Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos
Series: Porter Beck #1
Published by Minotaur Books on July 18, 2023
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Amazon, Audible, Libro.fm, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Porter Beck is the sheriff in the high desert of Nevada, north of Las Vegas. Born and raised there, he left to join the Army, where he worked in Intelligence, deep in the shadows in far off places. Now he's back home, doing the same lawman's job his father once did, before his father started to develop dementia. All is relatively quiet in this corner of the world, until an old, retired FBI agent is found killed. He was brutally tortured before he was killed and clues at the scene point to a mystery dating back to the early days of the nuclear age. If that wasn't strange enough, a current FBI agent shows up to help Beck's investigation.
In a case that unfolds in the past (the 1950s) and the present, it seems that a Russian spy infiltrated the nuclear testing site and now someone is looking for that long-ago, all-but forgotten person, who holds the key to what happened then and to the deadly goings on now.
While I’m always game to try a new to me mystery series, certain elements will draw me in quickly. In this case, the rugged Nevada desert setting-small town sheriff with hidden talents paired with fascinating Cold War storyline and a familiar setting I’ve visited personally was well-nigh irresistible.
Beck and his deputies find themselves investigating a grisly murder that is only the tip of the Cold War iceberg. The victim was an FBI retiree who once was a handler for Russian informants. The victim was investigating a Cold War era mystery involving one of his informants and someone now really wants to get their bloody hands on that informant. With the help of an enigmatic FBI agent, Beck must draw heavily on his past as an Army Intelligence officer to go on the hunt for a ruthless killer and solve the past mystery to get a bead on the present killing.
I was enthralled with the blend of police procedural and spy thriller in The Bitter Past. The two timeline threads following two different main characters were an equal draw. I liked how they tie-in strongly together and the pace was taunt with suspense leading to two fabulous climaxes.
Beck was the primary narrator and his point of view was the contemporary thread. I took to him immediately and enjoyed the way the setting and the rest of the cast of characters were laid out so the series intro (because yes, I’m hoping this turns into a long series) didn’t bog down the forward action at all. The southeastern Nevada setting and the connection to what happened there during the nuclear testing era were as intriguing as the story plot. I’ve only been in the area for one memorable road trip-camping experience, but I recognized much of what was described which was satisfying since that was one of the reasons I took up the book.
All in all, The Bitter Past was abso-fab and a great intro to the author’s writing. Those who like an engaging main character, rough county police procedural, and a thrilling pair of mysteries, should give it a go.
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