GIRL MOST LIKELY by Max Allan Collins is more of a police procedural than a thriller. What makes this plot unique is the relationships.  In this book, the police chief is the daughter and she enlists her father’s help to find a killer.

Krista Larson has recently lost her mother.  She is worried about her father, Keith, who appears suicidal from his grief.  Deciding a change of environment is best for him, Krista moves him in with her to a small town in Illinois. Galena is in northwestern Illinois that is close to Dubuque and not too far from Chicago. It is the birthplace of US Grant.

While trying to make her father feel at home she is also preparing the town for a ten-year high school reunion, where she is one of the participants. The occasion is marred when Krista learns that a classmate, Sue Logan, was stabbed to death at her home in Florida some months earlier. As the reunion weekend kicks off, a second, similar murder occurs in the small town of Galena. Knowing she needs her father’s expertise, Krista has Keith working as a pro bono consultant. They are following leads, questioning those attending the reunion, and opening long-locked doors from their hometown to the Florida suburbs to Chicago’s underworld.

Collins plays off the father and daughter team. Keith is the junior individual in the detective process but the senior in the family relationship. Besides the dynamic between father and daughter the story provides detailed tidbits about small-town life and a small-town police force.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?

Max Allan Collins: It came to mind after I attended a class reunion years ago.  What I observed had me thinking.  Everyone is about the same age, shared the same pop cultures, shared some of the same experiences, and at the time they were the important people in someone’s life.  These high school memories can cling to someone, both good and bad.

EC:  Do you attend reunions?

MAC: Yes, about every five years.  I go to see friends.  I enjoy reunions.  My wife, Barbara and I lived in the same small town in Iowa so we go together.  Since we are both writers we love to watch and observe.

EC:  Interesting how you changed the professional dynamics between father and daughter?

MAC:  The story actually started out with the father as the police chief in a large city. After losing his wife he becomes police chief of this small town and the daughter follows him.  She is a detective so she has stayed in the family business.  I started to think and decided to flip it to have her as police chief. 

EC:  Is the town Galena Illinois real?

MAC: Yes.  It is a lovely little tourist town.  My wife and I went there for our anniversary.  If I had a restaurant in a scene I used the actual name unless the manager was a suspect.  Then I would change the restaurant’s name.  As Jack Webb said “the name was changed to protect the innocent.”

EC:  How did you research the female police chief?

MAC:  I found that the actual police chief of this town is female.  She was incredibly gracious and always available whenever I had questions.  There are some big celebrations there so she helped me to understand how a small police force would handle this large influx of people.

EC:  This story does not feel like a thriller?

MAC:  It is hybrid between a thriller and a mystery.  I changed the pace of the book. I did start the story out with the murder so readers know the bad stuff is coming.  Yet, the characters are unaware. Before I always wrote tough guy stories. But this one is different. There is a scene in the book where a couple of Chicago tough guys attack Keith.  He is not the stereotypic strong guy so he runs from his attackers.  He is just a typical guy.

EC:  The story is more about the relationship?

MAC:  It is a father-daughter story.  I wanted to give normal people center stage. It is more of Krista’s story.  Their relationship can be described as stoic. The mother who passed was the outgoing one, the center of the relationship in terms of affection and enthusiasm. Both had a strong relationship with the mother. Now Krista is in her late twenties and Keith is in his fifties.  They must depend and support each other.

EC:  What about the next book?

MAC:  It is the second in the series.  Just as I did, Keith played for a local rock band.  They had one hit.  Now they are reunited.  But as they tour people start to die.  It is titled, Girl Can’t Help It after the Little Richard song and the Rock and Roll movie from the 1950s.