A catastrophic wildfire scorches the Santa Monica Mountains, exposing the charred remains of a woman who disappeared years ago. The investigation is assigned to Eve Ronin, the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a position that forces her to prove herself again and again. This time, though, she has much more to prove.
Bones don’t lie, and these have a horrific story to tell. Eve tirelessly digs into the past, unearthing dark secrets that reveal nothing about the case is as it seems. With almost no one she can trust, her relentless pursuit of justice for the forgotten dead could put Eve’s own life in peril.
‘Bone Canyon’ was like good TV streaming across my imagination. I slipped into Lee Goldberg’s perfectly paced story the way people slip into a warm bath – relaxing as I let the plot flow around me.
I admire Lee Goldberg’s craftsmanship – but only after the fact – while I’m reading the story I’m too immersed in it to think about how it’s being done. Lee Goldberg is a master of the four Ps of a good police procedural: People, Place, Plot and Pace and he keeps them perfectly balanced.
The people are the hook. Eve Ronin is easy to like: earnest, focused, hard to intimidate and with no agenda other than discovering what really happened in each case she’s working. As we saw in the first book, ‘Lost Hills’. what makes Eve stand out is that she became the youngest Homicide detective in the LA County Sheriff’s Department by leveraging a viral video of her taking down a famous mixed martial arts movie star who was abusing his girlfriend. This, and the triple homicide she solved in the first book and the second viral video that captured its dramatic conclusion, have established Eve as a publicity hound with political ambitions.
This undeserved reputation is cemented because her bosses are so deeply political that they see Eve’s denial of any political ambition as evidence of its existence and by Hollywood agents who are determined to turn her fame into revenue from a show based on her life. I enjoyed watching Eve’s struggle as politicians and producers try to turn her into who they want her to be while she’s trying to focus on finding out who the skeletons found the hills belonged to and how they died.
The chemistry between Eve and her I’m-retiring-in-less-than-200-days Partner-turned-mentor works well for plot exposition and for making Eve a little more vulnerable. She’s also made more human by her struggles with her self-absorbed parents, her hookup with an eccentric but attractive forensic scientist obsessed with bones and the stories they tell him and her resistance to doing the exercises that her determined surfer-boy physiotherapist wants her to do to repair the wrist she injured in the ‘Lost Hills’
By setting the story in Los Angeles County, rather than Los Angeles itself, Lee Goldberg has given Eve a larger, more varied and less well-known territory to work in and he brings it alive with small details that show how a local would see the place rather than how it’s presented in travel guides. I liked that, as well as including details about local eateries, architecture and the pervasive influence of the movie business, he used the geography of the canyons and the recent wildfires to drive the plot.
The plot is full of surprises. The more Eve digs, the more bones she finds and the more complicated the story becomes. We get stories of rapes and murders that may or may not be connected, possible police corruption either covering up or carrying out the crimes and a sleazy hate-him-on-sight TV star who I really hoped wouldn’t make it to the end of the book. Apart from forensic evidence being processed faster than seems likely and Eve having a little more luck than you might expect, the plot and the exposition felt plausible. I liked that the victims of the crime remained as important as the race to solve the puzzle and the that the often sordid history of the Los Angeles police was built in to the plot and confronted without being either glossed over or demonised.
The pacing is pretty much perfect. Engagement with people and plot disposition march along side-by-side, amplifying each other’s impact and keeping me eagerly turning the pages. Some very tense action scenes are mixed in with moments of internal politics, details of forensic investigations, interviews with suspects and witnesses and Eve’s private life.
I found this second visit with Eve Ronin as entertaining as the first. I’m a little more invested in her now and I’m keen to get to the next two books in the series.
Lee Goldberg is an American author, screenwriter, publisher and producer.
He has published over forty books . He his best known for his two most recent series, the four Iain Ludlow thrillers that started with True Fiction, and the four Eve Ronin police procedurals that started with Lost Hills.
He co-wrote the Kate O’Hare & Nicolas Fox novels with Janet Evanovitch.
His TV crime series, include Monk, Diagnosis Murder, Spenser, Martial Law and The Glades
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