Identity is Ingrid Thoft’s second novel. In some ways it’s in the tradition of Robert Parker’s Spenser books, with a definite sense of place (Boston in both cases), a noir sensibility, realistic conversations, and a few hard-to-classify characters, some of whom are technically criminals but are morally ambiguous. Both worlds include under-age prostitutes. Hmm… In other ways Thoft’s work is very different from Parker’s. In particular, Thoft gives us a female PI from a wealthy family, where many scenes are set in an upper-class waterfront condo building and a classy private club rather than a working-class gym.
The first book in this series is Loyalty. (Third and fourth are Brutality and Duplicity. Notice any pattern to the syllables in these one-word titles?) All of my comments above about Identity apply equal well to Loyalty; I don’t know anything about #3 and #4, but if they follow the pattern of other authors’ series they will continue to have the basic characteristics and characters without sticking rigidly to a formula all the time. Even Rex Stout had Nero Wolfe leave his house occasionally when events required it!
Some readers are offended by protagonist Fina Ludlow’s addiction to junk food and her casual relationships with two different lovers, who are more friends with benefits than boyfriends. Other readers (or the same ones) are offended by the aforementioned under-age prostitution, even though it’s very definitely not presented in a positive light. All readers should be interested in Thoft’s portrayals of family dynamics in both of these books. The PI and the young people in these novels are sympathetic, positive characters — people you would like to know. The parents, however — well, they demonstrate all sorts of parenting faults, from indifference to cruelty. (Cruelty! There’s another possible title. Maybe it’s already planned.) Fina herself is funny and caring, generally smart but all too often you want to shout at her “Don’t do that!”
All in all, these are entertaining mysteries that will keep you reading. I won’t even hint at the plots; you’ll have to find out for yourself.