Mystery asks, How well do you really know your parent?
The private eye category of mysteries continues to thrive because authors such as Kristen Lepionka bring a fresh view. Following in the tradition of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and Ma rc i a Mul l e r, the Shamus-winning Lepionka sculpts a realistic character in the form of P.I. Roxane Weary with intense, believable plots.
The fourth novel in this series, “Once You Go This Far” works well as a story about families, centering on just how well do adult children know about their parents’ lives. Family is an important part of Roxane’s life as she, a detective in Columbus, Ohio, continues a close relationship with her two brothers and mother while still mourning the death of her father, with whom she had a complicated relationship.
A quiet morning hike in a nearby park takes a turn when Roxane finds the body of Rebecca Newsome lying in a ravine off a popular trail. The two had just met in the parking lot minutes before. Rebecca’s daughter, Maggie Holmer, doubts that her mother’s death was a tragic accident; Rebecca was an enthusiastic outdoorswoman and an experienced hiker. Maggie, who gave birth to a daughter the day after her mother died, hires Roxane to investigate what was going on in the life of her mother, with whom she, too, had a complicated relationship. Maggie even has a suspect — Rebecca’s jerk of an ex-husband Keir Metcalf, a former Toledo cop.
The case takes Roxane from the private school where Rebecca was a nurse to a casino in Windsor, Ontario, to a church whose leaders insist on controlling the details of its members’ lives. Roxane learns that Maggie didn’t know her mother as well as she thought she did. At the same time, Roxane discovers how little she knew about her own father.
Lepionka continues to delve into Roxane’s psyche. Like her cases, she is a work in progress — as we all are. In addition to her family issues, she continues to wrestle with her feelings for Catherine Walsh, with whom she has a rocky relationship, as well as admitting her deepening feelings for a new lover.
“Once You Go This Far” proves that Lepionka’s storytelling skills are farreaching.
Minotaur. 320 pp. $26.99.