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She's Not There


She's Not There

I will concede that I was (ever so momentarily) disappointed to learn that SHE’S NOT THERE is not a new installment in P.J. Parrish’s Louis Kincaid series. That feeling disappeared when I was about two pages in, which is really no surprise. Parrish (the collective name for sisters Kris Montee and Kelly Nichols) is incapable of writing badly. I watched, spellbound, at a Killer Nashville panel several years ago when Kelly nonchalantly demonstrated how, separated by several hundred miles of geography, P.J. Parrish does what she does. I thought a lot about that while reading this book, but I focused primarily on the story, a dark domestic tale that crosses the country with murderous intent while introducing, at least potentially, the start of a new series.

SHE’S NOT THERE kicks off with a woman suffering from amnesia in a hospital bed. Her name, which we learn along with her in dribs and drabs, is Amelia “Mel” Tobias. Mel had been found injured and disoriented in the wilds of the Everglades, her wrecked automobile nearby. By the time her husband, Alex, arrives at the hospital, she is gone, propelled by vague feelings of danger and revulsion for her husband. Alex doesn’t seem to be a bad guy; he is a high-powered plaintiff’s attorney with all of the trappings that go with that occupation, including the possession of more money than God. His law firm partner, a sleek creature named Owen McCall who never seems to get his hands dirty, hires Clay Buchanan, a well-known skip tracer out of Nashville, Tennessee, to find Mel and bring her home.

"SHE’S NOT THERE is very different from the Kincaid series, but demonstrates the high water mark of craftsmanship that Parrish has demonstrated throughout her career."

Meanwhile, Mel is doing the fugitive equivalent of broken field running, moving vaguely but instinctively in a southwestern direction as fragmented memories begin returning to her all too slowly. Buchanan is very good at what he does, following what little trail Mel leaves but always a scant few steps behind. Suddenly, however, everything changes. McCall makes Buchanan an offer that seems totally off the board. Buchanan, who has heretofore unrevealed problems of his own, agrees. And suddenly, the book takes off in an entirely different direction.

I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the plot that Parrish has so wonderfully and intricately constructed, but Mel has people who are very desperate to bring her to ground, or worse. She also has friends, some of whom she meets along the way and others who are, shall we say, sprinkled across time and distance. However, they may not be enough to save Mel from the danger she is in as a result of the secrets she keeps but can’t remember.

SHE’S NOT THERE is very different from the Kincaid series, but demonstrates the high water mark of craftsmanship that Parrish has demonstrated throughout her career. This is much more of a suspense novel, though the underlying mystery --- who all is after Mel, and why --- is certainly a puzzler that will keep you guessing until the story’s climax. And while the book is complete in itself, there are a couple of plot threads, including a potentially dangerous one, that are left unresolved but still burning at the end. We’ll look forward to further resolution and much more from Parrish.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 25, 2015

She's Not There
by P. J. Parrish