a-very-private-high-schoolI’ve written four—and soon five novels—set in the world of the Santa Monica Police Department. Homicide Detective Dave Mason is 37, and Santa Monica is an upscale glitzy seaside suburb of Los Angeles. Santa Monica is home to the homeless, a city of haves and have nots, ripe for dirty politicians, psychopathic homeowners, car thieves, and celebrity troublemakers.

Mason’s 10-hour shift, four days a week, starts with checking for a message from his nine-year-old daughter who lives too far away with her mother and new stepdad, a comic book artist. Finding something from her in his email box makes him smile. Most days he meets with his partner Art Delgado at the Public Safety Building two blocks from the ocean in downtown Santa Monica.

Today he’s scheduled for a krav maga training, the Israeli self-defense system. Mason and his partner Art pull themselves away from the minutia of the four or five cases they’re working for an hour or so of dirty street fighting practice. With the high tension anxiety/sudden low tension life he leads, the irregular meal times, and too much coffee–Mason struggles to keep his weight down. He played beer league hockey until a few years, but then his knees went.

He heads down later to the basement forensic specialist lab to check the white board where hits on cases they’re working are displayed. He hounds the forensics people on fingerprints they sent in two weeks ago. Ginger, his long-time lady love calls 10:15. Another non-profit fundraising job has collapsed under her, no fault of Ginger’s. Mason doesn’t always say the right thing to Ginger—he always knows how to talk to some dirt bag in the interview room–but this time he does. They arrange to meet for lunch on the bluff above the ocean. Both of them know a detective’s life is iffy. Anything could happen at the last minute—and does this time as well.

When one of the occasional whodunit murders comes along that eats up the budget and gives Mason hives, Laura Fredericks is assigned to them. Fredericks is an over-eager, loud and brassy investigator with a crush on Mason. 11:15 a.m. and they get a report of a dead body in the high-end real estate part of the town. Is it a natural death, a suicide, or a homicide? Fredericks fusses and fumes, cursing slow drivers. Even cops can’t get through the traffic in Santa Monica quickly.

Fredericks brags about taking down the krav maga instructor. She could put Mason down in a heartbeat, and she knows he knows it. Finally he tells her to tame down her mouth, or get out and walk. Her red-head, freckled face goes pink with embarrassment. Mason makes a string of short calls on his cell phone keeping other cases going. Illegal use of cell phones while driving really sets a good example for the citizens.

The dead body is a suicide, so Mason and Fredericks are back at the station for a meeting to update the Sarge. Then a call comes in that the new light rail line that’s in the test phase from downtown L.A. to the ocean has crashed into a truck. What’s it going to be like on hot August weekends when the train brings half a million people to the beach looking for a good time?

Back at the station at 3 p.m., Mason snatches a half-hour to write reports. Report-writing, a major activity in a cop’s life, never seems to appear on TV cop dramas. Eighteen new emails: updates from the forensic specialists, stupid cop jokes, BOLOs, notifications from the FBI and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Four insistent phone messages he can’t ignore. He postpones his weapons qualifying test for another week. Gnawing hunger pains at 4 o’clock. He clatters downstairs to the vending machine in the lobby for a candy bar.

Another call: a disgruntled girlfriend diming out the cheating boyfriend that Mason’s been dogging in a case involving a two-year-old gang murder. Is she believable? Will she change her mind if this goes to court? Move it, Mason. Down to a beach parking lot…more traffic. She isn’t there, but now he’s got a name and a phone number.

More report writing. More knock and talks on doors looking for a witness to an assault on a Korean tourist staying at one of the luxury hotels overlooking the ocean and the pier. His daughter calls and Mason’s face brightens.

His day ends with a call from the victim of a carjacking. His spirits sag. No, nothing new to tell her. He slaps his partner on the shoulder as he passes his cubicle, checking out for the day.

Mason passes the Watch Commander’s office with the dancing display of the map of Santa Monica showing the location of all the cars out on patrol around the city.

He accomplished something today, he hopes.

Here’s a link to reading more about my Dave Mason and Santa Monica novels.


A Very Private High School is the fourth book in the Detective Dave Mason mystery series, published by Pertinacity Press, July 2015.

Santa Monica, California, is home to the homeless, a city of haves and have nots, ripe for dirty politicians, psychopathic homeowners, car thieves, and celebrity troublemakers. A vicious carjacking maims a firefighter that Homicide Detective Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police Department used to tomcat around with.

Carjackers up the stakes when a hit-and-run linked to them leads Mason to an elite private high school where a boiling controversy is already erupting over financial shenanigans.

The investigation suggests the school’s director likes bad boys and dark, hidden places. On sketchy evidence, Mason needs to convince the brass that funds from the embezzlement are filtering into a Russian carjacking and theft operation. Everything changes when Ginger, the love of Mason’s life and the school’s fundraiser disappears.

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Meet the author
Mar Preston is the author of 5 police procedurals and four writing craft books. Her whodunits celebrate the mean streets of Santa Monica and a fictional California mountain village somewhat like where she lives. She is a co-founder of the local SPCA, a dog park, a network of low-power radio stations, and picks up road kill for her wildlife rehab buddies to feed the big raptors.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Two people (US entries only, please) selected at random will receive a print copy of A Very Private High School. Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway ends December 5, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

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