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ATOMIC NIGHT

A California private eye puts himself and others in peril while digging into a triple-murder cold case in this first installment of a thriller series.

Chad Kidd, a former Palm Springs cop-turned-private investigator, looks into the murder of Chloe Nelson from four years ago. She was the teenage daughter of Kidd’s former colleague Phil Nelson, a retired lieutenant. Firefighters found the charred remains of Chloe; her mother (and Phil’s ex-wife), Diana; and Diana’s boyfriend, Dan Brady, at a house fire, though all three were dead from gunshots. But as Chloe’s burning body was in a wheelbarrow in the front yard, Kidd and Phil surmise the teen was the primary target. There’s a slew of people for Kidd to interrogate, from Lizzy Grant (the teen’s best friend who’s devoted a Facebook page to finding the killer) to Jay Strait (Chloe’s ex-boyfriend who Lizzy and Phil are convinced is guilty). Before long, an anonymous Facebook message and phone call threaten Lizzy to stay quiet, and Kidd notices a Dodge Charger following him around. While the PI updates his growing suspect list, he also notes a possible tie between drug dealers and the murder case. The increasingly dangerous investigation ultimately leads to further intimidation, more than one kidnapping, and, sadly, additional deaths. Perry (To the North, 2018, etc.) gets this swift mystery off to a running start, with Kidd already investigating and Phil providing case details. Readers only know as much as the detective, and identifying the culprit who committed the murders isn’t easy. Moreover, Kidd becomes a more complicated character as the story continues. He starts a dalliance with someone connected to the case and is flustered by the impending release of Goran Markovic, who had been awaiting trial for gunning down Kidd’s cop fiancee, Erin Jade. Though the mystery eventually unravels on its own, it’s still a treat to watch the sleuth in frequent scenes of interrogations. His easygoing demeanor tends to make others talkative, and he has a holstered Glock 17 in case the interviewee turns aggressive.

A diverting whodunit bolstered by a laudable, complex detective.

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