by Lee Goldberg
For someone who loves stories set in Los Angeles (as I do), this book is delicious.
Lee Goldberg is no Raymond Chandler, but his gift for describing scenes is so vivid I could smell the smoke of fire season, see Mulholland Drive angling south and east from the Ventura Freeway and hear the burble of conversation at a Calabasas Commons coffee spot.
The star of this police procedural is Homicide Detective Eve Ronen, who has been working the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.’s Robbery-Homicide Division at its Lost Hills station for just three months. She shot from being an unknown deputy investigating burglaries in Lancaster to an internet sensation when she interrupted an action movie star, Blake Largo, assaulting a woman in a restaurant parking lot.
Eve, off duty at the time, confronted him; he took a swing at her. “She pressed his million-dollar face to the pavement until police arrived.” A bystander put video on YouTube and it went viral.
For Ronen, the timing was perfect. The media was grilling the sheriff about revelations that sheriff’s deputies had been beating prisoners at the county jail. Showering Ronen with accolades and then giving her a promotion and a transfer to Calabasas on the western edge of Los Angeles shifted attention to more positive news.
Ronen’s colleagues are less than enchanted by her rapid promotion. Her partner, Duncan Pavone, doesn’t care. He’s counting the days until retirement.
The focus of this story is a call that Ronen and Pavone receive about a woman possibly down in her house. Her friend, Alexis Ward, went to the house when Tanya Kenworth didn’t show up for a casting call they were going to that morning. When she looked in the windows, she saw a trail of blood in the kitchen.
What Ronen and Pavone find when they break into the house is a blood-spattered horror. Tanya’s purse has been dropped in the kitchen; two children’s backpacks are lying in dried puddles of blood by the front door. But there are no bodies.
As Ronen and Pavone check out suspects — Tanya’s ex-husband and disgruntled boyfriend, among others — but no viable leads emerge. Then their investigation takes a turn for the worse, a fire starts in a nearby state park. As it rages on, Ronen and Pavone know their time is limited before the evidence and any possibility of capturing the killer goes up in flames.
This is a thriller to the last page, as Ronen pieces the puzzle together and realizes that one of the victims may still be alive — if she can reach her before the fire does.
This is an unusual story well-presented. The characters are strong and the plot is tight.
The sequel to this book is BONE CANYON (2021). It focuses on the charred remains of a woman who disappeared long ago. The remains were exposed by a catastrophic wildfire in the Santa Monica Mountains. The third book in the series, GATED PREY, is due out in October 2021.
About the Author: Lee Goldberg
An author, screenwriter, publisher and producer, Lee Goldberg has written for several TV crime series including “Diagnosis: Murder,” “Hunter,” “Spenser: For Hire,” “SeaQuest” and “Monk.”
He published his first series of novels under the name Ian Ludlow. The first book of the series was .357 VIGILANTE. Although the movie rights to the series were optioned, a movie was never made. Co-writing the script for the series, however, helped launch his screenwriting career.
His novel, THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE (titled WATCH ME DIE for its rerelease) was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America. In June 2013, his novel, THE HEIST, first of a five-book series written with Janet Evanovich was published by Random House.
In 2014, he launched the publishing company Brash Books with novelist Joel Goldman, which published new crime fiction and award-winning, acclaimed thriller and suspense novels that have fallen out of print.
He has been nominated twice for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America and twice for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America. In 2012, he received the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic. He has served on the board member of the Mystery Writers of America.
LOST HILLS was published in January 2020 and will be followed by a sequel, BONE CANYON, in January 2021. Although it is a work of fiction it was inspired y an actual case that Goldberg heard about as one of three civilians attending a professional homicide investigators training seminar in Green Bay, WI.
He, his wife and daughter live in Calabasas, where LOST HILLS was set. He is the brother of Tod Goldberg, author of GANGSTERLAND and GANGSTER NATION.