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My Thoughts About …. ‘South Of Hell’ by P.J. Parrish

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Synopsis is taken from the book:

This Title Is Available From Amazon

Years after the mysterious disappearance of his wife Jean, Owen Brandt is released from prison, having served time for a string of violent crimes against women. Although there was never proof to suggest that Brandt had any part in his wife going missing, PI Louis Kincaid agrees to take another look at the case, with the help of Miami detective Joe Frye.

When Louis and Joe go to the now-derelict Brandt farmhouse, located just south of a town called Hell, they find a teenage girl hiding there. Though frightened and confused, she tells them that her name is Amy, and that she is the daughter of Jean and Owen Brandt. But the Brandts never had a child, or so people in the town seem to think.

As Amy starts to remember details from the past, signs begin to suggest that Owen Brandt killed his wife. But how do Louis and Joe know if they can trust Amy? What secrets from Louis’ own past could distract him from the investigation? And can they uncover the truth before it’s too late?

About The Author:

P.J. Parrish is another example of an author (or, in this case, two authors), being required by an agent to adopt a pen name, to avoid the reading audience knowing who (or what) they are!

The writing team  actually comprises a ‘double-act’, of two sisters, Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols, who try to dispel the reader myth, that P.J. Parrish is actually a black male author, whilst also trying to break down the bias that still exists against female crime/thriller writers, because of their gutsy, gritty writing style.

Ironically though, both women, who have since early childhood been avid story writers, tried their hand at writing romance, with little success, before summoning their character of Louis Kincaid into print.

Their differing styles and individual unique qualities of writing complement each other, more so as time has passed and each has become a stonger writer; until now, the collaboration has produced an almost seamless manuscript that blends effectively, the more amazing when you consider that the ladies live states apart and only exchange ideas via the telephone and internet.

My Thoughts About The Book:

This is my first brush with the character PI Louis Kincaid and by now he his into his ninth adventure, with the tenth case seemingly to be his last, as the author is launching a new character later in the year.

In this instance though, I have no real urge to go back and read all Louis’s earlier cases and history, not because it isn’t a fantastic series, which it is, but because this book works great as a stand alone novel, and by now the character has been ‘fleshed out’ and given his full personality, which is so complex and sensitive, that to read earlier books would probably be a retrograde step.

Not only is this book a great thriller that kept me guessing right until the end, never really knowing what the final outcome would be, until the very last page, but it is also written with the keen attention to detail that made the characters believeable, well developed and real to me, drawing an immediate empathy from me, as I was so easily able to relate to them.

This book is written, and almost comes across as two separate stories, covering two disparate worlds and periods of time; the hard hitting angle of a great piece of modern day crime fiction writing and an invaluable insight into the many social problems of society, both modern and historical.

Louis Kincaid, born half black, into a small town, where prejudice is, even today, very much the norm. His mother passed away when he was young, his father abandoned him to a succession of foster homes, some good, some not so good. A law degree abandoned mid-way, for a career in the police, from where he is subsequently dismissed. He is now a PI, living on the edge of society, hated by the police, still an outcast in his home town and now living a very much anonymous life in the city, but unconsciously desperately trying to bring closure to his past and move on with his life.

His long distance relationship, with a serving female police officer, who has moved far away, seeking promotion in her career, is strained to say the least and that loyalty and love is to be tested even further, when she is drawn into this complex and emotional case, initially against her will, but then with an increasing sense of need and fulfillment, that will either draw them closer together once again, or separate them  forever.

Louis is forced back to his roots, as if by an invisible cord, when a voice from his past asks for his help in solving a case and finds himself thrown headlong into prejudices he had hoped to try and leave behind, whilst being forced to face up to the resposibilities of a long ago action, which evokes feelings in him that he could never have imagined.

The crime is one against a string of unfortunate women, perpetrated by a single man, so cruel and viciously violent, as to be vile to everyone who comes into contact with him. Could some of this madman’s actions stem from stories of long abandoned ‘Underground Railroads to Canada’, used by the slaves and found to be hidden on his land, or from the fact that, it transpires that there is a history of ‘black blood’ in his family, which in an area where blacks are still only just tolerated, has sent his mind into a downward spiral, from which he is unable to escape?

Seemingly, only one young girl, long ago abandoned to her fate, has the key to the answer. Amy is portrayed as a vulnerable, timid person, obviously frightened of Owen Brandt, yet having an inner depth and courage to face up to him, in order to solve the mystery of her mothers disappearance, one crime for which he has never been charged.

Amy’s transition into an emerging confident young woman, gathers pace as Owen Brandts capture comes closer, although she is prepared to place herself in terrible danger, to ensure that he is forced to pay for the crime and thus atone for the wrongs inflicted on her mother and all those unfortunate souls, from long ago.

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This book was taken from my existing TBR pile and left me wondering why I had never read it sooner, it was a totally engrossing read.

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Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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8 comments
    • Hi Gigi Ann,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, your visits are always appreciated.

      This was a suspense book with a real difference, the historical connotations added some valuable extra elements, which kept me intrigued right to the end of the book, there was never a break or a dull moment throughout the entire story.

      Obviously I am somewhat biased, because I really enjoyed the book, but IMHO it might well be something which you would might quite like.

  • I haven’t heard of this series, which American state is set in? I do however have a book by P.J. Parrish on my tbr pile – The Killing Song. I believe it’s a stand-alone story but am not certain.

    • Hi Cath,

      ‘South Of Hell’ is set in Michigan, right up near the Canadian border, which is the route of the discovered old slave tunnels and networks.

      If you check out the link in my review to the ‘Underground Railroads to Canada’, I am sure that you will find the information about the slave routes interesting both personally and in connection with your ‘Across America’ reading project.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_Railroad

      The only book I could find by the author with ‘killing’ in the title, is ‘A Killing Rain’, however it seems as though their books are predominantly set in Michigan and Florida, so if you don’t have a title for either of those States, then a PJ Parrish book might be just the thing, if you are looking for a little murder and mystery along the way.

      Thanks for stopping by, great to talk with you.

    • Hi Nikki,

      I’m not sure how I came across this book in the first place, probably another impulse buy from a charity shop, but I am glad that I did.

      There was a little more to it than your bog standard mystery story and I found out something about the social history of that part of the US, that I had no idea existed.

      I can thoroughly recommend it.

      Thanks for the visit, I always love to hear from you, enjoy the rest of your week.

    • Hi Guys and thanks for the visit and for leaving comment, I always appreciate them.

      This was certainly a little different to your ordinary crime/thriller, with the added twist about the slave trade connection, about which I knew nothing, but which I found really interesting to research.

      The title had also intrigued me and I have to admit surprise when more research revealed that there really are places called Hell and Bliss, in Michigan.

      ‘It was just south of Hell. But if you missed the road leading in, you ended up down in Bliss. And then there was nothing to do but go back to Hell and start over again…’

      Those are the first couple of lines from the book, who would not want to read on now?

      Have a great holiday weekend and all Best Wishes for the New Year.

Written by Yvonne

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