Pasadena Police Department Homicide Detective Nan Vining most definitely knows about the dark side. Two years prior to the events in Love Kills she was attacked by a serial killer in a vicious knife assault that left her scarred both physically and psychologically.
While her physical wounds mended on their own over time, it took Nan going to a very dark place psychologically before she emerged feeling confident and free again, which is where we find her at the start of Love Kills, the fourth book in author Dianne Emley’s Nan Vining series.
And she’s going to need every ounce of her rediscovered confidence to deal with the three death investigations that cross her path in Love Kills, as not only do they all appear to be linked to each other, but also to someone close to Nan.
When Nan and her partner, Detective Jim Kissick, are called to the site of a Pasadena socialite’s drowning, Nan is startled to realize that she recognizes the victim, Catherine “Tink” Engleford, a longtime friend of her mother, Patsy.
Nan is even more startled when she goes to Patsy’s apartment to inform her of Tink’s death only to find two Los Angeles detectives already present and questioning Patsy… about two completely different deaths. It turns out that Patsy’s most recent boyfriend, a sleazy private investigator to the stars, was found shot to death in a motel room alongside a young woman who had been stabbed to death.
Complicating matters even further, charismatic self-help guru to the stars Georgia Berryhill appears to have links to all of the victims, as well as to Patsy. Given that Berryhill’s Malibu Canyon compound is frequented by a virtual who’s who of the rich and famous, none of whom welcome a police investigation with open arms, Nan has an uphill battle on her hands to get to the bottom of things.
As with all previous entries in the series, Emley has given Nan and her partner a wonderfully complex puzzle to solve, one that even the most savvy reader of mysteries will be hard pressed to get out in front of. Emley has also served up a healthy dose of black humor in addition to the mystery, as Berryhill and her followers are obviously a wickedly funny poke at the Hollywood set and their fascination with flavor of the month gurus and trends.
Emley’s descriptions of Pasadena and Malibu are picture perfect, and the locales are a refreshing change of pace from the numerous detective series set in Los Angeles proper. Emley also continues to masterfully bring Nan to life in a way that rings true to the delicate dance a single mother engages in on a daily basis to balance job and family. She’s a competent, take charge detective, yet very realistically can’t quite seem to wrap her arms around her hectic personal life: a teenage daughter who’s starting to rebel; a wonderfully supportive grandmother, who unfortunately seems to be heading into Alzheimer’s; an on again, off again romance with her partner (on again at the moment); and, of course, her well intentioned but often flighty mother Patsy, who presents a particularly unique challenge in Love Kills.
Old friends of the series will find that Nan’s closure with serial killer T.B. Mann has lifted a great burden from her and allowed her to begin rediscovering life without that constant shadow looming. It makes for a wonderful rediscovery for the reader as well. In that regard, Love Kills also presents a unique opportunity for those new to the series to jump in and hit the ground running without feeling as though they’ve missed something. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy and find out why Love Kills.
Love Kills is available from Ballantine Books (ISBN: 978-0345499554).