Review: The Devil You Know by P. J. Tracy

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.

When I started reading The Devil You Know, I was annoyed. I didn’t realize there are two books prior to this one in the series, so some of the minor characters’ chapters seemed jarring and out of place for the first few chapters. This is important because by the time I’d gotten about a quarter in, I was fully vested in the central murder mystery despite not knowing what was going on with personal lives and prior backstories. By the time I was half-way though, I was just as interested in the minor characters’ plotlines, so P. J. Tracy has me on the hook for at least two more, because I MUST go back and read the first episodes in this series.

In this third installment of Detective Margaret Nolan’s story, she and her partner Al Crawford are investigating the suspicious death of a former child star who was under investigation for child molestation. In the course of their investigation, Maggie and Al follow twists and turns through a dark, slimy underbelly of casting couches and pedophile cover-ups, crossing paths with an entertaining cast of agents, stars, and producers along the way. As the bodies start piling up, twists and turns keep this story moving at a fun pace. I particularly appreciated communication between various law enforcement folks, the recognizable scenery (I do miss LA once in a while), and the intricately woven ties between victims and suspects.

Tracy’s writing is crisp, smart, and fast. The varied sub-plots give depth to the microcosm within LA as well as the universe Tracy has created for Maggie Nolan. I love that everyone involved has their own motivations and inner worlds, from Maggie’s angst about her own feelings as she navigates a new romance that won’t just go away as cleanly as she’d prefer, to the minor characters who pop in and out of the story with their own issues and traumas. Tracy’s characters feel like real people, whether they’re likeable or loathsome.

I don’t read mystery as a genre as often as some others, so this was was ridiculously entertaining for me to follow the breadcrumbs through the maze of clues right along with the cops. And, perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I was rather proud of figuring out at least one thing before I’d made it to the final chapter. If you like a solid murder mystery, particularly with wildly posh, extravagant, insane Los Angeles characters for spice, pick up The Devil You Know when it’s released on January 17th. What a fun ride!

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