Mary Keliikoa


Author of the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series

Mary Keliikoa is a Pacific Northwest native and 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 has had a short story published in Woman’s World and is the author of the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series. When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder — novel that is.

Learn more about Keliikoa on her website, and read our review of her debut thriller, Derailed, here.


Derailed (2020) – Bookshop | B&N | AZN

Your biggest literary influences:

Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, Faye Kellerman, J.A. Jance

Last book read: 

Borrowed Time by Tracy Clark

The book that changed your life: 

I don’t think any one book changed my life, but the first time I read stories written by Mary Higgins Clark is what led me into writing mystery. From those first novels, I knew I’d found the genre that spoke to me. I loved the suspense and trying to figure out the puzzle and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Your favorite literary character:

I have a couple actually, but PI Kinsey Milhone definitely takes one of those top spots. She’s grounded, resourceful and has just enough wit to get the job done as a PI. She’s also complex and relatable, and I know every time I open a Sue Grafton novel and step into Kinsey’s world, I won’t be disappointed.

Currently working on: 

Deceived, book three of the Kelly Pruett Mystery series.

Words to live by: 

Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.

Advice for aspiring authors:

Keep learning your craft and keep writing.






Winning series and debut launch. … Keliikoa offers believable characters, valid motives, a shifting cast of suspects, and an appealing protagonist, who balances her life as a divorced mother of an eight-year-old daughter with her increasingly chaotic career. This is definitely a series to watch.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“With Derailed, debut author Mary Keliikoa introduces us to single mom and second generation Portland PI Kelly Pruett on her very first murder investigation. The story is straight from the Kinsey Millhone school of private investigation yet still manages to create a unique and complex main character reeling from the recent death of her father and a demanding ex-husband. Kelly must decide if following her father’s wishes by pursuing this case is worth possibly losing her daughter. It’s that perfect blend of personal and professional that makes Derailed a welcome addition to the genre. I can’t wait to follow both Kelly and Keliikoa’s careers.”
—Kellye Garrett, Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty Award-winning author of Hollywood Homicide

“Mary Keliikoa’s debut novel is an important addition to the PI genre — strong with voice, a compelling protagonist in Kelly Pruett, and unforgettable family secrets. DERAILED was hard to put down — and I can’t wait to read the next book in this crackling new series.”
—Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Blackout and Miami Midnight

“Mary Keliikoa just may have brought us the next great female private detective with Kelly Pruett who makes her debut in Derailed. ... With the passing of Sue Grafton, both Pruett and Derailed have arrived not a moment too soon. Keliikoa’s sharp dialogue, command of the first-person point of view and ability to create solid characters will make her a literary force to be reckoned with for years to come.”
—Jon Land, bestselling author of the Caitlin Strong series and several books in the Murder, She Wrote series