Next of Kin: Death Valley Mystery Book 2, by Melissa M. Garcia, is a thrilling police procedural that’ll keep you guessing.
Lake City isn’t accustomed to multiple murder investigations. When Will Stellar, a homicide detective, is called to a crime scene he’s shocked to discover the victim is a childhood friend. But the bigger jolt is the mounting evidence connecting the victim, a suspected prostitute, to the Lake City Police Department. Stellar has to walk a fine line.
When a vigilante, named the Coyote, appears in Lake City, Stellar and his team now have multiple murders to solve. Unsure who he can trust he turns to Alex Delgado, a reclusive motel owner with a dark past. Stellar wants to stop the Coyote, but the odds are quickly stacking up against him.
This is the second book in the series. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first since this reads like a standalone. Albeit, after reading this one, you may be hooked and want to track down the first in the Death Valley series.
Melissa Garcia’s mystery sucks the reader in with the opening pages. It’s not so much the action that keeps the reader’s interest, even though there is plenty going on and fans of police procedurals will not be disappointed by all the twists and turns.
It’s Detective Stellar. He’s a troubled man grappling with guilt. Recently he arrested his own brother for dealing drugs. His family is struggling with having one son incarcerated and the other responsible for his arrest. Stellar’s girlfriend doesn’t offer much solace. In fact, she’s a huge part of the problem.
The detective is being pulled in several different directions. Even though his boss isn’t outright asking him to bury evidence, he’s making it clear that the evidence in the murder investigation could be a ticking time bomb for the department and Lake City.
Integrity matters to Stellar and it’s easy for the reader to cheer him on against all the odds. Then the unexpected happens and Stellar has to make a difficult decision that could cost him not only his badge, but the life of someone he cares about. Can the man who lives by the book bend the rules?
Garcia weaved Stellar’s personal demons in such a way that you can’t pull on one string without affecting an aspect of the murder investigations. The plotting is spot on. On the surface the storylines seem convoluted, but the overall story unfolds easily, which is a mark of a great thriller.
Most of the loose ends are resolved, but not everything is brought to a conclusion, leaving hope that the author has plans to continue the series. Many fans will want more after one taste.
Next of Kin has all the key ingredients for a page-turning thriller: excellent character development, an intriguing and elusive psychopath, tinges of corruption, a conflicted detective, and a unique setting. The only thing that’s missing is a compelling book cover, which is a real shame considering she took great pains to tick all the other boxes.