Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Calico by Lee Goldberg
Published by Severn House on November 7, 2023
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
There's a saying in Barstow, California, a decaying city in the scorching Mojave desert . . . The Interstate here only goes in one Away .
But it's the only place where ex-LAPD detective Beth McDade, after a staggering fall from grace, could get another badge . . . and a shot at redemption.
Over a century ago, and just a few miles further into the bleak landscape, a desperate stranger ended up in Calico, a struggling mining town, also hoping for a second chance. His fate, all those years ago, and hers today are linked when Beth investigates an old skeleton dug up in a shallow, sandy grave . . . and also tries to identity a vagrant run-over by a distracted motorhome driver during a lightning storm.
Every disturbing clue she finds, every shocking discovery she makes, force Beth to confront her own troubled past . . . and a past that's not her own . . . until it all smashes together in a revelation that could change the world.
An unnatural weather event, a vehicular death, a disappearance, and other strange phenomena out on the California desert leaves a world-weary police detective with more questions than answers. Is the kook on the local radio waves far off when he spouts about government conspiracies and aliens?
Once in a while, all it takes is a title to spark my interest and Calico was just such a book. I’ve always been fascinated by and visiting old west mining ghost towns including old Calico though it did get turned into a tourist stop. I didn’t realize until I started reading that it was not just a thriller set in the Mojave desert, but a sci-fi thriller. Even better.
Calico is told by two narrators in two different circumstances, but Detective Beth McDade has the larger storyline. This world-weary woman made a huge faux pas when working the LAPD so she took one of the few posts in California still open to her, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Dept and remained a detective. Beth is painted as a nuanced character who reminds me of those old western book heroes that are quiet, keep to themselves, but rough and capable when the going gets tough. I enjoyed seeing her fight her way clear of her personal purgatory after she screwed up in LA and how the case was the jump start she needed to get back in the game as the solid detective she was.
Lee Goldberg is a new to me author, but if the depth of background and description he gave to this region of the Mojave and the history of Calico not to mention his main characters is his usual, I really must take in his whole backlist. The rich history and culture of the area was another character in the story. It was all I could have wanted when I spotted the title and wanted to read a story set there.
I will be vague about the sci-fi element and the narrative line of the second main character because it is a wonderful surprise to readers to see it unfold as Beth conducts her investigation. The reader gets a bigger picture and works it out before Beth, but it still had some great twists and surprises.
In summation, my impulse grab of Calico paid off and I thought this a fabulous read from start to finish that I can highly recommend to other sci-fi thriller lovers.
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