This 16th installment of a series brings back a thinking-person’s private investigator in a tale that delivers the unlikely combination of robotics innovation and gender identity.
In this thriller, Owen McKenna, the former San Francisco policeman-turned-tourist-town detective, finds himself searching for a very special abducted child. He is hired by Vince Cooper, a mountain guide whose son, Jon, has been kidnapped. Initially, it appears that Jon was taken so that Vince would be forced to lead some men claiming to be from a Swedish prison gang on a dangerous climb to recover something. But after Vince does so, Jon isn’t released. That’s because Jon is a cyber-savant in whom Yardley LaMotte, a missing robotics developer, had taken an interest. Those holding Jon hope he can crack the security on LaMotte’s files, which the gang stole. Through his steadfast investigation of the theft, Owen discovers where Jon is being held: a gated mountaintop lodge. But Jon has a secret: She’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body who calls herself Jonni, something neither her father nor her brutish captors comprehend. To rescue Jonni, Vince and Owen mount a nighttime assault on the lodge via a tandem paraglider skydrop, supported by the sleuth’s great Dane, Spot, and his off-duty cop buddy Diamond Martinez on the ground. Sure, this rescue mission requires a healthy suspension of disbelief by readers, with a guide perfectly steering a novice paraglider into a gated compound protected by a security system and armed mercenaries. But enough goes wrong that Borg (Tahoe Payback, 2017, etc.) makes the attack seem believable, showing that extreme circumstances require extreme measures. Likewise, the mastermind of the plan to steal LaMotte’s secrets seems unlikely yet ultimately makes sense. But the best part of the successful novel is how Owen and his girlfriend, Street, research Jonni’s gender dysphoria and become her greatest champions as they try to help Vince understand his daughter. Yes, Borg’s books are thrillers first and foremost, with picturesque settings, but they’re educational as well. Having a thoughtful, inquisitive man such as Owen at their center enhances these volumes. And this latest outing is no exception.
Another impressive case featuring a detective who remains not only dogged, but also reflective.