A California private investigator and his Great Dane explore the seamy underside of charities.
Philosophical sleuth Owen McKenna, aided largely by his dog, Spot, returns in this 15th volume of Borg’s (Tahoe Dark, 2016, etc.) mystery/thriller series. When the novel opens, Owen already has a personal case on his plate. His girlfriend, scientific researcher Street Casey, is being stalked by her father, Tom, who has threatened to kill her for her testimony, which sent him to prison for a long stretch. Street has refused Owen’s proffered protection, choosing instead to continue living on her own while learning self-defense techniques from him. But, having to pay the bills, Owen gets drawn into a new case involving charity scammers. The client is Douglas Fairbanks, whose parents obviously had a nasty sense of humor. The introverted, middle-aged millionaire wants Owen to find his missing, much-younger girlfriend, Isadore. The two get off to a rocky start when Owen questions Isadore’s motives: “You are suggesting that the love of my life is a con artist, a thief?” Fairbanks asks. Owen’s instincts prove correct after Isadora is found gruesomely murdered, as he discovers she earned millions off a fake charity. Soon three others connected to charity scams are similarly slain, and Owen is hunting a serial killer. All the while, he is preoccupied by the threat to Street. In Owen, a former San Francisco homicide detective, Borg has created a winning protagonist, both forthright and pragmatic. It’s a treat to see how his mind works. Owen has a dedicated partner in Spot, whom he has trained as both a search and an attack dog and who becomes a central figure in this installment. More problematic is the damaged Street, whom Owen struggles to protect while respecting her wishes. The author has provided a diverse group of believable suspects, including the son of a charity’s mark, a disabled artist, a forgetful scientist, and even Owen’s own client. Borg effectively sets all this action against the colorful backdrop of Tahoe and its visitors and citizens. The result is an engrossing whodunit that should keep readers guessing through the final twist.
A worthy addition to a well-devised mystery/thriller series.