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Desolation Canyon

Review

Desolation Canyon

I’ve been a big fan of P. J. Tracy for a long time, ever since Tracy (a pseudonym for P. J. Lambrecht and her daughter Traci, who now writes solo after P. J.’s death in 2016) hit the scene with a brilliant Minneapolis-centered mystery series that started with MONKEEWRENCH.

Tracy may still live in Minneapolis, but she’s shifted the focus of her novels to Los Angeles with a new series centered on two scarred characters. In DEEP INTO THE DARK, Detective Margaret Nolan (who lost her brother in Afghanistan) teamed up with Sam Easton, a veteran fighting his own demons, to confront a serial killer.

"Tracy continues to do a superb job of exploring Los Angeles’s highs and lows, skewering celebrity culture while also exposing the glittering city’s hidden darkness."

Now, in DESOLATION CANYON, their paths cross again. This time, Margaret, against her better judgment, meets up with a colleague, Remy Beaudreau, for a drink (and perhaps an assignation) at Beverly Hills’ swanky Hotel Bel-Air. But since trouble has a tendency to find Margaret, she and Remy discover a body in the hotel’s picturesque Swan Lake.

Meanwhile, Sam has gotten caught up in a different mystery. His friend, Lenny, has helped two people --- Marielle and her young daughter, Serena --- escape from a Death Valley retreat center known as the Children of the Desert. It’s not a cult, Marielle assures Lenny, but it has become a dangerous place for her and Serena. Lenny offers to hide them on his boat back in Los Angeles, but when Sam comes calling for a friendly visit, mother and child have disappeared again.

These are just two of the numerous subplots making up the book. Others include Remy’s long-lost sister, a long-ago unsolved kidnapping case, Margaret’s mother’s journey to find healing after her son’s death, and a Death Valley convenience store clerk who is convinced he can see aliens. Oh, and for you other die-hard P. J. Tracy fans, there’s also a repeat appearance by a memorable PI from the Monkeewrench series. All these strands keep coming back to the Children of the Desert, and they become increasingly tangled, leading Margaret and Sam to reunite as their respective mysteries converge.

DESOLATION CANYON has a complicated mystery plot with just enough coincidences to keep things interesting without completely losing credibility. Readers of DEEP INTO THE DARK who enjoyed Margaret and Sam’s working relationship in that book might be disappointed to see that the two of them share relatively few pages in this sequel. But Tracy continues to do a superb job of exploring Los Angeles’s highs and lows, skewering celebrity culture while also exposing the glittering city’s hidden darkness.

Readers will be eager to return to LA with this dynamic crime-fighting duo, who contend with their own inner demons while fighting the real-life villains in the city they love.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 21, 2022

Desolation Canyon
by P. J. Tracy

  • Publication Date: January 18, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125075495X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250754950