The Little Death  by PJ Parrish is apart of an ongoing mystery series featuring private detective Louis Kincaid and the story is set in Florida. Out of maybe 8 or 9 titles by the writing team that make up the PJ Parrish pseudonym of Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichol there are only three titles available digitally. The book is available as a paperback & has a list price of $7.99 [432 pages] and a digital price of $6.39 for Kindle (Amazon) and Nook (Barnes and Noble). The Reader Store (Sony) was the highest at $7.59.
Reading this new mystery novel by PJ Parrish kept me on the edge of my seat. It is very well written. Majority of the events of this story take place in an affluent town where older, married rich women are paying for sex. Palm Beach Island seems to be home to the rich and the bored. The social strata there is no joke either. The bulk of the island is made up of families who come from old money and then you have everybody else who live in the “real world.”
In “The Little Death,” the story starts off with the grisly discovery of a headless body in a cow pasture located in a remote area of some farm land preserve called the Devil’s Garden. The victim, who is male, looks to have been tortured and decapitated in a lonely field.
Private investigators Louis Kincaid and his partner, Mel Landeta, travel to Palm Beach island to solve this gruesome murder. Louis and Mel are ex-cops from Fort Meyers. The two men are there to help who the police have already labeled as a possible suspect for the headless corpse: Reggie Kent. For some reason the Palm Beach detectives are ready to pin the murder on Reggie because he had a public fight with the victim, Mark Durand, and was the last to see him alive. But Reggie says he’s innocent.
Reggie comes off very needy and torn up inside. He’s scared shitless and is facing a murder charge. Almost all of the entire town has shunned him. The suspicion that hangs over him is thick and has just about eradicated his livelihood. Reggie’s a “walker.” He escorts rich women to social events and parties. No sex is involved according to Reggie. It’s a profession he’s very proud of and is quick to defend to people who think it’s prostitution.
Reggie comes off looking guilty when he isn’t forthcoming initially about his relationship to the victim. The Sheriff of Palm Beach is hostile towards Reggie because he’s gay and is almost uncooperative with Louis and Mel. The police seem hostile to just about anyone who’s gay, have brown skin or is an illegal immigrant.
Strangers aren’t welcome on the island. It’s an attitude that is quite prevalent. It’s something Louis learns almost immediately when he’s handed a citation for having his ugly Mustang parked on the street. However there is this is one cop who’s willing to help, Lieutenant Swann. He was interesting and surprisingly fleshed out. His character was a significant part of the story as well.
After Reggie is questioned by Louis and the case somewhat stalls, one of the locals on the island tells Louis that her gardener disappeared some five years ago. Rumors around town say that the husband caught his wife cheating on him with the gardener and chased him off the property and disappears. This new information takes Louis in a different direction and maybe even even to a possible connection to the headless corpse. Of course the woman refuses to say who the couple was that chased the guy off. She tells Louis that she has to live in this town, too. But she gives up the name because she has a fondness for Reggie and it’s a bombshell.
The story continues to unravel layer by layer. The reader is given one major puzzle piece at a time. The story is dark and has forensic details in it akin to that of other mystery authors like Patricia Cornwell and Karin Slaughter. For the majority of the story we never know more than the protagonists does about what is going on. There are maybe one or two revealing scenes to help shed some light on things but it isn’t until the last fourth of the novel that readers are given full information about who the murderer is and the motive.
The narrative is in third person and is mostly told from Louis’s perspective but we get maybe a few other perspectives from other characters but the majority of it is from Louis. What I like about this story is that it is character driven and moved at a quick pace. The story has great atmosphere and the setting was well done as well. You get a feel for the island’s inhabitants and the pecking order of the social class.
The tone of the story had a sinister feel to it that never left and I loved that. The people who Louis thought were persons of interest seemed untouchable because of their bank accounts and perceived social clout. The author did an excellent job with leading the reader astray. I liked how all the pieces came together to explain the events that led to the murder and to a secret society where rich married women were paying men to act out their fantasies. Hence the title, “the little death” which in French is called la petite mort. A literary metaphor for orgasm.
The denouement devolved into your typical ending of action and suspense. While I enjoyed almost all the characters in here, I thought Reggie was pathetic. At one point in the story he’s arrested and put in jail which makes Louis and the rest work even harder to clear his name. I thought Reggie should have taken his jail time like a man instead of crying and whimpering like a baby.
I was not completely surprised by the revelation of the murderer in here but it’s meant to shock. The ending was not all that typical either which was another plus. The conclusion wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t neat and I like that too. Like Karin Slaughter, another favorite writer, who loves to show how some of the bad guys often get away, the ending in the Parrish book is somewhat similar and I won’t reveal more than that.
Did I believe the plot? The character’s? The motive behind the murder? Yes to all. Although you would have to suspend disbelief to fully enjoy stories such as these. I liked the novel enough to overlook a lot of things but nothing worth mentioning. The story is unlike anything I’ve ever read but that’s not to say that there aren’t other books out there like this one.
A story isn’t worth anything of value to the reader if he/she doesn’t believe in it. I was engaged emotionally and was invested in the outcome of the characters. I thought the plot was decent and plausible up to a point. Not sure how I feel about Louis as I didn’t bond with him right away like I did with Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent. Louis had no flaws that I could recall. Other than his lack of communication skills which led to him breaking up with his girlfriend who’s also a cop (development from earlier books in this series), he seemed well adjusted and that’s always boring. I like flawed people better I guess.
The Little Death was a well told mystery that kept me engaged. It can stand alone quite well. I haven’t mentioned every single character or every single plot twist in the story. So there’s still some enjoyment for you if you care to read this book. If you enjoy character driven mysteries then P.J. Parrish is a good author to try. I’ve only read the one book but I plan to read the two titles in the back list that’s digitized.
Overall, good story. My grade, B+. Must mention that Louis Kincaid is half black and half-white and his creators are white. Did his character read like a typical black character to me? Not really. The only time I was reminded of Louis’s race was when his skin color was mentioned. Otherwise, he seemed generic to me.