Single mom leads PI efforts in captivating mystery series

Action-packed sequel to the Lefty award-nominated debut keeps readers guessing

VANCOUVER, Washington, USA – In Mary Keliikoa’s Kelly Pruett Mystery series, a grieving single mother inherits her late father’s PI business, and begins tackling mysteries on her own, leading her into dangerous territory.

PI Kelly Pruett has a lot on her plate – working with clients at the detective agency, handling a difficult ex, and caring for her Deaf daughter. If motherhood taught her anything, it’s that the best things in life are never easy, so, despite recent injuries, PI Kelly Pruett is eager to get back to work.

When a mommy-to-be hires Kelly to locate her estranged dad, Kelly is thankful for the straightforward missing-persons case. But as she rummages through the trash in search of clues, she uncovers gambling debts to gangsters… and a blood-soaked severed finger. With her investigation suddenly heating up, Kelly’s hunt takes a deadly turn when her quarry is found driven off a cliff to his doom. She’ll need more than her cop boyfriend’s help to expose the truth when the mob sends her a cease-and-desist notice with an explosive ending. Can Kelly take on the mafia and make it out alive?

“Denied” (Camel Press, May 11, 2021) is the second book in the gripping Kelly Pruett mystery series. With a strong and relatable female lead, off-the-charts tension, and breathtaking twists, Mary Keliikoa’s action-packed story is one you won’t want to miss!

“Denied: Kelly Pruett Book 2”
Mary Keliikoa | May 11, 2021 | Camel Press | Mystery
Paperback | ISBN: 978-1603817837 | $15.95


Praise for the Kelly Pruett Mystery Series…

“Following up on a multi-award nominated debut mystery is no easy task, but Mary Keliikoa succeeds and then some in DENIED. In Kelly Pruett, Keliikoa has created a three dimensional private eye whose humanity and determination make you both want to root for her and ride along next to her on an investigative thrill ride. Bravo!”
– Matt Coyle, Shamus, Anthony and Lefty Award-winning author

“An entertaining detective story with a personable lead”
– Kirkus Reviews, for “Derailed”

“Winning series and debut launch… this is definitely a series to watch”
– Publishers Weekly, for “Derailed”

“DERAILED has it all: an engaging heroine, a twisty, twisted crime, and plenty of food for thought about families and their secrets. I loved this debut and can’t wait to read about Kelly Pruett’s next case”
–Kristen Lepionka, Shamus Award-winning author of the Roxane Weary mystery series

“Intelligent, tightly plotted, and satisfying. Kelly Pruett is a new PI on the scene and I’m eager for her next case”
– Dianne Freeman, Agatha and Lefty award winning author of the Countess of Harleigh mysteries, for “Derailed”

“Mary Keliikoa’s DERAILED is a humdinger of a good read. Sharp, detailed writing, a riveting plot and well-drawn characters make it practically unputdownable”
– Tracy Clark, author of “Borrowed Time”


MARY KELIIKOA is the author of the Lefty, Agatha, and Anthony award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, as well as the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series featuring Sheriff Jax Turner slated for release in September 2022. She has had mystery shorts published in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s. She spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates twisting mysteries where justice prevails.

At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her fur-kids. When not at home, you can find Mary on a beach on the Big Island where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is. To learn more about Mary’s life and work, please visit: https://marykeliikoa.com/


In an interview, Mary Keliikoa can discuss:

  • The inspiration behind her series’ heroine, Kelly Pruett
  • Why it’s important to showcase strong women in the mystery genre
  • Her writing techniques and how she plots her mysteries
  • Her background as a legal secretary, and how she infuses her love of all things legal into her writing
  • Whether readers can expect to see more of Kelly Pruett in the future

An Interview with Mary Keliikoa

1. What inspired you to write mystery novels starring Kelly Pruett, a female PI agent?

I am a big fan of Sue Grafton so the original idea of writing a PI novel grew from that love. But the minute that I made the decision to write a PI novel, I immediately knew her name would be Kelly Pruett, and who she would be as a person. Looking back, I can see that some of the issues she faces are things I was experiencing in my life at the time– in my 30s, raising step-kids, wanting to step out on my own in a career. So I believe part of my inspiration really was to help Kelly find her way, just as I was.

2. Praise for your first book in the Kelly Pruett series–“Derailed”–included a lot of love for Kelly Pruett as a character. Why is it important to showcase strong, relatable women as protagonists in the mystery genre?

PI novels in particular have been dominated by male characters, which is why I really wanted to showcase that a woman could handle the job. Having her not be from a law enforcement background was a conscious choice, along with her not having some of the vices that many investigators in detective novels fall victim to. She’s a mom, looking to be a role model to her Deaf daughter. She’s a woman trying to find her own place outside what society thinks she should be doing. I think we can all learn from that, and that was my goal for Kelly.

3. You have a background as a legal secretary. Did your experience working with lawyers shape your writing at all? If so, how?

I was born with a fairness thing in general, but I learned quickly things don’t always fall that
way. But that need for things to be made right, made my gravitation towards working in the legal field almost a natural. Working around lawyers in particular, I was able to see firsthand how they went about defending or prosecuting a case, their thought process, how they worked to poke holes in theories. I definitely absorbed that and find that the way I think about solving a case stems from that time in the legal field.

4. What is your writing process like? Do you need anything specific in order to plot a good mystery–a favorite drink, access to a library, something else?

When starting a new story, I play a lot with the idea before I even sit to write. I think about the
characters. The plot. The murder. Who did it. Then I sit down and I write a back cover copy
which consists of a couple of paragraphs that tie the entire book up. If I find that I’m excited
about the story at that point, then I start the first chapter. Coffee is a must for me when I’m
writing, but other than that, I just need my laptop!

5. What are your plans for the future? Can readers expect to see more from Kelly Pruett in the coming years?

I can’t imagine a day when I’m not writing stories—so storytelling will always be in my future. In fact, I recently completed a standalone mystery/suspense novel, and will be starting on another soon.

As for Kelly, Book 3 will be out in Spring of 2022. I definitely have ideas for at least two more Kelly Pruett novels, so we’ll see what happens there. The wonderful thing about writing a PI series is that as long as there is a case to be solved, Kelly will have plenty to do!