by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have a review of the first book in a brand new series by mystery author Lee Goldberg. We also have a fun Behind the Book interview with Lee. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Lost Hills. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
Lost Hills is the first book in a new series by Lee Goldberg. The series features a young female detective who is brand new on the job, Eve Ronin. Eve only got the position because of her arrest of a famous actor that went viral on YouTube, and she knows it, and so does everyone she works with. Her fame came right when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was in bad need of some good press. Eve is the youngest female homicide detective in the department’s history.
Eve is determined to prove herself and the chance to do that comes when she and her soon to retire partner Duncan are called to the blood-spattered home of a missing single mom and her two children. The blood is everywhere and the scene is overwhelming. What is odd is that there are no bodies anywhere. Their dog is also missing, a fact that no one seems to care about except Eve. The most obvious suspect is the abusive boyfriend but he was supposedly miles away on the set of a movie.
Even though Eve has a lot to learn and a lot to prove, she is equal to the task and sets out to find out what happened to this family. Are they dead as everyone else assumes, or merely kidnapped? Is it even possible for there to be that much blood without them being dead? Not only does Eve have to prove herself on the job, she also has to deal with her wanna be actress mother who see this all as Eve’s chance to become more famous and wants her to capitalize on it.
The twists and turns in this story keep coming—it is a very well plotted and intricate mystery. Lee Goldberg always provides the reader with an entertaining story, but I feel like this is one of his best! Eve is relatable, the investigation comes across as believable, with bumps and stumbles along the way. I also really like her partner who guides her when she needs it, and is far more supportive than I expected in the beginning. They have an interesting relationship that I look forward to seeing more of—he’s kind of like that favorite uncle who always has a funny story to tell, or some good advice, and always has your back when needed.
If you want a page-turner that is realistic and filled with great characters, a solid mystery, and an interesting setting, don’t miss Lost Hills. Can’t wait for the next book!
Behind the Book Interview with Lee Goldberg:
KRL: Where did you get the idea for this story?
Lee: I started with another, different idea for a police procedural that I wanted to write. But I felt I still had a lot to learn about police procedure before really getting to work on my outline, which is the first step in my writing process. So, using some law enforcement contacts I had, I finagled my way into a four-day seminar in Wisconsin for professional homicide investigators, who attend as part of their required 24 hours of annual, ongoing training.
I was one of only three civilians allowed into the seminar. My goal was to pick up some techniques, anecdotes, procedures, and little, colorful details that would give my book more authenticity and enhance my understanding of homicide investigation.
As part of the seminar, a homicide was presented as an example of a case that might not have been solved if the detectives involved had applied “cop common sense” to the evidence they saw at the scene. The law enforcement officers involved presented this case, from the first uniformed officer’s arrival on scene to the final prosecution of the killer, to underscore the importance of approaching each homicide as if it’s the first one you’ve ever investigated, to come to it with absolutely no preconceived notions based on past experience or “commonly held” beliefs. I asked the detectives lots of questions during the seminar, during the break, and even in the hotel bar that night.
I couldn’t get to sleep that night because I couldn’t get the case out of my head. I knew had to write about it. I immediately saw how I could move the case from the Midwest, which I am unfamiliar with, to Los Angeles, where I’ve lived for forty years, and how I could cut some of the stranger elements of the story to make the truth more believable as fiction (usually the challenge is making fiction seem believable). I also saw how I could streamline some elements, and add some new ones, to make the plot more compelling as a novel. So I threw out the story idea I came there to research and ran with this one instead…which became Lost Hills.
KRL: How did you come up with this particular character and why a woman?
Lee: The homicide case that grabbed me was presented as an example of one that required the detectives to approach it as if they’d never solved a murder before, so why not make this the first case tackled by a novice investigator? But that presented a problem for me. How “novice” could a detective promoted to robbery-homicide really be? And from that question, a character began to take shape in my mind, a protagonist who gets the job not through merit or experience but through politics. I decided the protagonist should be a woman for three reasons — I’m tired of all the middle-aged, male cops in procedurals, I thought a young woman would have more obstacles and conflicts to overcome, and I missed writing in a woman’s voice, something I did in fifteen MONK novels .
KRL: Why did you choose this particular location?
Lee: Writing about cops in Los Angeles is asking for trouble. I’d be covering the same ground as Michael Connelly and Joseph Wambaugh and it was unlikely that I could do as well or better than them. So I thought: what if I made her a detective for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department? They are the agency responsible for law enforcement in a jurisdictional patchwork of unincorporated areas, state parks, and municipalities that can’t afford their own police departments, like Calabasas where I live.
Calabasas falls under the jurisdiction of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s station, which is bordered by Ventura County to the west and northwest, the City of Los Angeles to the east and northeast, and Santa Monica Bay to the south. Within those borders, the Sheriff is the law in the Santa Monica mountains, and the communities of Malibu, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills, and Calabasas. It’s basically a jurisdictional island within the city of Los Angeles.
From the beaches to the mountain tops, from exclusive gated communities to run-down, mobile home parks, Lost Hills had it all, giving me fertile ground for creating not just one, but countless crime stories.
KRL: What did you like best about writing Lost Hills?
Lee: It’s right outside my door. Traveling for research is easy and it gave me new insights into the place I call home.
KRL: What was the hardest?
Lee: Making the place interesting, fresh, and exciting to my readers.
KRL: What kind of research did you do?
Lee: In addition to attending that homicide conference, I read lots of textbooks about homicide investigation, news reports from the original case, and pestered the lots of people in law enforcement with questions.
KRL: Is this going to be part of a series?
Lee: Yes. The sequel Bone Canyon is finished and already available for preorder. The book will be out in January 2021.
To enter to win a copy of Lost Hills, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hills,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 21, 2020. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted when the contest is over. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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