Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Todd Borg

A trio of mystery, suspense, thrills


Tahoe Payback  (Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller)
Todd Borg
352 pages
Thriller Press   August 2017
Kindle $4.99  Trade paper $12.34

The fifteenth Owen McKenna mystery at Lake Tahoe looks at scam charities. When a man tells Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna that his girlfriend disappeared, McKenna wonders if the woman got cold feet and ran away. But when she turns up murdered on Lake Tahoe’s Fannette Island with red roses in her mouth, McKenna discovers that she used a scam charity to steal millions.  A second victim is found with a tennis ball crammed into his mouth. A third has military medals in his cheeks. McKenna suspects that these victims also ran fraudulent charities.

While McKenna investigates the murders, his girlfriend Street Casey has reason to believe that her ex-con father, who’s jumped parole, wants revenge for her testimony that put in him in prison decades ago.  

It appears that the victims are all payback targets of a vigilante killer. McKenna finds lots of potential suspects. But he can’t link any of them to the crimes. What he doesn’t know is that both he and his girlfriend are about to face someone who wants them very dead.


Tahoe local Todd Borg is the bestselling author of 15 Owen McKenna Mystery Thrillers. Borg’s novels have won the Ben Franklin Award for Best Mystery of the Year, made Library Journal’s Top 5 Mysteries of the Year list, received rave reviews, including a starred review in Library Journal, and made Amazon’s Mystery/Thriller and Private Investigator Bestseller Lists multiple times.   Borg’s books have over 500,000 paper books and ebooks in distribution.  He was selected as the toastmaster for the 2018 Left Coast Crime convention.


The Red Queen Rules: A Red Solaris Mystery Vol.3
Bourne Morris
246 pages
Henery Press   December 2016
Kindle $4.99  Trade paper $15.95

 This third installment of the Red Solaris series proves again that anyone who thinks a college campus is a haven of scholarship and civility hasn’t been paying attention.

Is it free speech or hate? When a white supremacist schedules an event on campus, University Dean Red Solaris must confront her own feelings about an issue that challenges the very core of American education: campus safety versus freedom of speech.

Amidst escalating tension, Red meets with the editor of the student newspaper – who also confides in Red that her young cousin is missing, probably a victim of local sex traffickers. Agreeing to rescue the girl, Red solicits help from her beloved detective Joe Morgan. But when Morgan goes undercover into the dangerous world of human trafficking, he disappears without a trace. Red must balance her fears for Morgan with her worries that a campus riot may soon break out.

The Red Queen Rules is also available as an MP3 CD.


After Bennington College, Bourne Morris worked at McCall’s Magazine and then the New York advertising agency of  Ogilvy & Mather.  She rose through the ranks from copywriter to head of the agency’s Los Angeles office serving clients that included Mattel, Columbia Pictures, General Foods cereals and Baskin-Robbins.  Later she became a professor of journalism at the University of Nevada- Reno where she taught marketing communications and media ethics.  She was also chair of the university’s faculty senate where she learned about campus politics and tensions.


Illegal Holdings
Michael Niemann
230 pages
Coffeetown Press  Mar. 1, 2018
Kindle $6.95  Trade paper $12.37

UN fraud investigator Valentin Vermeulen is on assignment in Maputo, Mozambique. His ho-hum task is to see if Global Alternatives is spending UN money the way they promised. The nonprofit was set up by hedge fund mogul Vincent Portallis to revolutionize development aid. The only upside for Vermeulen is the prospect of seeing his lover Tessa Bishonga, who is reporting on foreign land acquisitions in Africa.

When Vermeulen notices that a five-million-dollar transfer has gone missing, he is given the run-around. First he is told the files have been mislaid, then stolen, then he is assured that the money was never transferred to begin with. But the money was transferred, so where is it now? Vermeulen’s dogged pursuit of the missing transfer makes him the target of some ruthless operators. And once he meets up with Tessa, she is inevitably sucked in to the story as well, which turns out to be far more nefarious than either of them imagined.


Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he switched to mysteries as a different way to write about the world.

Editor’s note:  Prices for the above books may vary depending on the retailer and when you access sales sites.  Click on the book covers for more information.

Borg crafts sweeping story of purpose, peril

Tahoe Blue Fire
Todd Borg
351 pages
Thriller Press 2015
Kindle $3.99 Trade paper $16.95

Todd Borg creates multifaceted puzzles in his Owen McKenna mystery series, but he also knows how to scare the pants off you. The first chapter of Tahoe Blue Fire begins with a description of “…single-purpose machines built like tall, square locomotives, big boxy monsters that prowled the highways at night.” These giant, diesel-fired snow blowers with twin engines producing nearly 2,000 horsepower have massive, sharp blades designed to cut snow as deep as 12 feet. Imagine a train-size snow blower as a murder weapon and have a good idea how the story starts.

This thirteenth installment of the series could be the best of all. The book evokes different emotions and combines erudition, intrigue, violence and sorrow. Ex-San Francisco PD detective-turned Lake Tahoe PI, Owen McKenna, hits the ground running searching for someone who has killed at least three people—apparently at random—and now has his Tahoe-Blue-Fire-web-optisights on McKenna. The first half of the book crackles with suspense and impending doom. It’s almost (but not quite) mild compared to the book’s scary concluding scenes.

It’s a layered plot in which Owen must first determine connections between the victims, then search for a motive. Neither come easily. Without giving away too much of the plot, the solution involves the Italian Renaissance, well-known 1950s and 1960s movie icons and traumatic brain injury (TBI), a condition suffered by one of the book’s several memorable characters.

Ex-pro football player Adam Simms is the victim of TBI, the fancy term for having his brains scrambled during a career marked by hundreds of collisions. Simms is a semi-invalid, mentally weak, physically still strong. He works to overcome frequent seizures by writing poetry. Simms plays several roles in the Tahoe story. Continue Reading →

Tahoe beauty hides motives, murder

Tahoe Chase
by Todd Borg
Thriller Press   351 pages
Kindle $3.99  Trade paperback $15.26


Someone is killing people around Lake Tahoe.  And the chase is on.

In Tahoe Chase, PI Owen McKenna is hired by Joe Rorvik to find out who tried to kill his wife by pushing her off the deck of their mountain home.  Rorvik is an elderly Olympic skiing medalist who doesn’t believe the police reports that say his wife’s fall was an accident.   McKenna is sympathetic, but Rorvik is at a loss to name anyone who might even remotely want to hurt his wife.

Suspects are initially scarce save for a 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound knife-throwing wife abuser who seems intent on not only getting McKenna off his trail, but off the planet.   Before long, a murder, possibly related to the assault on Rorvik’s wife, puts more emotional strain on McKenna’s 92-year-old client who now regrets ever calling the detective and threatens suicide.

“Everything was wrong, and I was at the epicenter, the cause,” McKenna tells himself.  “Without seeing it coming I had become the new agent of Joe’s misery.”

Later, the Tahoe detective seems to have a better grasp of what’s happening–but it’s only temporary.  In a crucial scene late in the book, he and his cop friend, Diamond Martinez, frantically chase clues and suspects around in their heads until it’s clear neither has a good idea of where the case is going.

Clues are not the only things chased here.  The novel’s title could refer to chases in cars, boats, skis and on foot, all of which add action and suspense throughout the book and keep the plot moving ahead swiftly.  Author Todd Borg’s unusual, quirky–sometimes bizarre–characters add to the complexity of the story, keeping the PI chase fresh and appealing, not to mention puzzling.

McKenna occasionally mentions a previous case and he even borrows a cabin cruiser from a former client.  The detective has lots of previous cases to ponder, if he chooses, as Tahoe Chase is Borg’s 11th Owen McKenna whodunit.  Fans of McKenna will appreciate the ways this case is different from previous novels.  Yet the familiar cast of characters is still here including McKenna’s entomologist girlfriend Street Casey, his Great Dane, Spot, and his law enforcement friends from California and Nevada jurisdictions around the lake.Tahoe Chase

Tahoe Chase, like Borg’s other books, has background subjects, areas of specialization related to suspects or victims and readers gain insight on new topics as they work on the case with McKenna.  In Chase, readers learn details about such diverse topics as skiing and domestic abuse.  In one of his earlier novels–and one of my favorites–Borg took up the topic of autism.  In Tahoe Silence, a young autistic girl is kidnapped and terrorized by a biker gang.  McKenna–and readers–learn valuable lessons about autism delivered in a more sensitive way than you might expect in a PI novel.

Borg’s sensitivity comes through in his books.  McKenna has a code.  Not only does he not use firearms–as a result of a tragic shooting when he was a San Francisco cop–but McKenna treats his girlfriend (as well as most everyone else) with respect and no matter how depressing a case may be, he never gets drunk or beats up on people except in self-defense or defense of others.   This is not to say that McKenna is a schoolboy.  He’s devised ingenious (and sometimes quite painful) ways of dealing with criminals, he sleeps with his girlfriend (although readers never get in bed with them) and he loves a good bottle of wine or a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Along the way to solving a crime, McKenna usually offers simple wisdom in the form of observations or occasionally as advice to friends.  In a scene in Tahoe Silence he finds himself on the losing end of a misunderstanding with his girlfriend.

I suddenly stopped as I remembered the proverb that says when you find that you’re digging yourself into a hole, stop digging.

In Tahoe Chase, while McKenna is talking to Joe Rorvik in Rorvik’s home, he thinks he sees movement outside.  But he’s not certain, so he waits as he thinks to himself:

I’d learned long ago that patience was often rewarded.  Certainly impatience rarely was.

When McKenna and Casey are trying to console a young woman who’s been brutalized and is now facing a daunting journey, McKenna is impressed with his girlfriend’s supportive technique.

Talk only about trivial stuff, and it communicates that you’re worried about the big issues and are afraid to focus on them.  Talk only about the major stuff, and it clutters the traveler’s mind with too many concerns. Strike a medium balance, and the person knows that you understand the scope of the mission, but you are still relaxed about it.  The relaxed manner telegraphs confidence in the person who is about to embark on the big event.

McKenna’s philosophical observations aren’t always designed to advance the plot, but you get a more clear understanding of the protagonist as a fully developed character.

Meanwhile, back at the Chase, Borg keeps McKenna, Martinez and Rorvik guessing until almost the final scene when the complex plot twists back on itself and the murderer is revealed.   Tahoe Chase is not a sprint but a marathon giving readers cerebral and emotional exercise along the way.  Borg fans will enjoy the chase and eagerly await the ending, and first-timers will want to find the early books in the McKenna series and start following Lake Tahoe’s coolest character.


Todd Borg books on Amazon

%d bloggers like this: