For me, “Lost Hills” was a lottery book: offered free on Amazon just before its release in January 2020.
I was hooked by the premise: a new series about a woman detective, promoted to homicide from robbery on the strength of a viral video of her making an off-duty arrest of a movie star tough-guy who was assaulting a woman. That he was the star of the “Deathfist” franchise and that she took him down and held him down when he took a swing at her explained why the video went viral.
Although I now know that he’s written thirty novels, including the Monk series, when I picked *Lost Hills” I’d never heard of Lee Goldberg. Which is great news because this time I won the lottery and I’ve got a new back-catalogue of books to read through.
From the start of the novel, I was impressed by the assured storytelling, the lean prose, the puzzle of a bloody gruesome crime and the freshness of the characters who vary from the detective tropes just enough to make them interesting and not so much that it stretches credibility.
I liked the apparent realism of the way the policing is done. Nothing too flashy or too histrionic, just hard work, determination and a little luck. The plot is clear, doesn’t cheat and still managed to catch me by surprise when everything turned out to be different than I’d expected.
The final action sequence would make wonderful TV. The interplay between Eve Ronin, her colleagues, her bosses and her irrepressibly delusional mother all round Eve Ronin out and make me want to know more about her.
I also enjoyed the playful way Goldberg references his own work and the Harry Bosch series. At one point a fellow detective is explaining to Eve Ronin why he didn’t collect some evidence from a witness. He says:
“Have you ever seen that TV show Monk, about that uptight detective who is a clean freak and wants everything to be even?”
“He had OCD.”
“Yeah, well, she’s like him. Can’t stand dirt.”
That’s not the kind of in-joke many authors get to make.
Then we get the nod to Michael Connelly’s books. Eve Ronin, who leveraged her moment of viral video fame into a promotion, is on a long drive so…
“To stay awake, she cranked up the AC to keep herself uncomfortably chilled and listened to one of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch crime novels. Bosch was an LAPD detective who, over a thirty-year career that spanned about as many books, solved one major murder after another and yet his bosses still doubted his skill and integrity, regularly undermined his work, and repeatedly investigated him for misconduct. It frustrated her even more than it did him. His problem, she thought, was that he didn’t know how to play politics. She’d already proven that she could. Now she had to prove she could do the job.”
I’ll be back for more Eve Ronin books as they come out. In the meantime, I’m going to be catching up with Goldberg’s other books.