something in Vince’s house during her initial search, she makes the call to the detective for his assistance due to his familiarity with the situation.
Kelly makes newbie PI mistakes. Most states require a training period and specify the number of hours they must apprentice prior to being fully licensed. How long has Kelly been licensed? Had she studied with her late PI father? Oregon requires 1500 hours of training, which can be broken down into practical and educational classes. Kelly has been licensed for several years and worked under her father. However, her father was quite protective and delegated process serving and occasional stakeouts to Kelly, rather than letting her do any real investigating. He also kept a lot of facts and connections he had during his investigations hidden from her view. He had good intentions, but ultimately it has set Kelly up to make some novice mistakes.
What are “frighteners?” Frighteners means to threaten someone. With gambling and mafia-types hanging out in Denied, it’s guaranteed that there will be a bit of that happening!
What is Waardenburg Syndrome? It is a genetic condition that can cause deafness, and is the reason why Kelly’s daughter, Mitz, is deaf.
Kelly grew up with her ex-husband, Jeff. Were both of their fathers PIs? Did they work together or were they just friends? Jeff’s dad, Jack, and Roger were simply good friends. So much so that Kelly’s dad had him come out on a case with him that Kelly learns about in Denied. Part of what Kelly has learned about her father since he died was how much he held back from her. When I started writing the series, I felt this particular relationship between neighbors would be fun to layer in since it shows that Kelly’s father had secrets on many levels.
Do people notice hair more than any other detail? I’m not sure if they notice it more, but it’s right in there with other physical characteristics that catch our attention right away: eyes, nose, smile. For Kelly, it tends to be what she notices quickly.
Is Portland Meadows a real horse racetrack? It is—or more accurately, it was! It opened in 1946 to over 10,000 people in attendance and it hosted both quarter horse and thoroughbred racing. It also boasted a casino, a couple of bars, restaurant, and a poker room. Sadly, the race track was closed in 2019 and demolished in 2020.
What is Sporadic Reinforcement? Why is it good for training dogs and gamblers? It essentially means to reward good behavior and ignore the bad. That approach can be good for dogs especially when tasty treats are involved. For gamblers, it’s that intermittent reward that keeps them coming back for more, dropping those last few dollars, hoping for the next reward and the next!
How did Kelly end up living next door to her ex mother-in-law, Arlene? Is Arlene in denial about her son’s shortcomings? Kelly moved in with her father, who had continued to live in her childhood home located next door to Arlene, after Kelly and her husband, Jeff, divorced. When Kelly’s dad passed away, he left the house to her. Arlene is not necessarily in denial about Jeff, but she has a traditional view of what it is to be a woman and a mother. What I love about her character however is that she and Kelly grow not only individually, but in their relationship throughout the series.
Does Kelly have an addiction to peanut butter? She does. That and coffee! She also loves Italian food that her new flame, Kyle, whips up for them.
What is the Portland Vibe? Portland, Oregon is quite liberal and full of hipsters. What that means is you will find lots of vegan eateries, food trucks, coffee shops, tattoo parlors, and vintage stores peppered throughout the city. The Portland vibe embodies all of that.
What has Kelly been denied? What is she denying? Time with her father so that she could learn the PI ways more and to understand who he was. Also, to heal their relationship which is fractured from information she learns in the first book of the series.
In fact, the idea of being denied runs throughout this second novel. Kelly’s client is being denied the ability to make things right with her own father. And that father is being denied the ability to know his first grandchild.
As for what Kelly is denying, that’s easy. She doesn’t like to admit she needs people in her life. Kelly likes to go it alone because she believed that’s what her father had always done. But she learns that wasn’t always the case—she just didn’t know about the different situations where he had help. Kelly’s journey is truly to learn that she can lean on others in her life. I have a feeling it might sink in before the series is through!
What’s next for Kelly? Kelly’s next adventure will unfold in Deceived, which is out May 2022. The pitch is: On the verge of exposing misdeeds inside a women’s shelter, PI Kelly Pruett hopes to coax a resident out of hiding; but when another girl goes missing and the bodies pile up, Kelly will be forced to face her long-buried grief to bring the girls home alive. Needless to say, Kelly will be keeping busy with that case!