‘Tahoe’ takes a dives into mystery – and maybe hidden treasure

Todd Borg’s latest Owen McKenna Tahoe mystery is out, just in time for sand or poolside lounging.
As in all Borg’s mysteries, the story begins with a prologue to whet the reader’s appetite. And murder usually occurs by page 10 or 12. “Tahoe Deep,” however, is different. Oh, there is a murder, but we don’t know the names of the victim or the killer.

Even more mysterious, a legally blind teen, with the help of binoculars and a keen sense of hearing, overhears a young couple on the beach on an August evening in 1940. They are plotting the feasibility of committing murder aboard the nearby, soon-to-be-scuttled SS Tahoe Steamer.

The teen watches the couple head out to the steamer by rowboat. The rowboat, sometime later, returns with only the young woman. The boy watches the woman through his binoculars, and by her movements, he recognizes his sister.

Fast forward to present day South Lake Tahoe. McKenna, ex-SFPD detective turned PI, receives a call from a woman begging for help. Her legally blind nonagenarian neighbor, Daniel Callahan, has been brutally beaten in what appears to be a home invasion – except nothing is stolen.

Although the police were called, the elderly gentleman would not cooperate and refused to be taken to a nearby hospital. In frustration, Commander Mallory recommends McKenna to the neighbor, suggesting he may be able to help find out what really happened.

Before the day is over, however, the first dead body in this complex mystery appears on the beach not far from the Bijou neighborhood where Callahan lives. Mallory calls McKenna, a serious art aficionado, to assist in identifying the unusually large tattoo on the victim’s back. In addition to the tattoo, the man’s body is grotesquely bloated.

McKenna correctly guesses the tattoo is of a German painting of a shipwreck known as “The Wreck of Hope.” Just before leaving the beach, they find a wallet and ID hidden in the victim’s swim trunks. Can his name, Colin Callahan, be a coincidence?

“Tahoe Deep” is packed with enough characters and clues to keep even the keenest sleuth guessing. Helping McKenna along the way is his girlfriend Street, a professional entomologist, who identifies a mite – a key to locating some of the bad guys. Spot, Owen’s faithful Harlequin dalmatian, takes a bite of the action, too.

Daniel Callahan’s neighbor, librarian Mae O’Sullivan, is an amateur free diver whose skill is critical to the treasure thought to be aboard the sunken steamer. Is this a murder mystery or a treasure hunt?

Borg is at his best in the fight scenes, car chases and general mayhem that occur both above ground and underwater. This time, McKenna must dive deeper than ever before to find the bad guys and to make sense of what young Daniel Callahan heard and saw on that August evening in 1940.

Sunny Solomon is a freelance writer and head of the Clayton Book Club. Visit her website at
bookinwithsunny.com for her latest recommendations or just to ‘talk books.’