The One with the Twenty Nine Palms Highway

Lisa Gray, Dark Highway (2020)

I downloaded this book from Netgalley on a whim, attracted by the book cover, ominously dark and rather restrained compared to other mysteries and thrillers (my latest pet peeve is the thriller cover with a woman running away seen from behind – I’ve seen it way too much). I really lucked out on this one; I’m glad I discovered Lisa Gray and that she has other books out there!

I didn’t know that it was part of a series, but it did read very well independently, although I missed some back stories about PI Jessica Shaw and how she came to work for another PI. I didn’t get to understand exactly why she needed some practice hours before having her own license and business, and what kind of dark trauma she experienced before, but I found her endearing enough, and tenacious as hell, which is a good quality for a PI!

In this story, several people go missing around Los Angeles and Southern California. One is a young female artist, whose affluent parents are paying for a private investigation, as the police is not convinced that the disappearance is suspicious. The young woman’s van was found in a remote part of Twenty Nine Palms highway, without any personal belongings inside, and her mother has heard of two other women disappearing in the same area over a decade or more. Still, given that the client is rather highly strung, the idea that those disappearances might be connected is rather far-fetched, as the three potential victims have nothing in common.

The story really took me for a ride! (pun wholly intended) I began to suspect who the bad guy was at about 3/4 of the book, and still the end of the book managed to pull out some more surprises. The book is clearly more about plots and twists than about character development, and I frankly didn’t care much for Jessica’s personal life itself. There are some titillating flashbacks but not so much that the pace didn’t flow smoothly: I really couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!

I didn’t know that the book focused on Twenty Nine Palms Highway of all places, and had I known, I might have skipped the book and missed out. This place (I’ve never been to California) always reminds me of one particular movie, that really shocked me when I watched it many years ago. When it comes to movies I’m really a scaredy cat, but I’m quite ok with violence in books, funnily enough!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I received a free copy of this book for review consideration.

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