cover image California Bear

California Bear

Duane Swierczynski. Mulholland, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-38297-7

Swierczynski delivers his best work since the Charlie Hardie series in this virtuoso serial killer thriller. Jack Queen was convicted of murdering real estate tycoon Julian Church by running him down in a car while drunk, an apparent act of revenge for Church’s involvement in the death of Queen’s wife. Ten years into Queen’s sentence, ex-cop Cato Hightower springs Queen from prison, hoping he’ll be grateful enough for his new freedom to aid Hightower in an unofficial investigation. Hightower is convinced he’s identified the “California Bear,” a serial killer who’s eluded justice for nearly 40 years and hasn’t struck in 30. His suspect is Christopher Albin Dixon, another former cop whom Hightower plans to extort—with the help of Queen’s muscle—for a share of the money he believes Dixon’s receiving from a deal with a streaming service to make a documentary about the California Bear’s killings. Queen has other priorities, such as providing support for his precocious 14-year-old daughter, Matilda, a brilliant young sleuth whose dedication to exonerating her dad has just been sidelined by a devastating cancer diagnosis. Swierczynski is brilliant at fooling even savvy readers, and his jaw-dropping twists never compromise his exceptional character development. This is a tour de force. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown, Ltd. (Jan.)