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The Bitter Past

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This first book in a series has a twisty plot that connects a present day murder with a Cold War past. Interesting mix of espionage thriller with police procedural.

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"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. 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."

This wasn't my favorite thriller I've ever read but the plot was really solid. Police procedural, spy novel, and some historical aspects as well. What really threw me was the MMC's attitude towards his partner. He kept making unnecessary comments about her body and her looks. He even alluded to them eventually having a relationship even though they just met. It felt very icky to me, and if it had been left out or dialed back then the story would have been great.

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Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for gifting me an advanced reader copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review and opinion.

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The Bitter Past (Porter Beck, #1) by Bruce Borgos was a very suspenseful and compelling book that was written in alternating timelines. In present day Nevada, out in the secluded desert landscape, a brutal murder occurred. A retired FBI agent was murdered and was recently discovered. The circumstances by which the murder was committed was so unorthodox and horrific that it left the local authorities wondering who could have committed such a crime and why. The Bitter Past also focused on an act of espionage that occurred during the Cold War era. In this period of time, spies from the Soviet Union were instructed to infiltrate certain areas of the United States to gather intelligence and information to send back to the Soviet Union. One area of interest to the Soviet Union was the atomic testing sight located in the Nevada desert. A young Russian man, determined to gain access to this facility, made the necessary contacts and gained the trust of the people he needed to help him so that he he could steal the nuclear weapon the Americans were testing and get it into the hands of the Soviet Union. Shortly after the spy from the Soviet Union accomplished his mission, he vanished. The FBI never gave up looking for this spy.

Porter Beck grew up in the high desert of Nevada. After completing his schooling, Beck joined the Army, worked in intelligence and got to travel a lot. When Porter Beck returned to Nevada, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became sheriff. He now acted as caregiver for his aging father who was beginning to suffer from dementia. One minute his father was lucid and the next minute he would be asking the same question he had just asked only minutes before but had no recollection of it. For the most part, Beck’s job as sheriff was pretty straightforward. The cases his team got were usually easily handled and pretty mundane. That was until a retired FBI agent who lived in a very secluded area was murdered in a way that would traumatize even the most seasoned police officers. Sheriff Beck was determined, more than ever, to find out who committed this brutal murder and why. He had a good team and his instincts and training in intelligence served him well. The FBI saw it fit, though, to send one of their own agents in to investigate this case. Sheriff Beck soon learned that the murdered FBI agent had been obsessed in trying to find the Russian spy who disappeared back in the 1950’s. Could the retired FBI agent’s murder have been linked to Russian spy? Did the murderer suspect that the retired FBI agent was getting too close to discovering who the spy had been and where he was now? What was the murderer looking for? Was the murderer still at large and if so was he dangerous? Would Beck be able to gather enough clues and evidence to get to the bottom of this case?

The Bitter Past was a very good first book to begin this series. It captured my attention right from the beginning. I enjoyed the alternating timelines. Growing up in the 1950’s, although I was quite young, I do remember hearing about the atomic testing facilities. I remember even more so hearing about the poor and unsuspecting people who suffered from the fallout of the explosions from the atomic testing and became quite sick as a result. The American government and its people strongly believed that atomic testing was absolutely essential in lieu of the constant threat of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, no one saw the consequences that those testing sites posed or the long term effects.

The two storylines came together flawlessly by the end. There were several twists and turns that I did not see coming. I felt that the ending was quite satisfying. I look forward to seeing where Bruce Borgos takes the series from here. The audiobook that I listened to was narrated very well by James Babson. I recommend this debut novel if you enjoy murder mysteries coupled with a bit of espionage.

Thank you to Recorded Books for allowing me to listen to the audiobook of The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Porter Beck is the county sheriff and he followed in his father's footsteps. When an old retired GBI agent is murdered, Beck begins investigating with the assistance of Sana Locke, a current FBI agent. They quickly discover that he was investigating an incident from the 1950s involving a nuclear warhead. At the same time, a young Mormon wife disappears. For the first time that Beck can recall, he's investigating two crimes at the same time.

Interspersed with the investigations, is the story of Freddie Meyer, who is working at a casino and meets Kitty Ellison. He befriends her and they start dating. He meets her father, who gets him a job.

The way the past intersects with the present is very nicely done. This was my first book by this author and thought it was very well written.

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This book was so clever… I absolutely loved it! I hope they have more Porter Beck books coming out as this would make an exceptional series! The KGB and backstory was well done and tied into the now story beautifully. I was surprised by the twist and loved the quirky characters!

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What a fantastic debut for a series! I loved the pacing, meeting Porter Beck and all the twists, especially the one at the end! Amazing character development, fast paced reading and a great start to a series.
Thankful for the ARC!

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Be warned, this book has a very gruesome start! However it is brief (stick with it) and makes for a very quick introduction to Sheriff Porter Beck and his team as they quickly work the crime scene. I instantly liked Porter, even if I did find his constant thoughts on the female body to be annoying. He is highly intelligent and has an incredible memory, making his crime solving skills top notch. He also suffers from night blindness, which makes him vulnerable after dark. This story is told in both the past and the present, with two main characters which eventually intersect in the present to solve the mystery. The pace moves along quickly and the book is a fairly quick read. I would call this a mixture of police procedural and historical fiction. 4.5 stars rounded up.

I understand this is book one in a series and I'm excited to read more of Porter Beck in the future.

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos is the first book in the Porter Beck series. The dual-timeline story weaves together a modern-day murder mystery with the Cold War and nuclear testing of the 1950s. I was reminded of a couple of recent television series, The Americans and Big Sky. I will definitely be watching for the author's next book in this series. Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books and the author for a copy to read and review.

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I was hoping the police procedural aspect of this would be enough to hold my attention but unfortunately it wasn't. The espionage and whatnot storyline just ultimately was not for me. I can definitely see there being a certain audience for this book however which is why it's still getting a 3 star rating from me.

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The Bitter Past is a mix of police procedural and espionage thriller, told via a past and present timeline.

This story takes place in the Nevada desert, near the area where nuclear testing was done back in the 1950s. The author does an excellent job of capturing that time in history, giving us some emotional and thought-provoking content.

The characters are well developed, complex people, shaped by their backgrounds and life choices. Sheriff Porter Beck makes a fascinating main character. My one issue was with his attitude toward and relationship with agent Sana Locke, which was unprofessional and unnecessary to the story.

The plot is solid, with steady pacing and surprising twists.

Bonus points because this first book in the Porter Beck series has a solid ending, no cliffhangers or loose ends!

*Thanks to Minotaur Books for the free copy!*

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Fascinating story about the beginning of nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, with some espionage thrown in! An interesting mystery thriller, the desert felt like a separate character. Gripping and well written, 4 stars.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed as in this review are completely my own.

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Most books set in Nevada focus on the cities, either Las Vegas or Reno. Not so with Borgos introduction to his Porter Beck series. Porter is a rural county Sheriff. A seasoned lawman, Porter
now has a debilitating eye disease, one that is threatening his career. Now his quiet county is rocked with brutal murders, and a mystery that crosses generations. The duel plots one dealing with an attempt to steal a nuclear weapon, the other to uncover an assassin lead the reader into page turning adventures. Borgos in interviews states he is a 'plotter' not a 'pantser'. This shows in the intricate
layers of suspense. Both his protagonist, and his secondary characters are very well drawn. It is always a pleasure when a debut author hits a home run. I look forward to his next book, Shades of Mercy, which should be released this coming July.
Highly recommended.

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Quickly saying this...I know this is past publication date, but I am in school, and I am going to rapid fire these reviews as I have gotten through many reads from NetGalley.
I enjoyed how this book combined mystery, espionage, crime, conspiracy belief, and even some delightful comedy to mix in with this book. This was my first read by Bruce Borgos, and it won't be my last. I want more of Porter Beck. I love the character development. And I also really enjoyed the alternate timelines!
Thank you to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion, even though I am slightly late at giving it.

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This book had a very complex and detailed storyline that I thought I’d love but did not. The main character had just got done describing how woke his very rural small town us then the next chapter he is describing and treating a female FBI agent like it’s the 1950s. I did speed read to the end and I can see where some people would love this book but I just did not. I won’t be reading the next book in the series.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-arc I received in exchange for my honest review.

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Ⓑⓞⓞⓚ Ⓡⓔⓥⓘⓔⓦ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝔹𝕚𝕥𝕥𝕖𝕣 ℙ𝕒𝕤𝕥: 𝔸 𝕄𝕪𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕣𝕪
𝐁𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐨𝐬
Police Procedural
320 pages

Sʜᴏᴿᴛ Sʏɴᴏᴘsɪs

Sheriff Porter Beck is put in a pickle when he finds himself on two cases: one a missing woman and the other a murder. As he investigates, he finds the murder relates to Russia and something in the past.

Mʸ Tᴴᴼᵁᴳᴴᵀs

The Bitter Past rotates between the present and the past. Both are full of intrigue and action and kept me guessing about what would happen and how the two connected.

I enjoyed Sheriff Beck with his smart talk and near photographic memory. He came across as a fine-looking country boy with smarts to boot. The plot is fascinating, especially the chapters dealing with a nuclear bomb. Then comes the ending, filled with revelations that bring everything together.

This book grabbed me from the beginning and made me read late into the night until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Well-written and full of mystery, The Bitter Past was a book I could dig my teeth into.

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Genre/tropes: fiction, mystery, conspiracy theory, dual timelines, Cold War
CW/TW: gruesome crime scenes,

Porter Beck formerly worked in intelligence and is now a sheriff in a town outside of Las Vegas. He arrives at a crime scene where a retired FBI agent has been brutally murdered. Beck already catches that this is an unusual crime scene, and that’s confirmed when Sana, a young FBI agent shows up to investigate. She reveals that someone is hunting down former agents from the ‘50s. The reason lies in the past having to do with Russian spies infiltrating top secret research and development at the military base back then. Whoever it is is looking for the Soviet spy who betrayed his country.

I hadn’t read anything like this where part of it is set during the Cold War. It was kind of refreshing for me. I got caught up in the mystery and the urgency to locate the ex Soviet spy who’s living out the rest of his life in the area. The dual timeline helps to set up the tension perfectly. Beck’s an interesting character - slightly macho (especially when flirting with Sana), and also reckoning with his own flaws that could be hindering him at his job. There’s a family element, too, that’s quite touching, though I struggled to understand his sister’s part in this story. More so why her character was necessary when anyone in his department could’ve fulfilled that role and skills.

I was a little let down that I guessed who they were looking for, but … plot twist! Something else happened that surprised me! So I felt that the story redeemed itself there.

I enjoyed reading this debut. It was different for me, and action-oriented. If you’re interested in a quick mystery/thriller, check this one out.

*This review originally posted on August 12, 2023.

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This was a lot of fun! I thoroughly enjoyed Porter Beck as a protagonist and would definitely check out the next Porter Beck novel. There were a few minor things that bothered me -- for instance, Sana Locke didn't have much to do throughout the book other than be Porter's love interest and source of intel. I appreciated the effort at diversity in including her character, but I just wished she had more agency. She was pretty passive and really was only there to provide Beck with information. Also, the way Porter hankers after her right from the start made me roll my eyes a little, but it was more with a grin and not the sense that he was being creepy at all. He's just a man noticing a woman and appreciating her physical traits, which are all the more attractive to him because she's intelligent and can go toe-to-toe with him in a game of wits.

The ending, when I got there, felt predictable, but I appreciated all the twists and turns that led to it. Also, setting this novel in the Nevada desert somehow gave it an old world, cowboy sort of charm to it. That was definitely something I liked as well.

Great all the way around!

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Police procedural meets historical fiction. This was a little different than what I normally go for but i did end up enjoying it. Some of it was action packed and then there were chapters that were very slow. I thought the pacing was a little clunky. I also wasnt a fan/didnt buy the romantic element and thought we could have done without.

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Oh, this was a good one! Dual timeline, 1950s during the beginning of the nuclear testing program in Nevada. Modern day, Porter Beck is working as the sheriff after recently returning after serving as Army Intelligence. A retired FBI agent is found murdered (points for a unique death). The mystery was a good one, but getting to know Porter Beck and the other supporting characters were the best part. Great character development, suggested for Bosch or other Michael Connelly books. I would read more by this author and look forward to more books in this series.

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