Bone Canyon (Eve Ronin #2), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

Lee Goldberg is back with the second novel in his Even Ronin series, which pulls the reader into two parallel cases when bones are discovered after a major brush fire ravages the area. Both cases pull at the heartstrings, but for different reasons, leaving the reader to guess what the killers might have been thinking. Quick paced and easily devoured, this is perfect for those who love gritty police procedurals.

Eve Ronin has had quite the rise through the ranks of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Videos of her gritty antics hit social media and she earned quite the reputation for herself, something that others within the LASD have been holding against her. With little interest in capitalising on her fame, Ronin is forced to rebuff those in the industry who see stardom and an easy television career based on her life.

When Ronin and her partner are called out to a recently fire-ravaged area, they discover part of a skull. Some slow and thorough investigating by a forensics anthropologist not only offers up a lead as to who the victim might be, but also reveals much of her skeletal remains, scattered around the property. Ronin begins piecing it all together and identifies the victim as Sabrina Morton, with the help of a surgical implant.

While Ronin chases down some people who may be able to help piece together what Sabrina was doing in the days before she died, she learns that there were some horrible things that befell this young woman. Sabrina and her roommate went to party on the beach and were gang-raped by a bunch of surfers, all sporting a similar tattoo. After Ronin is able to get hold of a sketch of this tat, she learns that it’s a common mark worn by many of the sheriff’s deputies in the area. Could Sabrina have been attacked by off-duty officers and killed to keep her silent?

While working various angles, another set of bones turns up, those of Debbie Crawford, a fifty-something woman who has a long-standing beef with her rich neighbour. Ronin begins to look into this case and sees the feud has been building, such that having her killed would surely have eased the headache that was developing across the fence line. Still, there’s something not entirely kosher with the way things are presented to her, leaving Ronin to open new lines of inquiry.

As Ronin begins accusing deputies of rape and likely murder, she becomes more of a villain than she is already, leading to verbal and physical attacks. Yet, Ronin refuses to back down, sure that she should be seeking justice over covering her own backside. Two killers are out there and they must be brought to justice, even if it costs Ronin her badge, or worse!

Lee Goldberg proves again that he is a master storyteller with this piece. His ability to develop strong plots and use a fast-paced narrative keeps the reader on their toes as things progress. Poignant characters also help keep things enthralling until the final reveal for the attentive reader.

Eve Ronin remains a relatable protanogist, even though she is young and still somewhat naive when it comes to priorities. Her backstory pops up throughout the piece, though it is how she handles it that prove to be an entertaining subplot. Gritty and seeking to make a difference with her badge drives Ronin to do what she feels is right, even when she steps on toes to get there. With a peppering of some personal interactions at key points in the story, Goldberg has crafted a character that will definitely remain highly entertaining for as long as the series continues.

The cast of strong secondary characters keeps the reader wanting to learn more. Each complements Ronin in their own way, though there are some who are able to stand alone and provide entertainment value in how they are portrayed. With some returning faces and a number of one-offs, Goldberg keeps his story moving with all the banter throughout, offering up many suspects for these two murders and forcing the readers to point at those they would accuse.

The premise of the piece is not only strong, but highly engaging. The plot moves along at a quick pace, thanks to a strong narrative and clipped dialogue. Goldberg has a lot of practice in the genre and it shows, keeping the reader wanting more with every turn of the page. Short chapters that propel the story forward keep the reader on the edge of their seat until everything comes together at the end. A highly entertaining story in a genre that is quite full of cops and their hunt for the elusive suspect or killer.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for another strong effort. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for your fans in the near future.

Fake Truth (Ian Ludlow #3), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Lee Goldberg and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Lee Goldberg returns with another novel in his off the wall Ian Ludlow series. While the story reads as a little less than serious, the tale moves well and will keep most readers entertained. As Ludlow is still coming to terms with how his last book predicted a real-life event, he has newly-defected Chinese Actress Wang Mei with him. The CIA are eager to learn a little more and hope that Ludlow can use his astonishing powers to predict yet another international event. However, Ludlow seems to be coming up blank, sufferings from writer’s block and unsure how to solve it. Even some steamy trysts with Wang do not help his writing juices flow any better (no comment on any others, though Goldberg does not spare the reader). Meanwhile, a conservative talking head has been fanning the flames about Mexican incursion along the southern US border, in hopes of creating something even more chaotic. Little does anyone know but Dwight Edsey is actually part of a Russian sleeper cell, trying to create new issues as they infiltrate new fake news. When Ludlow stumbles upon what could be a unite story idea, two American tourists falling to their death while taking a selfie, he and his assistant head to Portugal. What looks like an innocent accident might have more daunting implications on both sides of the Atlantic, but Ludlow will have to find the thing that ties it all together. As he is targeted for what he discovers, Ludlow learns that, yet again, his desire to write a bestseller could have international implications for which he was not aware. An interesting piece that entertains more than it stuns, Lee Goldberg does well to keep he fans satisfied. Recommended to those who like a lighter thriller, as well as the reader who needs something with some corny storylines.

I stumbled upon this series and found it to be perfect for when I need a lighter piece that will still entertain. Lee Goldberg does well to keep the reader in the middle of the story, offering both intrigue and some slapstick humour to balance out some of the larger and more chilling ramifications. Ian Ludlow is again a key character in this piece, finding himself in the middle of a major catastrophe without meaning to. His writing skills have garnered him much praise in the past, though he is looking for more. The reader can see some more of his creative efforts throughout, though he seems also to be tapping into a more physical and superficial side. Goldberg does well to offer different facets of the character, though none of them are especially deep. Goldberg uses other characters to enrich the plot and the storyline, though most of the them remain at the same caliber as Ludlow. This collection of characters complement one another well for this piece, which seeks to tell multiple stories before tying them all together. The overall piece was decent, offering the needed entertainment that I have come to expect with this series. However, there is a superficial nature to the piece, almost a hokey or corny sentiment. While I can only surmise that this is Goldberg does this intentionally, it makes for a harder read at times, as I seek something a little deeper. Still, there is an entertaining value to it all and I suspend some of my expectations in order to enjoy this quick read.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for another great piece that fit nicely into my reading journey this week.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Lost Hills (Eve Ronin #1), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

I was eager to get my hands on this latest novel by Lee Goldberg, hoping that it would be as exciting and full of twists as some of his other work. I was not disappointed with this crime thriller that kept me guessing as the story progressed. Eve Ronin had her fifteen minutes of fame when she took down a criminal and someone posted the entire event to YouTube. That notoriety has made her a household name in the Los Angeles environs and catapulted her into the highest ranks of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. A new detective in the Homicide Squad, Ronin is still trying to get her feet under her, made more difficult when no one will take her seriously. When Ronin and her partner are called to the home of a woman presumed missing, things take a turn for the worse. There are some signs of a skirmish on the outside of the house, but when Ronin enters, things are horrific, with blood covering many of the walls and floors, and slashes over much of the furniture. This dull day has turned into the search for a woman and her two young children, though the crime scene lends it to being a homicide investigation. While Ronin must work with the crime scene techs, careful not to step on any toes, she is also trying to hunt down a killer. Ronin tries to piece it all together when she is attacked at the crime scene. This only spurs her on to find new suspects that might help her solve this case. Could it be her ex-husband, who lives hours away? Perhaps the boyfriend who has made it clear he cannot stand the children? All the while, she has a bad feeling about this case, which seems to thrust her into the limelight when all she seeks is to find justice for the victims. Lee Goldberg has done it again as he keeps the story sharp and the narrative flowing. Recommended for those who enjoy a great police procedural, as well as the reader who needs a quick-read thriller to fill their reading list.

I have always enjoyed Lee Goldberg novels when I have a chance to read them, as they are both full of information and succinct at the same time. The crimes are realistic and there is just enough realism in the situations that I can almost picture myself with the story. This new series could have some great potential and Eve Ronin is a wonderful protagonist. Trying to step away from the limelight that was thrust upon her, she wants to do her job, but is constantly reminded of those fifteen minutes and one million clicks that her video amassed. Still, she is gritty and determined to find her place within the Los Angeles community, even as her mother nags her to ‘get found’. Her skills are such that she never stops working and looking for that piece of the crime that everyone missed. She is surrounded with many interesting characters, some of whom I hope make a return appearance in any forthcoming novels within the series. The story itself flows well and keeps the reader’s attention. There is still a period of trying to get a feel for the scenario, but the plot kept me wanting to learn more and the narrative flows with ease. Goldberg mixes chapter lengths to lure the reader in and keep their attention, which is effective in trying to make sense of this horrible crime. I’ll be back for more whenever new books are added to this or his other series I have come to enjoy. A perfect book for any reader looking to find a new author that might make a blip on their radar.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for another wonderful piece. I am eager to see what you have in store for fans soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Killer Thriller (Ian Ludlow #2), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

Lee Goldberg’s highly entertaining new series seeks to top the rave reviews its debut novel received with another instalment. Just as funny and full of thrills, readers will surely be ready for another high impact piece that keeps them guessing. Ian Ludlow is still basking in the success of his latest thriller novel, while remembering how it was tied closely to actual events he lived. Now, he’s being sent to Hong Kong to drum up support for the cinematic interpretation of one novel, while using his time there to do some background research on his next thriller. Alongside him is Margo French, his former book escort turned sidekick during his previous adventures. While Margo has plotted out some wonderful scenes to visit for the upcoming book, Ludlow has problems of his own. His complex plot notes about the Chinese using technology to backdoor their way into America has strong ties to a covert operation presently underway, sending the Chinese into a frenzy. Ludlow is a targeted man and must be eliminated before he can (inadvertently) reveal all through his next book. Additionally, there are ties within the US Government that could help facilitate an easier entry into the country, all of which comes to a head as Margo realises the danger in which they find themselves. It will be a race to stay safe and overturn the ultimate plot, while Ian Ludlow tries to handle the bastardisation of his novel at the hands of a director who wants nothing but a large dose of self-praise. Goldberg has done it again, keeping the reader enthralled until the very end with this explosive piece of work. Recommended for those who enjoyed the first in the series and like a little light reading.

Lee Goldberg is still a new name for me, though much of his past work has received a great deal of notice. His ability to mix humour with a wonderful thriller keeps the reader hooked until the final pages and wanting to know just a little more. Ian Ludlow comes across as a wonderfully focussed author who wants to grab hold of life and write the next big thing. Standing in his way in that eerie knowledge that much of what he puts to paper, however outlandish, seems to come back to bite him. He remains full of pep and banters well with those around him, losing none of his pizzazz throughout the novel. Complementing him well is Margo French, who has her own sort of independence and passion for life. No longer as down and out as she might have been remembered, she is working hard and finding trouble alongside Ludlow like no other. Their interactions are wonderful and keep the story light throughout. The cross-section of others in the narrative propel things in a number of directions, all of which work well. The reader is able to see the Hong Kong experience from a variety of angles and the characters enrich that experience effectively, while adding to some of the thrills that develop throughout. The story is not as hokey as it may appear, though there are surely some moments of head shaking and completely tomfoolery. Perhaps that is what keeps the story moving forward and entertaining. This is light reading at its best and the reader is surely in for a treat with this piece.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, on another successful piece. I am eager to see what awaits in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

True Fiction (Ian Ludlow Thrillers #1), by Lee Goldberg

Six stars

Needing a quick read, I turned to this series debut by Lee Goldberg, about which I have heard many good things. When an airplane crashes in Hawaii not long after take-off, the news outlets begin streaming coverage and countless people gasp in horror. However, thriller writer Ian Ludlow is not one of them. Hiding in his Seattle hotel while on a book tour, Ludlow knows that with this event, his life is in imminent danger. Coaxed out of hiding by his author escort, Margo French, Ludlow tells of how the CIA is trying to kill him after an authors’ retreat a few years before. At this event, Ludlow shared a potential plot idea that seems to have been replicated down to the smallest detail. Little does Ludlow know, it is not the CIA, per se, but Blackthorn Securities that has their eye on him and is responsible for the crash. Now it is up to Ludlow, with Margo by his side, to dodge Blackthorn as they zero-in on his location. What started as a fearful writer running for his life has become a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, with only one possible outcome. Fast-paced and with little time to synthesise the info, the reader is taken on this adventure as Goldberg tosses twists at every possible instance. Those who need a good beach read need look no further than Lee Goldberg’s new series.

This is my first time reading anything by Lee Goldberg, though it would seem he is well-established. He has a great ability to portray the ‘author writing about an author’ theme and not make it come across as corny, though does utilise the ‘cat and mouse’ thriller recipe well, injecting a little cheesiness when needed. Ian Ludlow (apparently Goldberg’s nom de plume?) is an interesting character, established in his writing capabilities yet always looking to stay relevant. His slightly geeky side mixes well with the fear of being caught by the giant bully and the story turns into his using some of the resources he has been able to cobble together as a writer over the years. The story progresses as he gains some courage, but the reader must also remember that some of the stereotypical ‘bad ass geek’ is on display here. Hokey at times, Ludlow does come across as somewhat enjoyable and I did find myself laughing while shaking my head on more than a single occasion. Margo French proves to be a nice counterbalance for Ludlow, as she has somehow been pulled into the middle of this adventure without wanting to be there. A dog-walker and amateur singer, French brings the sass and sarcasm to this party without becoming the helpless femme fatale. A handful of secondary characters flesh-out the wonders of this thriller novel, keeping the story edgy and propelling it towards what is sure to be a bloody conclusion. The story was by no means stellar, but it proved entertaining, which seems to be Goldberg’s goal, as he has written much for television and knows how to keep the audience enthralled. I’ll surely keep my eyes open for more of his work, though cannot rave about how wonderful I found the book or how it is likely some of the best reading I have done all year. Still, if you need something for a trip or lounging by the pool, Goldberg has just what you might want.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for an interesting introduction to the series. I admit, I am intrigued and will see what else you have to offer.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: