Thriller Press August 2016
Trade Paper $16.95 Kindle $3.99 or free with Kindle unlimited
One of my favorite flavors of mystery is the story that includes more than one serious crime. The reader struggles not only to figure out whodunit but also to determine if the crimes are connected. If you think you have a line on a promising suspect, you have to ask yourself, is this person also involved in the other crime(s)?
This mystery device complicates a story in ways that draw you in and appeals to both your left and right brain. Todd Borg does this admirably in his 14th Owen McKenna mystery, Tahoe Dark.
And it starts with a bang. David Montrop’s son is kidnapped and ransomed. Montrop is forced to empty his bank account by tormentors who seem to know his every move. Next, he’s killed with something rarely considered a weapon.
When private detective Owen McKenna’s phone rings, it’s the Reno police telling him the murder victim left a note suggesting McKenna as the likely murderer. That sets McKenna off on a quest to find out why he was singled out by the victim and who really killed Montrop and kidnapped his son.
Soon, an armored car is robbed in State Line, Nev., by four armed men in menacing hockey masks. The armored car company president hires McKenna to find the robbers and the money.
See the connection? Is there one? If so, it stretches from Lake Tahoe to Reno and runs through more law enforcement jurisdictions than you can imagine necessary to patrol one lake, albeit the largest alpine lake in North America.
One of the appealing aspects of the book, and there are many, is Borg’s creation of an engaging, complex victim/suspect. She’s a seemingly vulnerable, impoverished house cleaner who appears to have connections to all the crimes in McKenna’s world. In Tahoe Dark, that world includes additional victims murdered in a most unusual, original and gruesome way. The murder scenes are as chilling as he’s written in 14 books. Try not to visualize.
You will also learn fascinating, if gross details about maggots in dead bodies delivered by forensic entomologist, Street Casey, McKenna’s girlfriend:
“Street told me that when an animal or person dies, the average length of time before a fly finds it and lays eggs is ten minutes.”
One of the funniest lines in the book involves these bugs. But I won’t spoil it. There are other good lines:
“I wondered if we could find out what it [a substance with an unusual odor] was without waiting two weeks to get a lab test. So I asked this woman at the office who’s got a killer sniffer. You know, the kind who can smell a scent and say it’s a Lady Slipper orchid or the cleaning solution they used on the floor at the main post office in Bakersfield.”
You expect a PI to pop off snappy lines like this, don’t you? Borg doesn’t disappoint, even offering a line about another PI:
“The couch faced a TV so old it had probably broadcast original episodes of The Rockford Files.”
Borg fans will be pleased to see his continuing characters including Casey, Tahoe cop Diamond Martinez and of course Spot, McKenna’s Great Dane sidekick.
Borg muses on the grandeur of the lake and the Sierra providing a contrast between the beauty of nature and the ugliness of murder. In Tahoe Dark, Borg offers both light and shadow, and he does this with assurance.