Review: California Thriller by Max Byrd

California Thriller was the winner of the first Shamus Award for Best PI Paperback Novel. The book introduces P.I. Mike Haller in what would become an action-packed thriller trilogy. As the title suggests, the book is set in California or, more specifically, San Francisco.

Rather than exhibiting many of the hang-ups of a vast number of private detectives Haller bucks the trend by being in a stable relationship and has a sensible head on his shoulders. He solves his cases through dogged determination and thoughtful logical reasoning.

Book Details

Title:  California Thriller
Author: Max Byrd
Pages: 272
Published Date: 1981
Publisher: Bantam
Series Details: 1st book in the Mike Haller series

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Publisher's Synopsis & Dustjacket

P.I. Mike Haller is on the case to find a newsman who suddenly went missing in Sacramento Valley. A tearful, boozy wife has paid him to find her husband, but someone else is attempting to dissuade him—using a .38 with Haller’s name and address on it. Packed with crime-stopping action, romance, and suspenseful twists and turns, California Thriller is an exhilarating journey full of snowballing leads and Mike Haller is in a race to save thousands of lives.

Reviews From Other Sites


When I read this book when it first came out, I recall not caring for it all that much, although I haven’t been able to locate the review I’m sure I wrote about it at the time. I thought the characters too similar to those of a certain Robert B. Parker. Haller has a good lady friend named Dinah Farrell, who is a well-established psychiatrist in town… - Read Full Review

The View From the Blue House

A Bostonian working in San Francisco, P.I. Mike Haller is ex-military and ex-newspaper reporter.  He’s hired by the wife of a missing reporter to find her wayward husband whose last known location was the Central Valley near to Sacramento.  Haller and his ex-cop colleague, Fred, gradually make headway uncovering the story the reporter was working on… - Read Full Review

GoodReads Reviews

At the time of writing there are 4 reviews posted to the GoodReads website for an average of 3.1/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the GoodReads website.

Amazon Reviews

"Mike is very much a Lew Archer clone...he gets beat up a lot, doesn't use his gun much, and has a soft spot a mile wide. Unlike Archer, though, Haller has an extensive background we find out a lot about in this first mystery. Originally from Boston, Haller has worked in the newspaper industry and is a war veteran, and made both friends and enemies in both professions..."

At the time of writing there are 3 reviews posted to the Amazon website for an average of 3.3/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the Amazon website.

Other Shamus Best Paperback Original PI Novel nominees - 1982