California Bear (buy at Amazon) by Duane Swierczynski is a fun and original thriller. Though not an absolute page-turner, California Bear keeps the reader interested to the end with a cast of novel characters and an original plot.

The California Bear is a serial killer that terrorized L.A. some forty years ago. He is planning a comeback. Cato Hightower is a retired L.A police detective who stole some files and has hunted down the bear. While doing that, he has also proven the innocence of single father and former jazz musician Jack “Killer” Queen for a hit and run. Hightower keeps a close eye on Jack Queen as he is due for a big payout for wrongful imprisonment. Jack being without many options agrees to help Hightower catch the Bear.

The star of this fun read is The Girl Detective. She is Jack Queen’s daughter and has promised her high school teacher to solve a cold case as a final school project. The problem is The Girl Detective is stuck in a hospital after being diagnosed with leukemia.

The Girl Detective is the most defined and interesting character in California Bear. She is, of course, smart and wise beyond her years and very resourceful.

This thriller is structured in chapters that focus on one character throughout. It’s a change from the same-o same-o of most mystery novels.

Aside from a couple of chapters, Duane Swierczynski is quite good at keeping the story moving. Fans of internet sites devoted to cold cases will find themselves at home in this environment.

There are a couple of surprising twists at the end of California Bear but they are all warranted and set up right.

California Bear ends in a way the reader expects this might become a series. I hope so, I really liked The Girl Detective.

California Bear
Dwayne Swierczynski
Mulholland Books 2024
357 pages

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