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A dying wish. A secret world.

Can this grieving investigator stay on the right track?

PI Kelly Pruett is determined to make it on her own. And juggling clients at her late father’s detective agency, a controlling ex, and caring for a deaf daughter was never going to be easy. So she takes it as a good sign when a letter left by her dad ties into an unsolved case of a young woman struck by a train.

Hunting down the one person who can prove the mysterious death was not just a drunken accident, Kelly discovers this witness is in no condition to talk. And the closer she gets to the truth, the longer her list of sleazy suspects with murderous motives grows.

On a crash course with a killer, she must piece together the puzzle of what really happened to the victim that rainy night, before her own fate is sealed and she loses everything near and dear, including her life.

Author Mary Keliikoa was kind enough to take some time and chat with The Big Thrill about her debut mystery, DERAILED:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Besides enjoyment of a good mystery with plenty of twists and turns, I want them to take away that at its core DERAILED is about overcoming adversity. That can mean making sure the crime is solved despite those obstacles thrown in the way. But it can also be as simple as coming out from under relationships that have defined us and breaking free from the limitations they impose. I’d also like them to take away that finding one’s own truth and living it is essential to being a good mom.

Mary Keliikoa

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I’ve loved mystery and suspense since I picked up a Mary Higgins Clark novel in my early 20s. I love the puzzle, the trying to figure out the pieces before the protagonist does, and the satisfaction of a good ending where justice prevails.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

This book helped me really nail down the cause and effect required in a mystery novel. Conceptually, I always knew it was supposed to be there. I even thought I was doing it on many occasions. But I was wrong, and it wasn’t until I hit the 50th draft (I’m kidding—okay, not really!) that it clicked and I truly got it. Shortly after that happened, I got my agent and the book deal followed.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Absolutely Mary Higgins Clark as I mentioned, but Sue Grafton, Faye Kellerman, Janet Evanovich, J. A. Jance, and Patricia Cornwell have been huge influences. What I love about all of these authors is not only the mysteries and puzzles they weave, but the rich family life and relationships of the characters they’ve created. I am definitely drawn to strong characters that can get it done, but it is equally important for me to see how the characters tick, who they love, and what drives them, and each of the authors mentioned above are masters at creating their characters’ worlds both inward and out.


Mary Keliikoa spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails. She is the author of the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, which debuts with DERAILED in May 2020.

At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her writing companions/fur-kids, Bella, a bossy golden retriever, and August, her mischievous kitty. When she’s 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 the author and her work, please visit her website.