JANET DAWSON – Kindred Crimes. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1990. Fawcett Crest, paperback, May 1992.

   This is the first of fifteen recorded cases tackled and solved by Oakland-based PI Jeri Howard, including four novellas, and it’s a good one. I’m not alone in holding that opinion. Kindred Crimes won the St. Martin’s Press/PWA contest for best first private eye novel. It was also nominated in the best first novel category for the Shamus, the Macavity and the Anthony.

   In this novel Jeri is hired by a forlorn husband whose wife left their baby son with his grandparents, cleaned out their joint checking account and completely disappeared. Using nothing more than feet and wheels on the ground, Jeri discovers that the missing woman had married him under a phony name, and that her brother had been convicted of killing their parents when they were still children.

   This is a tough-minded detective story. Hints of child abuse immediately come to Jeri’s mind. If you don’t care for detective stories in which the detective gets too emotionally involved with the case she is working on, this may not be the book for you.

   Dawson is a smooth but not overly slick writer, and the puzzle aspect is as well done as the characters. If you decide that this is the kind of book you’d like to read, I think you’ll see why Jeri Howard has managed to hang around for quite a while now.

       The Jeri Howard series —

1. Kindred Crimes (1990)
2. Till the Old Men Die (1993)

3. Take a Number (1993)
4. Don’t Turn Your Back On the Ocean (1994)
5. Nobody’s Child (1995)

6. A Credible Threat (1996)
7. Witness to Evil (1997)
8. Where the Bodies Are Buried (1998)
9. A Killing at the Track (2000)

10. Bit Player (2011)
11. Jeri Howard Casebook: 4 Stories (2011)
12. Cold Trail (2015)