A couple of years ago, I picked up one of P. J. Nolan’s books that was part of the Monkeewrench series which I thought was pretty good. I liked Nolan’s writing style and thought the series was fast paced with a to to enjoy. I hadn’t read any of the other books in the series before and I felt mostly orientated in the series and that it could have been read as a standalone novel without issue. P. J. Nolan is a pseudonym for a mother-daughter writing duo and while sometimes it can be hard with two writers, writing one book, I think in this case it was seamless.
Nolan has been an established author with a large fan base, especially surrounding the Monkeewrench series which is ten books in. I love that they have branched out into a new series featuring Margaret Nolan. While this book is part of a series, I think that Nolan does a great job orientating readers within the story and from the early reviews, most feel that this can also be read as a standalone.
For me the thing that grabbed me about this one was the mix of grit (murder) and glamour (Los Angeles). For me I get a very noir feeling from this book summary. LA has long been associated with glitz and glamour, and this book features the murder of a celebrity. When that world of glitz and glamour comes together to meet with a disturbing homicide, I think it gives the reader a sense of unease which is ripe for a thriller. I love when I am caught off guard and hooked on a story that has this contrasting image of glamour and murder. I think a lot of readers and fans of thrillers/mysteries will find a lot to enjoy in this one, especially under the pen of two talented and proven authors!
LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan returns in The Devil You Know, the next book in the series where P. J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review).
Los Angeles has many faces: the real LA where regular people live and work, the degenerate underbelly of any big city, and the rarified world of wealth, power, and celebrity. LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan’s latest case plunges her into this insular realm of privilege, and gives her a glimpse of the darkness behind the glitter.
The body of beloved actor Evan Hobbes is found in the rubble of a Malibu rockslide a day after a fake video ruins his career. It’s not clear to Nolan if it’s an accident, a suicide, or a murder, and things get murkier as the investigation expands to his luminary friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, Hobbes’ agent is dealing with damage control, his psychotic boss, and a woman he’s scorned. But when his powerful brother-in-law is murdered, he and Nolan both find themselves entangled in a scandalous deception of deadly proportion that shakes the very foundation of Hollywood’s untouchables. (summary from Goodreads)
This book defiantly had the noir feeling I was expecting from the summary. I love a good noir film and I think this book does a good job at capturing that general feeling of unease and the grit which is the hallmark of noir films and books. I will say this book did have a lot of characters to keep track of. It was a bit distracting at times and I had to stop and think about where we were at in the plot with the characters etc. I wish they had written less characters and focused more on developing the stronger characters and plot points so that.I could really focus on the story rather than trying to keep track of all the characters.
I expected the author to take some time to orientate new readers within the series since this is the third book. While the author did a good job with the mystery being more of a standalone, I think the relationships with some of the characters were already established in previous books which made it a little hard to track not only the amount of characters, but also their relationships to one another. For that reason I would suggest maybe reading the other books in the series first. But as far as the mystery itself, I felt the mystery could have stood alone. I really liked the vibe and feel of this book and the mystery itself could have been even more compelling had I felt more of a connection to the characters and understood their relationships better.
The setting and mystery itself were complicated and not just because there were a lot of characters. Readers will be kept on their toes trying to figure this one out! There were a lot of twists and turns in new directions, this was definitely not a book that I could do on auto pilot. It felt like a smart mystery and had some police procedural elements that I enjoyed too. I didn’t feel like the mystery was wanting, for me it was more how things, characters and past events all related to one another. I liked this book and enjoyed my time with it, but I didn’t love it in the way that I think I would have if I had read a couple of the other books in the series.
Book Info and Rating
Format 304 pages, Hardcover
Published January 17, 2023 by Minotaur Books
ISBN 9781250859945 (ISBN10: 1250859948)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Minotaur Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: mystery, thriller