MYSTERY

California Bear

Mulholland Jan. 2024. 368p. ISBN 9780316382977. $29. THRILLER
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Edgar-nominated Swierczynski’s (Canary; Revolver) novel is loaded with emotion, redemption, and comeuppance in sufficient measure to inspire the hope of encountering these characters again. At a time when true crime is an enormously popular genre in podcasting and on Netflix, Swierczynski propels readers into a story that would be a hit on either platform. The Bear is a serial torturer/murder who’s been at large for decades. He spends his day searching for his wife’s hidden cookies and contemplating his stash of souvenirs from his victims. Meanwhile, hospitalized teen Matilda is reunited with her convicted-murderer father, Jack, who was freed on a technicality; Matilda is unsure whether he is in fact a killer. A retired cop looking to split Jack’s compensation for wrongful incarceration, along with his genealogist wife, join Jack and Matida in an unlikely vigilante foursome using research skills to bring elusive criminals to justice. Matilda’s research makes her a target of the Bear—but might it be a copycat killer?
VERDICT Compelling not for its solution but for the act of solving, with modern cultural references and screen-worthy action. Readers who enjoy redemption and comeuppance dispensed by smartly written characters will enjoy.
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