It doesn’t get much better than this if you’re looking for a classic summer page-turner. Max Tomlinson’s Tie Die (Oceanview) hits all the right notes as a fast-paced thriller with high stakes and explosive action, each red herring or next reveal perfectly timed to keep the reader rapt. 

You don’t need to be familiar with the first Colleen Hayes Mystery Vanishing In The Haight to appreciate this novel all on its own, but after reading this installment I’d be shocked if you don’t pick up the prequel. Tomlinson’s writing is vivid and energetic, and his skill in the genre readily apparent; where other mysteries could feel trite, lackluster, or overdone, Tie Die confidently holds its own. 

Set in 1970s San Francisco and venturing across the ocean to London for a few chapters, the charged time period lends the storyline an underlying tension and uneasiness. Once you add the music industry, rife with secrets and provocations, and protagonists with more than a few skeletons in their closets, the stage is set for something electrifying; happily, the consequent performance never disappoints. 


 Colleen Hayes may just be facing her toughest job yet, which is certainly saying a lot. It’s not like she hasn’t had more than her fair share of murder, revenge, loss, and adversity already, enough to defeat and break anyone with else. Colleen, however, is quite unlike anyone else, and she wears that badge with pride. Not a literal police badge, of course; her style has to be a bit rogue since she’s on parole for killing her late husband. It’s a long story. 

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, her most recent client also has a long backstory, and it’s almost as tortuous as Colleen’s. A has-been rock star, Steve Cook’s reasons for rejecting the limelight are many and his willingness to discuss them are few. None of that matters, however, when his daughter Melanie is kidnapped. Or does it? Colleen quickly finds out that the past always finds its way into the present, and if she’s not at the top of her game, spells out death in the future. 

Tie Die has a lot riding on its two protagonists, Colleen and Steve, and Tomlinson has made sure they’re up to the task. Colleen, while tough as nails on the outside, has a sincere personal motivation to help Steve get his daughter back; she’s a troubled mother herself, and she soon shares her client’s desperate dedication to saving Melanie. Steve, meanwhile, quickly becomes more than just a client to Colleen; some reasons, like the fact that her younger self was a major fan of his band, are surface level. Others, like the bond the two begin to share as they work together to solve the crime, are more difficult to untangle. 

It’s easy to see why Colleen is willing to put so much on the line for this case. Tomlinson has written her a worthy counterpart in Steve, who immediately proves himself to be more than simply a washed-up entertainer. The reader is first introduced to him as an eighteen-year-old lead singer, having the time of his life and shouting songs he wrote himself in front of a sea of starry-eyed admirers. But his moment of glory goes terribly awry, blurring the line between innocence and guilt. Colleen has faith in Steve, but does he deserve it? 


What makes Tie Die stand out is the detail behind the drama. While razor-sharp action written with an impressive finesse characterizes a good author, subtleties and craft that quietly heighten the pizzazz are what marks a great one. Every chapter, regardless of whatever danger Colleen endures in the moment, blends many elements together to create a distinctive and colorful atmosphere that illuminates the novel as a whole. 

Elegant and sensitive strains of nostalgia; poignant individual character choices stemming from years of personal experience and private suffering; precise illustrations of backdrops and locale — these all combine to elevate the book from simple crime caper to intricately woven story arc. As revitalizing as hearing your old favorite song on a summer night, Tie Die always strikes the perfect chord.

Tie Die is available for purchase. For more on Max Tomlinson, visit his BookTrib author profile page.

Born in the wilds of San Francisco, with its rich literary history and public transport system teeming with characters suitable for crime novels, the stage was set for Max Tomlinson to become a mystery writer. His published work includes: Sendero (listed by Kirkus as one of the top 100 Indie novels of 2012), Who Sings to the Dead, Lethal Dispatch, The Cain File (selected by Amazon’s Kindle Scout program), and the follow-up, The Darknet FileTomlinson’s Colleen Hayes Mysteries of the ’70s, set in his hometown of San Francisco, debuted August 2019, with Oceanview Publishing. The first book in the series is Vanishing in the Haight. Tie Die, the second in the series, is now available.