Nemesis: A Novel of Old California

Written by Joe Yogerst
Review by Sarah Hendess

San Diego in 1888 was a boom town with businessmen scrambling to snatch up cheap land and profit off the city’s expansion. And Nicholas Pinder, an overly ambitious reporter for the San Diego Times, wants to make his mark. When a mysterious killer begins murdering some of San Diego’s richest and most powerful men in unusual ways, the big story Nick’s been waiting for has arrived. But in order to snag the interview of a lifetime, he’ll have to find the killer before his former best friend Marshal Cradoc Bradshaw does.

In Nemesis, prolific travel writer Joe Yogerst turns to historical fiction—a move all readers should celebrate. Nemesis is a delightful romp, set in one of the Old West’s less-famous boom towns. It’s a gritty Western with a hefty dash of thriller as the story speeds toward an explosive climax without a single dragging scene. He deftly weaves in nuances of the period through his characters’ experiences, particularly their amazement at the new telephones being installed around town. Adding to the sense of the period, he incorporates real figures from old San Diego, such as developer Alonzo Horton and Wyatt Earp.

My criticisms of this book are minor. While Yogerst skillfully set me in the time period, he less effectively set me in the place. He left me wanting to know what San Diego in 1888 looked, sounded, and smelled like. Also, his use of omniscient viewpoint is distracting. His tendency to jump into a minor character’s head in the middle of a main character’s scene pulled me back and reminded me that I was reading a book rather than living the story. But these small faults are overshadowed by everything Yogerst gets right. This book should have wide appeal even to readers who aren’t fans of historical fiction.