South Lake Tahoe, California


Mark Twain wrote in Roughing It (The Penguin American Library) that Lake Tahoe must be “the fairest picture the whole earth affords”, and it is hard to disagree with that sentiment. We are lucky enough to live about an hour away from South Lake Tahoe, so we get up to the mountains as often as we can. Several things make Tahoe an ideal place to plan your next adventure – the pristine lake, hiking trails for all levels of fitness, skiing down the snowy slopes, and gambling in glitzy casinos. It’s also the perfect place to unwind and read a book next to the lake, or by a crackling fire. If you can’t fit a trip in to Tahoe, hopefully the following books can take you there.

Two excellent mystery series take place in South Lake Tahoe, and although quite different, both series give the reader a vivid sense of life in South Lake Tahoe.

The Nina Reilly Series by Perri O’Shaughnessy
  Motion to Suppress is the first book in the series. Nina Reilly, a hard-working lawyer, recently divorced with a young son, has moved to South Lake Tahoe to set up her law practice. Misty Patterson, a cocktail waitress at a local casino, may or may not have killed her husband. He’s missing, there’s blood in the house, and she just can’t remember everything that happened the night before. All the evidence points to her guilt. Can Nina discover the truth in time? This mystery is fast-paced and full of suspense. I highly recommend reading the series in order because of how the characters and plots are linked.

The Owen McKenna Mystery Series by Todd Borg

  Owen McKenna is a tall, laid-back private investigator working the mean streets of Tahoe. With his Great Dane wonder dog, Spot, and his forensic entomologist girlfriend, Street, he investigates crimes around the Lake Tahoe area. The first book in the series is Tahoe Deathfall. Owen is hired by teen Jennifer Salazar to investigate her twin sister’s death in a fall years ago. Jennifer is sure it wasn’t an accident, and that she’s next. Unfortunately, no one believes her, and Owen is her last chance. The mystery highlights the gorgeous but sometimes deadly landscape of South Lake Tahoe, and the many people who call it home. All of Borg’s books highlight a specific aspect of Lake Tahoe, from arborglyphs to an extremely rare plant growing in the region.  It’s not necessary to read the series in order, but I would recommend reading Tahoe Deathfall first because it establishes the main characters.

If you’re looking to learn more about the history of Lake Tahoe, Michael J. Makley’s A Brief History of Lake Tahoe is a good place to start. Chapters include the Washoe Native American tribe, the timber trade, and the developments around the lake.


Here are a few websites to help you plan your South Lake Tahoe adventure:

Tahoe South– Tahoe South is a great place to get started planning your vacation. There is information on lodging, weather, activities, and events. Don’t forget to check out the webcams too!

Keep Tahoe Blue – If you make it up to South Lake Tahoe, you’ll see “Keep Tahoe Blue” stickers everywhere. This website showcases the challenges Lake Tahoe faces, and what people can do to help.

Tahoe Tessie – Lake Tahoe even has its own “monster”. Check out Weird California’s website to read all about Tahoe Tessie.

If you go, don’t miss:

Taylor Creek  This short, paved trail meanders through woods and meadow, boasts some stunning views, and even features a stream profile chamber to view fish at eye-level.

The Keys Cafe –  For the BEST smoothies and breakfast sandwiches, look no further than the Keys Cafe. Everything is tasty, but the Green Dragon smoothie is my favorite.

Red Hut Cafe– There are several locations for this Tahoe institution, all serving tasty breakfast and lunch entrees. The Red Hut Rosti with an egg on top will keep you going all day.

Lam Watah Nature Trail  – This trail winds through a meadow and some forest before ending at a beach on the Nevada side of the lake. It’s a popular trail with locals, but never too crowded, and you’ll meet many people walking their dogs.

Todd Borg, Author – Todd Borg has an outstanding website that highlights the area. At the Red Hut at Ski Run, you can even order an Owen Omlette, named after his private investigator!

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