Thursday 14 December 2023

Calico by Lee Goldberg #Calico @LeeGoldberg @severnhouse @angelaontour #BookReview


There's a saying in Barstow, California, a decaying city in the scorching Mojave desert . . .

The Interstate here only goes in one direction: Away.

But it's the only place where ex-LAPD detective Beth McDade, after a staggering fall from grace, could get another badge . . . and a shot at redemption.

Over a century ago, and just a few miles further into the bleak landscape, a desperate stranger ended up in Calico, a struggling mining town, also hoping for a second chance.

His fate, all those years ago, and hers today are linked when Beth investigates an old skeleton dug up in a shallow, sandy grave . . . and also tries to identity a vagrant run-over by a distracted motorhome driver during a lightning storm.

Every disturbing clue she finds, every shocking discovery she makes, force Beth to confront her own troubled past . . . and a past that's not her own . . . until it all smashes together in a revelation that could change the world.

Calico by Lee Goldberg was published on 7 November 2023 in hardback, by Severn House. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Oh. My. Goodness! I have never read this author before, and when I looked him up on Fantastic Fiction, I found that he has a HUGE back catalogue. Lots of series and some stand alone novels. So, not really knowing what I was going to get, I went straight in, and my head hardly left the pages for days afterwards.

This is what is described by Harlan Coben on the cover quote as 'genre-bending', and I think that's the perfect description. The reader starts out with a police procedural story set in the Mojave desert in February 2019. It's a strange case for Beth McDade; an ex LAPD detective whose past behaviours have found her working in the ex-mining town of Calico. A man is killed in an accident with a motor home, yet despite the fact that this is a very small town, where everyone knows everyone else, nobody can identify the victim. Things get stranger when his body and clothes are examined. His jeans and boots date back over 100 years, he is filthy, with bad teeth and an array of diseases that haven't been seen for many years.  Beth is really going to be put to the test with this one. And then, a well known YouTube chef goes missing, and then, an old coffin is discovered when a nearby site is being prepared for development. A very old coffin, containing very old bones ... but with the remains of dental implants still in the jaw bone. It just gets stranger and stranger. 

The reader then finds themselves in Calico in the 1880s; the town is fairly new, with just one street, a couple of places to eat, a store and lots and lots of men looking to find their fortune. How do we arrive there? That's for you to find out, and not for me to disclose. I can say, however, that it's extremely clever, if a little 'out there', but I was gripped. Totally and utterly hooked and totally invested in the characters. 

What I loved most was the author's description of this nineteenth century working town. We've all seen the old Western movies, with small towns, dust and working girls. What I've never really thought about before was how terrible those places must have been and the character who suddenly finds themselves there is appalled by the stench, and the dirt and the total lack of hygiene. There's no spare water, there's no sewage system. People don't wash, or clean their teeth. Their waste is disposed in an open gully on the main street. I really was transported to a land of utter filth. 

The story flicks back and forth, we follow Beth as she carries on investigating the modern day mysteries, often bending the rules and more than once, putting herself into danger. We see our 1880s characters develop and grow, we watch them create a life for themselves in what is really an alien place to them, but also use their knowledge of future events wisely.

The pace really quickens towards the end of the story, involving secret Government projects and official people who are determined to silence Beth. It's action packed for sure. A totally gripping and enjoyable read ..... oh, and the ending reveal made me gasp out loud. Highly recommended. 

Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including Lost Hills, the Ian Ludlow trilogy, fifteen Monk mysteries, and five internationally bestselling Fox & O'Hare books co-written with Janet Evanovich. He has also written and/or produced many TV shows, including Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest, and Monk, and is the co-creator of the hit Hallmark movie series Mystery 101.

As an international television consultant, he has advised networks and studios in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, China, Sweden, and the Netherlands on the creation, writing, and production of episodic television series. He is also co-founder of the publishing company Brash Books.

X / Twitter @LeeGoldberg

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