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