Two years ago I wrote about a chance encounter with a mystery novelist, Todd Borg. We met at a craft fair at Lake Tahoe where he was promoting his books, a series of murder mysteries featuring a former cop turned private eye, Owen McKenna.
I chatted with Todd for a long time. I was interested in his story and how he came to be a mystery novelist living at Lake Tahoe. See his story here. At that craft fair he gave me a copy of his then most recent book, Tahoe Heat, and asked me to read it and comment. I did – and then I ordered all the precursor books starting with Tahoe Deathfall.
In the ensuing two years I’ve read all the Owen McKenna books, including the most recent one published just last week, Tahoe Trap. It’s been fun to see the development of the lead character, Owen McKenna, and his cohorts: girlfriend, Street; cop buddy, Diamond; and of course, ginormous Harlequin Great Dane, Spot.
The current book steps into a more socially conscious context – undocumented workers and their children and organ harvesting. Sounds like a stretch, but once again Todd pulls together interesting and divergent storyline strands and weaves an exciting murder mystery.
In my Amazon review I compared Owen to Spenser. Not a stretch. Like Spenser, Owen is a well-read, highly intelligent righter of wrongs who always solves the crime and lives a life true his personal code. Owen is something of a loner who is in a long-standing committed relationship that doesn’t seem destined for matrimony. His cop-buddy is a friend to be counted on of few words. He has a remarkable partner in crime-solving who is both startling and menacing in appearance and has a single focus: to save Owen when he’s in trouble. So Street isn’t Susan, Diamond isn’t Quirk and Spot isn’t Hawk. And Lake Tahoe certainly isn’t Boston. Trust me. I’ve lived in both places! But these differences just make Owen more appealing.
Unlike Spenser, Owen has an incredible MacGyver-like ability to come up with solutions – theories of the crime as well as solutions to sticky problems. Owen doesn’t back down from a fight, but he rarely resorts to violence relying instead on his ability to out-wit and finesse the bad guys. And this capability really saves the day in Tahoe Trap.
Also, unlike the Spenser books, this series hasn’t gotten formulaic and you have to read all the way to the end to figure out the mystery. Todd’s research into the back story and context of each plot leaves you a little smarter — whether the topic is undocumented workers, nature conservation or art fraud — you’ll learn a little something along with being entertained.
During what’s left of my down times these days, I read mystery/crime novels. And I watch for the newest chapters in the ongoing developments of characters like Jack Reacher (note to Hollywood: Tom Cruise? Really?), Joanna Brady, Dismas Hardy, Peter and Rina Decker, and Alex Cross to name a few. But these days I look forward most to the next installment of Owen McKenna. If you’re a mystery reader do yourself a favor: dig in to the Owen McKenna series.