“Growing up” means different things depending on what stage you’re at in life. To kids, it usually symbolizes forbidden fun--namely, whatever it is they’re currently not allowed to do. As an adult, though, it takes on rather an opposite, somewhat-ominous meaning--a mantle of responsibility resting on one’s shoulders, complete with obligations, choices, and repercussions.
A little growth is actually nice to see in a character--be it book, TV, or movie--in the “yeah, this stuff happens to us all” sense; no one goes through life without it changing them, and it’s good to have that reflected in the characters we follow (particularly in an ongoing series).
Yet, for whatever reasons, a lot of times we don’t really see much of it... which is why it really struck me in P.J. Parrish’s latest mystery, Heart of Ice, featuring private eye Louis Kincaid.
Louis is at an interesting place in his life: after a tumultuous childhood spent in the foster care system, he grew up and became a cop... only to watch his career get flushed down the toilet (after doing the “right” thing around a corrupt superior officer). Following that debacle, he picked up stakes and left Michigan for Florida, where he’s been a beach-bum-cum-sometimes-detective ever since. He has a shack on the beach where he ponders the mysteries of life, gets depressed, drinks too much, and works a case now and then, whenever one stumbles his way (which isn’t often).
Heart of Ice finds him doing something a little different, though; he’s on a short vacation... with a dual purpose. First, he’s meeting up with the ten-year-old daughter he’s only recently discovered--the result of a brief relationship back in college--to hopefully forge a connection with her (something of which he’s in short supply). He also wants to re-establish his relationship with Joe Frye, the on-again/off-again girlfriend he met in Florida, who’s since returned to upper Michigan where she’s sheriff of a small town.
Nothing goes as planned, of course (but seriously, when does it ever, for anyone?). While he and daughter Lily are exploring quaint Mackinac Island, Lily lands on--literally--a human female skeleton, when she sneaks into a boarded-up mansion and falls through some rotten floorboards. Once the local police have been notified--and it’s clear to Louis that the sheriff has no clue how to handle what looks to be an awfully cold case (since the skeleton is just that, instead of a body), and a more-than-usually-difficult one, at that (given the skeleton happens to be missing its skull and any trace of clothing, implying something other than an accident)--Louis agrees to postpone his visit to Joe for a few days, to remain on the island and offer his assistance. (The fact that Lily isn’t horrified--but instead deeply saddened by the thought of the skeleton all alone--and that she pleads with Louis to help reunite the bones with the woman’s family, plays a not-insignificant role in his decision, as well.)
After arranging for Lily’s mother to pick her up early and seeing her off, Louis gets down to the business of investigating--something with which he’s quite comfortable. What he isn’t nearly so sanguine about is the arrival of a gruff, thoroughly-unlikable state investigator--one who just so happens to have a less-than-happy history with Joe, from several years earlier--who insists on taking the lead in the case (and dissing both Louis and the local sheriff at every turn).
It’s not long before the two men are forced to come to an uneasy truce, however, when clues lead them to suspicions which neither man is comfortable having. Could the bones belong to Julie Chapman--a wealthy girl who summered on the island with her family (then subsequently went missing) some twenty-plus years ago... and whose older brother is now running for Congress? What secrets did she hold... and if the bones are hers, why would someone have wanted such a shy, harmless, teenage girl dead?
When the sheriff is shot during the course of questioning area residents, and the shooter seems to have a very good reason for being a little... trigger-happy, the men assume they’ve found the guilty party. The more they dig, though, and the more tangled truths and dirty little secrets they uncover, the less they realize they understand...
As I said earlier, what stuck most with me while reading Heart of Ice was what a turning point this is for Louis. Rather than shying away from familial ties, here he is, trying to make a go of it with his daughter. The same is true of his relationship with Joe; Louis goes to see her with the express goal of taking things to the next level, because he’s realized that something is missing from his present life.
This also marks a change in Louis‘ professional aspirations; between the last book and this one, he has actively been pursuing the chance to get his badge back (albeit in Florida), no longer satisfied with moping away in the house on the beach (and working only whenever something falls into his lap or he needs some cash).
Every Louis book that Parrish (actually two sisters, writing jointly) has put out has been a treat, and Heart of Ice is no exception. What’s so cool about this one, though, is that besides a really good mystery, great writing, and interesting characters, we get to witness an evolution... and to wonder about what lies ahead. Hard to top that. :)
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: Well-chilled Mousies