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P.J. Parrish returns to Louis Kincaid novels after breather

By Kurt Anthony Krug

(Reuters) - Fictional detective Louis Kincaid is back and tangled in yet another eerie murder, as the sister duo behind the best-selling mystery novelist P.J. Parrish bring back the private investigator after a three-year hiatus in their latest novel "Heart of Ice."

Parrish, a pseudonym for Detroit-born sisters Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols, is known for unearthing grisly decades-old murder cases for fictional former police detective Kincaid to solve with few clues at hand in an era before DNA evidence.

But Montee said the duo needed a break from Kincaid in order to breathe new life into the series after nine novels in 10 years, including 2006's "Unquiet Grave," which won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Paperback Original.

"You come back to your series feeling really refreshed because you don't want to get to the point in your series where your ambivalence towards your character starts showing," Montee told Reuters in a joint interview with Nichols.

"You've got to approach Louis and his world with an eagerness - you want to be there and take the reader there," added Montee, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. "If you stop doing that, you've got to stop writing the series."

"Heart of Ice," which was released on February 26, is the tandem's first Kincaid novel since 2010's "The Little Death." In the interim, the sisters published the thriller "The Killing Song" and novella "Claw Back," which reprised Kincaid in shorter form.

In the new novel, Kincaid stumbles upon a 21-year-old murder case gone cold after his 10-year-old daughter falls into a pile of human bones on northern Michigan's Mackinac Island.

RACIAL DIMENSION

The book not only tackles a murder-mystery but also family, as Kincaid is confronted with a daughter he did not know he had.

Kincaid, who is white and African American, stands out in the popular mystery genre for the added racial dimension.

"Louis walks in two worlds, but belongs to neither," Montee said referring to Kincaid's race. "I like the dichotomy of the character; he's never quite comfortable anywhere ... We've gotten emails from African-American readers who relate to his struggles and search for identity."

The sisters said they had an idea to set a Kincaid mystery at an abandoned vacation lodge on the island, but it took fan suggestions at a book signing in Mackinac to develop the story.

"When we did our signing, the ladies there knew about the history of the lodge ... and said, 'You should really find a dead body at the lodge' - and that was literally the genesis of the plot," Montee said.

While both Montee and Nichols, who lives in Elk Rapids, Michigan, also work individually, they said there are no plans to break up the partnership, which began with 2000's "Dark of the Moon," or bring the Kincaid series to an end.

The tandem, which began by emailing chapters back and forth, said their collaboration allows them a double insight into characters and plot.

"There's something that happens when we write together," Montee said. "There's a third style that emerges."

What one fails to catch, the other does, Nichols said, adding that partnership brings a "double dose of energy and imagination."

(Reporting by Kurt Anthony Krug; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Eric Walsh)

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