The Devil You Know (Detective Margaret Nolan #3), by P.J. Tracy

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, P.J. Tracy, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Long a fan of P.J. Tracy and their work (from the era when it was a duo and now a single author), I have followed things from the Monkeewrench series to this new collection. While things have proven to be less impactful for me, the stories remain strong and have the needed spark to attract many readers. Full of action and set on the West Coast, Tracy keeps the reader guessing in this unique police procedural that has subtle undertones of personal struggle. Tracy has done well as a single author, though I do miss the duo that had my rapt attention with every turn of the page.

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan is back with a new case that takes her into all aspects of the city’s citizenry, including the stars who feel that they are untouchable. While the every day citizen toils and the dark underbelly use crime to get by, there is a privilege the rich feel they have, and Nolan sees this first hand. She’s also forced to contend with her own issues, which might pale in comparison, but are still prevalent as she does her job each day.

Prominent actor Evan Hobbes turns up dead in the rubble of a recent rockslide. Shouldering accusations of child pornography kept Hobbes from being able to live his best life, but Detective Nolan thinks that there might have been more than a rockslide involved in his death. The world of the entitled makes Nolan’s job all the more difficult, parsing through truth and deception. Still, Detective Nolan is determined to get to the bottom of what’s happened and who might have wanted to smear Hobbes’ name.

When another body turns up, with strong connections to Hobbes, Detective Nolan is all but assured that there is a killer on the loose; someone with an axe to grind and message to deliver. Detective Nolan will have to work with her team to get to the bottom of what’s happening, all while she tries to deflect the gleam of riches and entitlement that stardom leaves in its wake. With a killer hiding, Detective Nolan knows that this will be a challenge, but when has she ever shied way from it? A great addition to the series!

Authors surely undergo a transformation for a number of reasons, be they personal changes or writing styles. P.J. Tracy is one of those authors, moving from a strong mother-daughter duo into the daughter alone after the death of the elder. I have seen a significant change in the writing, which is to be expected. I have not been able to connect as much with this new series, but it could simply be that my writing tastes have shifted as well. Still, this is a series that has a great deal of potential and should attract the attention of many readers.

The key to a strong police procedural is to keep the crime at the centre of the narrative and build from there. P.J. Tracy does that well, adding her own flavouring with characters and setting development. Plot twists throughout keep the reader guessing, which permits things to be less than predictive. I appreciated this, as well as shorter chapters, which propelled the story forward. While I did not feel as connected to the story, I can appreciate how some would find this to be their perfect reading experience.

Kudos, Madam Tracy, for a decent novel that is sure to impress many, even if it was not something about which I can rave.