Detective Nan Vining is used to being in situations where she has to fly solo. Both professionally as an investigator with the Pasadena Police Department and as a single mother raising a teenage daughter, Vining has reached a point where she’s learned to trust her instincts and go where they take her.
In Killing Secrets, however, the first entry in the Nan Vining series in five years (Read more from author Dianne Emley about revisiting Vining after such a layoff.), Vining finds herself farther out on a solo ledge than ever before.
The book opens with Vining’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Emily, and her boyfriend stumbling across a gruesome crime scene while out in a city park at dusk. Two people, one of their classmates and a popular teacher from their school, have been killed. As the investigator with the most seniority and experience, Vining naturally expects to be assigned the case. Upon arriving at the scene, however, she’s surprised to learn that two other investigators, one of them extremely inexperienced, have been given the assignment instead.
Her surprise turns to confusion, and then frustration, as the case is handled both in an unorthodox manner and with lightning speed. Someone high up in the PD is apparently in a hurry to chalk things up as a murder-suicide and be done with it. Vining isn’t convinced, and decides to dig deeper.
Along the way, Vining learns that the student, a recent transfer to the area, was a troubled teen whose father committed suicide—or did he? The young man was working with his English Lit teacher, the one who was also killed, on a story that would supposedly prove his father, a former prosecutor who’d been responsible for bringing some big fish down, was actually murdered, his killing staged to look like a suicide. Now, Vining has to find out not only if that’s true, but if history is repeating itself in her backyard.
After a five-year absence, one might think an author would find it difficult to slip back into the skin of a character, but LA Times bestseller Dianne Emley’s return to the Nan Vining series feels as comfortable as slipping on a favorite old sweater. Back is the same confident, capable detective readers of the series have come to know and love. Back also, in spades, is the frustration Vining feels trying to juggle her career and single mom status. Daughter Emily has hit the rebellious, defiant stage at a full run, a situation that would be challenging enough even if two dead bodies weren’t involved.
Adding to the frustration for Vining, Emily’s boyfriend is a cocky smartass, and one with an overbearing defense attorney stepfather and known gangbanger friend to boot. Familiar characters like Vining’s grandmother, who has slipped farther down the Alzheimer’s path, Jim Kissick, Vining’s sometimes partner in both policing and romance, and Kendra Early, Vining’s commanding officer/mentor/friend, are all back, with varying degrees of participation.
It all makes for a complex, challenging and engaging mystery for Vining to unravel, and readers will love tagging along for the ride.
Killing Secrets is available from Alibi/Random House on July 21st.