In the tradition of Craig Johnson and C. J. Box, Bruce Borgos's The Bitter Past begins a compelling series set in the high desert of Nevada featuring Sheriff Porter Beck…
Porter Beck is the sheriff in the high desert of Nevada, north of Las Vegas. Born and raised there, he left to join the Army, where he worked in Intelligence, deep in the shadows in far off places. Now he's back home, doing the same lawman's job his father once did, before his father started to develop dementia. All is relatively quiet in this corner of the world, until an old, retired FBI agent is found killed. He was brutally tortured before he was killed and clues at the scene point to a mystery dating back to the early days of the nuclear age. If that wasn't strange enough, a current FBI agent shows up to help Beck's investigation.
In a case that unfolds in the past (the 1950s) and the present, it seems that a Russian spy infiltrated the nuclear testing site and now someone is looking for that long-ago, all-but forgotten person, who holds the key to what happened then and to the deadly goings on now.
Borgos's atmospheric debut, the start of a series focused on Nevada sheriff Porter Beck, is a clever, spy-flavored mystery. Forced to retire from the Army for medical reasons, Beck has returned home to Lincoln County, Nev., to help care for his dementia-stricken father. Beck's expertise on Russia from his military service proves unexpectedly useful when he's called to investigate the gruesome murder of retired FBI agent Ralph Atterbury. The assailant tied Atterbury to his recliner, skinned his extremities, pulled out his teeth, and blowtorched his face. Beck is sure that the killing wasn't random, a conviction buttressed by the arrival of Sana Locke, whom the FBI has sent from D.C. to help him investigate. Locke shares that, in the 1950s, the KGB sent a spy to Nevada to learn about the atomic testing program being run near Lincoln County. In the '60s, the operative began cooperating with U.S. intelligence—and Atterbury was the Russian double agent's last FBI handler. In toggling timelines, Borgos paints a vivid picture of midcentury Cold War espionage and slowly reveals how its consequences reverberate to the present. Intelligent storytelling and well-drawn characters bode well for future series entries.