The Buena Costa County Series

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The Buena Costa County Mystery Series
“Mythical” – The New York Times
Originally published under the pseudonym John Crowe

Rugged and full of individualists, fictional Buena Costa County is an exciting and sometimes dangerous place to live. The New York Times described the remote county as “Mythical … more frontier America than anything else, where the rules of civilization sit lightly.” In this character-rich Southern California landscape of mountains and sea, ranches and towns, Lynds created a lauded and innovative work — a series of six books in which the lives and careers of police, politicians, wealthy horse people, and dazzling movie stars intersect periodically, and violence explodes.

#1 — Another Way To Die, 1972
“The first in a series of hits.” —Kirkus Reviews

A soldier hero returns from the Vietnam War, and suddenly the well-oiled machinery of the county no longer runs smoothly. A woman is murdered. Did the hero do it? With their political futures in jeopardy, the sheriff and county prosecutor bring in someone they know is clean — Lee Beckett, a former New York City police captain. Secret alliances and long-standing hatreds erupt in more deaths until the residents finally rally and fight for what is just.

#2 — A Touch of Darkness, 1972
“Real, tough … a classic detective story.” —The New York Times

When two U.S. Customs agents working undercover vanish, Max Salinger, also a Customs man, is sent up from Los Angeles to find them. From quaint little cities to desert dunes and calico mountains, Salinger searches. Who or what were the agents investigating? Are they still alive? He uncovers a microcosm of 1972 America, a changing America, and the survival of the two missing men depends on whether he can control which way the dangerous winds of change blow.

#3 — Bloodwater, 1974
“Some of the rawest, most unencumbered writing in the genre.” —American Library Association

A rich businessman is killed with his own gun in a shabby motel where he registered under an assumed name. Shrewd and power-hungry, he was known to fight any threat to his position. Only someone he trusted could’ve taken his gun and shot him. When police sergeant Harry Wood investigates, he discovers a family dynasty and interested outsiders, crooked and honest, linked from California to Japan. Here is a powerful story of men and women who hide passion behind masks of respectability as they court money, influence, love, and, ultimately, death.

#4 — Crooked Shadows, 1975
“Lynds is a master of mood and effect.” —The New York Times

Worried that fanatic militants are planning to attack one of Fiesta’s large gatherings, the county sheriff drops his inquiry into a missing painting and focuses on finding a stolen machine gun. Strangely, his underworld informers are ignorant of the theft, and none has heard a whisper about militants. A series of murders lead back to the painting’s owner and those around him. Was one a maniac with a machine gun, hidden and waiting — for what? For who?

#5 — When They Kill Your Wife, 1977
“One of the best.” —The New York Times

What happens when your wife is killed? Paul Sobers has just identified the body of his estranged wife, who was found shot in the back of the head. Horrified, he never knew why she left him, and now he’s determined to find her killer. With an arrest warrant issued for him, Sobers takes off, looking for the truth. Finally, in an action-filled ending, Sobers and the chief investigator face each other and the surprising killer, learning that the most painful secrets in Buena Costa County are always buried deep.

#6 — Close to Death, 1979
“An exciting mystery.” —Booklist

Summoned by his boss, county investigator Lee Beckett goes to the home of a prominent lawyer and finds him lying in bed, dead, not a mark on him. Was the death accidental — or was it suicide? Maybe murder? And there’s another problem — Beckett’s boss is not only the county prosecutor, he’s one of two leading candidates for California Attorney General. What was he doing alone at 8 a.m. in the room of the dead lawyer? For answers, simple police procedure isn’t enough. There’s a bitter fight arising from old animosities, jealousies, and greed, and the truth is buried deep in the hidden lives of the people of Buena Costa County.