In the latest adventure in his Tahoe mystery series, private detective Owen McKenna is hired by Nadia Lassitor, whose second husband, Ian Lassitor, has just died in a boating accident, to find out who is blackmailing her. In the course of his investigation, McKenna meets Nadia’s 15-year-old daughter, Gertie O’Leary, who has a cleft lip and an infectious personality. She tells the PI that she wants to become a movie director. Then, Gertie goes missing, and McKenna is almost drowned while searching for her. He locates the girl and has to rescue her from Mikhailo, a Russian killer who, for some unknown reason, will go to any lengths to get his hands on her, which forces McKenna to repeatedly place his life in jeopardy to protect Gertie. McKenna becomes the teen’s unlikely savior along with McKenna’s girlfriend, etymologist Street Casey. In a surprising development, it turns out that a chest full of gold coins that’s been lying on the floor of Lake Tahoe since 1901 is also involved in the case. The author takes a page from Ross Macdonald, whose PI hero, Lew Archer, was always getting involved with lost or missing children. Borg writes with some of the old pulp savvy of Macdonald and his detective-novel cohorts, but he might benefit from the economy of Robert B. Parker, whose Spenser for Hire also sometimes came to the aid of troubled youths. Borg’s story is filled with suspenseful set pieces, and there is a real surprise at the end of the novel. And Gertie herself makes for a charming damsel in distress even though there are times when she sounds more adult than teenager.
Fans of the classic detective novel will enjoy spending time with McKenna as his old-school techniques butt up against some newfangled technology.