cover image Calico


Lee Goldberg. Severn House, $31.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4483-1013-5

The latest standalone from Goldberg (after Malibu Burning) is disappointingly void of the cleverness that animates his best work. Homicide detective Beth McDade lost her job with the LAPD after sleeping with a junior officer and ended up in Barstow, Calif., a backwater town in the Inland Empire with a bad reputation among law enforcement. After a long stretch of unsatisfying cases, McDade finally gets a challenge when a man is fatally stricken by an RV. The driver responsible claims that he was distracted by a lightning storm that no one else saw, which allegedly coincided with an explosion at a military base near the highway, and didn’t see the victim, who ran in front of the RV screaming, until it was too late. The reason for those screams is just one of many mysteries pertaining to the victim, who was dressed in clothes from a century earlier and had dental work that appeared to date back to the late 19th century. It’s an intriguing setup, and Goldberg keeps readers invested for a while, but the explanations McDade reaches are profoundly unsatisfying. Worse still is the lack of memorable characters. Even Goldberg’s diehard fans will be disappointed. Agent: Amy Tannenbaum, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Nov.)