Review: TAHOE DEATH FALL by Todd Borg

Owen McKenna is a former police officer now working as a private investigator on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. His sidekick, and the character who constantly upstages him, is a pony-sized Great Dane called Spot. This is the first of what is (so far) a 14 book series and my only real concern about reading the more recent instalments is, assuming Owen and his lovable dog age in real time, it would be impossible for Spot to still be featuring in the stories. Not sure I can bring myself to go there. I am more than a little bit in love with Spot.

A 14 year-old girl named Jennifer Salazaar wants to hire Owen to investigate the death of her twin sister. When they were both six Melissa died in a fall while hiking. Jennifer has always believed her sister’s death was not an accident but her family – in the form of a grandmother who has guardianship over her due to her mother being confined to a psychiatric facility – has dismissed her claims. Because she is a minor Owen can’t legally be hired by Jennifer – even though she has the financial resources to do so – but he does agree to ‘look into things’. He soon becomes convinced that something is awry in the Salazaar’s world but it takes him a while to uncover the family’s layers of secrets.

Plot is king in this tale so its complications and action-packed sequences are fitting and though they stretch the bounds of credibility on occasion they don’t actually go too far. And Borg does more than enough to make the reader care whether or not the characters (both human and canine) survive their various brushes with death. For me this kind of thriller can be a totally enjoyable read but only if I’m given enough reason to cheer on the good guys. There are a few clichés in the plot but there were enough twists to keep me guessing on some fronts and the resolution – sickening though it is – is in keeping with the rest of the story.

Overall the book has a light tone, in spite of the sometimes grizzly plot. Owen seems to be a decent guy and is not beset by dysfunction like so many fictional sleuths. His girlfriend Street – a forensic entomologist – has the potential to be a bit darker though I suspect there is more to learn about both of their pasts in future instalments of the series. The relationship between the two is not strained and their banter provides a lot of the book’s humour.

I chose this book only because the kindle version happened to be free one day and I needed to visit Nevada on my virtual tour around the USA via its crime fiction. I half-expected it would be a DNF (as so many free books have been over the years) but I was quickly engrossed in the story, wishing my home was big enough to house a relative of Spot’s and thinking I would like to meet up with these characters again. It even offers a good sense of place, reminding me that Nevada isn’t just repulsive (to me) casinos and desert heat (I’ve only ever been to Las Vegas) and has a lot of natural beauty as well.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

USAFictionChallengeButtonThis is the 13th book I’m including in my quest to complete the Reading USA Fiction Challenge in which I’m aiming to read a total of 51 books, one set in each of the USA (and one for the District of Columbia). My personal twist is that all the books are by new (to me) authors.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Thriller Press [this edition not sure, original edition 2001]
ASIN B004R1Q6B0
Length 245 pages
Format eBook (kindle)
Book Series #1 in the Owen McKenna series

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6 Responses to Review: TAHOE DEATH FALL by Todd Borg

  1. I’m glad you liked this one better than you thought you would, Bernadette. It sounds like a good balance of light touches and solid, serious story. I think, too, it’s a challenge to write a thriller that has action and pacing, and still lets you get to know the characters, and doesn’t stretch credibility too far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kathy d. says:

    I am motivated to try this series. The library doesn’t have many of these books, but I’ll see what they have. I’m not going to buy books at this point unless they’re by favorite authors whose books are not in the library.
    And as for not being able to fit a Spot in your house, why not get a smaller dog? My neighbor adopted her second dachshund in the winter and we have so much fun with that dog. And playing with her is my only aerobic exercise! She can outfox us when allegedly fetching. We are doing the fetching. She’s running all around us with ball or toy in her mouth, teasing us.
    But so much fun.

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    • Whenever I’ve had dogs they’ve always been large ones so I think that’s why I was taken with Spot but in reality I couldnt have any size dog right now as I’m not home enough to give one the care and attention they need. Between work and visits to my dad and general running around I’m often home only to sleep. But I hope to go to part time work in the not too distant future, then we’ll see

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  3. kathy d. says:

    Good luck! Hope you can switch to part-time work, then more time with your father, for reading and possibly, for dogs.

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  4. tracybham says:

    This one sounds interesting, and since you liked it I may give it a try someday. I don’t usually read many newer books, so it may be awhile. I have always found the Tahoe area interesting, even though I have never been there.

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  5. Still free on kindle – you did a good job, and I just downloaded it…

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