When a former CIA operative and private investigator Mari Ellwyn starts digging into the blackmail case of a federal appellate judge, she becomes targeted by a van following her, threatening notes in her mailbox, and a breach of her home. Teaming up with seasoned investigator and former detective, Derek Abernathy, the crime-savvy pair begin looking into the wrongful death of a mentally-ill college student, Sophie Michaud, as well as two journalists – one dead, one missing, who were writing a story on the dead college student with allegations of her connection to the federal judge. The two investigators must uncover the truth about Sophie Michaud before her killer makes them their next target. But more importantly, Mari needs to find her missing father and reconcile her broken past and family.
At the start of this quirky series launch from Towles (The Ridders), an L.A. PI, Mari E, meets a prospective future partner, ex-LAPD detective Derek Abernathy. Mari asks for his help looking into the extortion of Conrad McClaren, a federal appellate judge in San Francisco. McClaren has received two notes from an anonymous blackmailer, and though Mari has just begun to look into the matter, not even knowing the basis for the blackmail, she herself has gotten warning messages delivered to her home advising her to stop her inquiries. That case may be connected to one Abernathy has been handling focused on the strangling murder of art student Sasha Michaud and the related disappearance of female journalist Elise Turner. Turner's protégé, Nina Richmond, has also been found dead, killed in the same way as Michaud. Mari and Abernathy team up, and Towles gradually reveals pieces of Mari's complex backstory, which includes posing as an art gallery owner to conceal her profession from her family. The page-turning twists keep coming as do welcome doses of humor. Fans of bantering sleuth duos will be eager for the next book. (Self-published)