Have you ever read a lot of good books and you still feel like you’re in a slump? Because you haven’t found that one book that grabs you and just won’t let go? Lately, I’ve read a lot of really good books, but nothing that made me green with envy. Nothing that made me want to push my writing muscles harder because that author’s so good, it hurts. And when I hit the mood for that kind of book, more often than not, I pick up a Louis Kincaid.
Just like writing is subjective, so is reading. And for many reasons, I admire P.J. Parrish’s writing. And the thing is, I hardly notice it, and that’s wonderful. When I read Elizabeth George, I notice how good she is. Her word choices. Her descriptions. Her eloquence. Not so with a Louis Kincaid. The dialogue is so real, it doesn’t feel like writing. It feels like I’m listening in. Her characters never quite do or act or say what I think they will. And that throws me off, and it makes them feel real. And they like each other, but they don’t quite get along because each one of them has rough edges. And that makes them feel even more real.
I get so absorbed in the characters that I often don’t notice how bizarre the crimes are in these books. Because some of the plots stretch the imagination, but the characters ground me enough that I don’t grumble too much. (Maybe a little). But I think what appeals to me so much is that almost everything in the books is understated. Kincaid himself, and many of the supporting characters, are likeable in a laid-back way. They’re not warm and fuzzy. They hang in there, struggling to do the right thing. And the right thing isn’t always easy to define. And sometimes, they fail. That makes them more real, too.
To me, Kincaid isn’t a hero, and he’s not an anti-hero. He’s a guy who wants to wear a badge again instead of being a P.I. And some of his clients drive him to the brink, but he still sticks it out to solve a case.
A lot of people are better than me at analyzing what works and what doesn’t in novels, and I’ve tried to pinpoint what I think P.J. Parrish’s strength are. But if it’s possible that a strength is not calling attention to your strengths, I think the two sisters might qualify.