Lying Blind, the sixth entry in the Nan Vining series by Dianne Emley, opens with an absolutely stunning description. Pink rose petals blown by the Santa Ana wind drift lazily on the crystal clear water of an infinity pool behind a Spanish Colonial Revival mansion on a hilltop overlooking Pasadena and Los Angeles. Underneath an equally crisp, blue sky, the scene presents “the illusion of a waterfall flowing over the edge of the world.”
Of course, the dead body floating facedown in the pool does spoil the effect just a bit.
By the time Pasadena Police Detective Nan Vining arrives, Sergeant Jim Kissick, with whom Vining has a personal relationship, has already pulled the body from the pool and called in the coroner. And while Vining appreciates the efficiency with which Kissick has handled the crime scene, she’s more than a little curious as to why he’s present at all. Though Kissick is longtime friends with the owners of the house, Teddy and Rebecca Sexton, that doesn’t satisfy Vining’s question why Teddy would text Kissick directly instead of calling 911 upon finding an unresponsive person floating in his pool.
The mystery deepens when Vining’s first look at the body reveals that the young woman bears a striking resemblance to both Rebecca Sexton and her brother, who serves as a personal assistant for Teddy, who is blind. Defying what appears to be obvious, however, all parties deny recognizing the dead woman. Given that she was found naked and with no clothes or ID near the pool, Vining has her work cut out for her to figure out exactly what’s going on. Complicating matters further, she gets the distinct vibe there’s more going on between Kissick and Rebecca Sexton than meets the eye, something that poses potential problems for both Vining’s investigation and her personal life.
But it’s when two investigators from a small town in San Luis Obispo County, California, show up at the Pasadena Police Department asking questions about a missing persons case from two decades ago that things take a turn for the truly twisted, as their missing person has recently been found—dead. And now they want to talk to Kissick and the Sextons about the case. And with that, Lying Blind is off to the races.
When a series passes the decade mark since its debut (The First Cut was released in 2006), there’s always the risk a character can become stale or predictable. Author Dianne Emiey avoids that happening with Vining by coming at her from a different angle in this installment, pushing her out of her comfort zone in a way she’s not experienced since early in the series. Though Vining is now a seasoned detective—the lead one in Pasadena’s Homicide/Assault division, in fact—the case she’s presented with in Lying Blind chips away at the trust she’s established in her personal life, then starts to bleed over into her professional one as well.
As a young officer, Vining got caught up in a case involving a serial killer, one who ended up targeting and attacking her. It took a long time for her physical wounds to heal, and even longer for the psychological ones. Having finally reached a point over the past few years where she truly felt confident (professionally) and free of paranoia (personally), Emley yanks the rug out from under Vining and plunges her back into a world of self-doubt and deception. She’d reached the height of her career as a detective by learning to trust her instincts and go where they took her, but if she’d made a mistake about Kissick in her personal life—did she?—what did that say about her instincts as an investigator? By employing this sort of “reset” on Vining’s perspective, Emley once again continues to deftly bring Vining to life in a way that rings true.
Longtime fans of the series will appreciate seeing Vining tested—as well as enjoy learning more about the heretofore somewhat mysterious Jim Kissick’s past—and the way the events of Lying Blind are presented, dipping back into a case two decades old and introducing a bevy of new characters to the series, makes it easy for newcomers to jump in at this point as well.
Lying Blind is forthcoming from Alibi/Random House on February 28th.