Monday, March 20, 2023

Liar's Dice by Gabriel Valjan Book Review

Liar's Dice

by Gabriel Valjan

March 13-24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Boston might be white with snow, but there’s nothing but a winter’s darkness for Shane Cleary, a former cop, veteran, and reluctant PI. There’s an international war within the mafia over drugs, and he has been asked to find the nephew of the local crime boss. When federal agencies descend on the city and order the police department to stand down on a homicide, the BPD reaches out to Shane for answers.

Shane’s past in Vietnam comes to haunt him when the corpse of a veteran is found on Boston Common, frozen to death in front of the State House. Then, a former army buddy comes to town looking for justice. His presence endangers all that Shane holds dear.

Shane must come to terms with a side of himself he thought he had left behind. The mounting body count and circumstances compel him to play a game of Liar’s Dice. Can he deceive and detect deception around him? Protect those he loves, while he solves the cases?

Praise for Liar's Dice:

"Gabriel Valjan writes like a poet but his PI Shane Cleary packs a wallop worthy of Mickey Spillane."

Clea Simon, Boston Globe bestselling author of HOLD ME DOWN

"Gabriel Valjan is the godfather of organized crime fiction and LIAR’S DICE is all the proof you need."

James L’Etoile, author of the Detective Nathan Parker series

"Gritty, smart, sharply written, Valjan’s Liar's Dice is a welcome addition to the canon of fine PI fiction."

Reed Farrel Coleman, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of SLEEPLESS CITY

"A fast-paced mystery that kept me flipping the pages, needing to find out what would happen next. Shane Cleary is a complex, brilliantly written protagonist. A terrific read."

Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of Never Coming Home

"Warning: Pick up a copy, turn the page, and you’ll be hooked. Liar's Dice ticks the boxes: an interesting tale that’s economical and tight, descriptions that are full and rich, dialogue that’s real, and characters that spring to life. Gabriel Valjan just has a way of making every word count."

Dietrich Kalteis, winner of the 2022 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for best novel

"Gabriel Valjan crafts a vivid portrait of 1970s Boston to life in LIAR’S DICE. Shane Cleary deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the city's other famous PIs—a haunted but compassionate character who cuts through a swath of Mob crime with Valjan’s trademark wit and style."

James D.F. Hannah, Shamus-winning author of BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP and SHE TALKS TO ANGELS

My Review:

Valjan takes readers deep into the mobs of 1970s Boston. The atmosphere is turbulent and our hero, PI Shane Cleary, is in the midst of it. He's a tough fellow, negotiating with mob bosses. He's the kind of man who works the cases no one else wants nor can be trusted to complete. But Cleary knows people and can find information when others wouldn't have a clue where to start.

Valjan has included lots of information about Boston in this novel. We read about the communities, the social structure, the ethnic influence and historical facts. I found out, for example, that Boston was the last city in the country to end segregation. Since Cleary is a Vietnam vet, as is a newcomer to town, there is also quite a bit about the ramifications of those trained for that war.

Valjan's writing style reflects the reality of the era. The mob bosses often spoke in code. Rough people spoke in a rough way. The dialogue in the novel was such that sometimes I didn't understand the give and take going on and the deals being made. Nonetheless, I liked the deep dive into the dark world of mobs in historical Boston. This is a good novel for readers who like a tenacious and hard boiled PI making his way through a dangerous situation.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This is the fourth novel featuring Shane Cleary and you can read my reviews of the previous ones: Dirty Old Town, Symphony Road, and Hush Hush.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction; Mystery; Private Investigator; Noir; Historical Fiction
Published by: HISTORIA
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 292
ISBN: 9781685122065
Series:Shane Cleary Mystery, #4
Book Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Thou Shalt Not Say No

I heard the slap of the Boston Globe on our doorstep.

It was seven-thirty and Bonnie had already kissed me goodbye. It was a kiss. A long, slow kiss to make a man lose his dignity. I begged her to stay home, to play hooky from work and give the boys in the office a reprieve. She told me she couldn’t. I watched her walk out the front door. Her perfume may have hinted of spring but the mercury in the thermometer said winter.

The phone rang and interrupted my trip to the front door for the paper. I answered on the second ring.

“Glad you’re still there,” she said.


“I’m at a payphone on Comm. Ave.”

“Forget something?”

“I noticed a Cadillac parked across the street when I left.”

“It’s a car that stands out, I’ll give you that, but what’s the problem?”

“The man inside the car. He’s getting out.”

“I thought I was the PI and you were the lawyer.”

“I’m serious, Shane.”

“So am I. Okay, I’ll play. Describe him to me?”

“Six-six. Menacing. Dark winter coat. He’s headed to our door. Wait, he’s stopped.”

“He stopped?”

“To light a cigarette, but he’s not having any luck. He keeps trying with his lighter.”

“Tony Two-Times.”

“That’s Tony Two-Times? Not exactly subtle, is he?”

“It goes with the job description.”

“Oh my god, Shane. He’s reached into his jacket.” I’d never heard Bonnie’s voice hit that note, not even during sex, though in my defense, this was panic and not ecstasy. We were nearing our anniversary, and I suppose months of cohabitation or what the Census Bureau calls POSSLQ or Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters had eroded her tough exterior.

“Never mind,” she said. “It’s a newspaper. I thought he might’ve had a gun.”

“Go to work, Bonnie.”

I did the rude thing and hung up on her. It’s not that I wanted to do it, but Tony Two-Times, uninvited and unannounced, was not the same thing as the guy at your door with the news you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Tony was a ‘friend’ and the mob always sent your friend to kill you. I moved fast and pulled my .38 out of the holster, hidden under a coat on the rack. I opened the door and kept the revolver behind my back.

The cold air punched my lungs and my eyes watered. I found Tony doubled over, picking up my Boston Globe. When he stood upright, he blocked the wind and the sun. An unlit cigarette stuck to his lower lip. “You gonna invite me in, or what?”

I stepped aside, back against the door. He pressed the paper into my chest. I put a hand over it. He paused before he stepped in. His dark eyes bore into me. “Relax, Cleary, and saddle the Colt you’re hiding behind you.”

“You could’ve called.”

“This conversation is best in person, face to face.”

“If you say so, Tony.”

“I say so. I’ve gotta job for you.”

Tony had tapped one foot against the other to knock off any snow, salt, or sand. He took the cigarette from his lips and pocketed it. He wiped his feet on the small mat, and took off his hat and coat and hung them on the coat rack. I holstered my sidearm and directed him to the kitchen. He walked down the hallway, talking. “You really thought you needed to draw your piece on me?”

“You weren’t what I expected with the morning paper.”


Excerpt from Liar's Dice by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2023 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan writes historical crime fiction. He is the recipient of the Macavity Award for Best Short Story and he has been listed for the Bridport and Fish Prizes, the Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion Awards. He lives in Boston’s South End and answers to a tuxedo cat named Munchkin.

Catch Up With Gabriel:
BookBub - @gvaljan
Instagram - @gabrielvaljan
Twitter - @GValjan


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews!
Click here to view Liar's Dice by Gabriel Valjan Tour Hosts


Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partneers in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Path of Peril by Marlie Parker Wasserman Book Review

Path of Peril

by Marlie Parker Wasserman

February 27 - March 24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Would the assassins plotting to kill Theodore Roosevelt on his visit to the Panama Canal succeed?

Until this trip, no president while in office had ever traveled abroad. White House secretary Maurice Latta, thrilled to accompany the President, could not anticipate the adventures and dangers ahead. Latta befriends watchful secret service agents, ambitious journalists, and anxious First Lady Edith Roosevelt on their hot and humid trip, where he observes a country teeming with inequalities and abounding in opportunities. Along the way he learns about his own strengths—what he never imagined he could do, and what he discovers he can’t do.

Theodore Roosevelt did visit Panama in 1906, accompanied by White House staffer Maurice Latta. Interweaving the stories of real-life characters with fictional ones, Path of Peril imagines what the newspapers feared to report and what historians never discovered about Roosevelt’s risky trip.

Praise for Path of Peril:

"Nothing better than settling down with a good, crisp, detail-rich assassination thriller. Someone is after Theodore Roosevelt, and author Marlie Wasserman tightens the screws, ratchets the tension, and twists the plot again and again. Read it."

William Martin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Lincoln Letter and December '41

"A feast of characters, scenery and history, Wasserman sets the table for a tremendous read. Path of Peril is a privileged walk with TR, his wife, his staff and dozens of characters struggling to create one of the “greatest engineering feats of the century."

Chris Keefer, author of No Comfort for the Undertaker, a Carrie Lisbon Mystery

"Path of Peril is enjoyable and engaging and places the reader at the center of a fast, explosive and intriguing plot—making this new book one that should not be missed."

Mel Ayton, author of Plotting to Kill the President

"Wasserman’s Path of Peril gives readers an exciting leap back in time... Buy this book—you’ll love it!"

Michael Conniff, historian of Panama

My Review:

Wasserman has taken an important event in American history and woven a good story around it. Tens of thousands of people went to Panama for the canal building, either to work or make money off the workers. I like how Wasserman has given us the background of several characters who did so. She introduces the character and then tells their story. I also like how she has woven details of the Roosevelts lives into the narrative, such as Teddy's brother having a child with a maid.

I can tell Wasserman has done much research as she describes the work done on the canal. She adds lots of detail to the action. A reader wanting to know more about the building of the canal and the atmosphere of the area will find much to appreciate in this novel. I liked the information about anarchists too, as I did not know their grievances and their goals.

The narrative does jump around on the timeline and the character at the center of the story. While clearly identified, that narrative style did make for a bit of choppy reading. Nonetheless, I liked this novel with its interesting information about Roosevelt and thee building of the Panama Canal.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 2023
Number of Pages: 320
Series: This is a Stand Alone Novel
Book Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Maurice Latta

Sunday, January 19, 1947

For forty-one years I honored my oath to President Theodore Roosevelt and his bodyguard to conceal the events of November 15th and November 17th, 1906. On each of those days I agreed to a conspiracy of silence. Last year, that bodyguard died, and TR is long dead. Before I follow them to the grave, I will disclose the perils we faced during the President’s historic trip to Panama, to clarify the record and to unburden myself.

My tale begins in the White House clerk’s office, where I served as a stenographer during the McKinley administration and where I serve now, with a higher title, fifty years later. At first, I felt no connection with the other fifteen fellows in the clerk’s office. I suppose I looked the part, with my regular features and unremarkable bearing. If my appearance fit in, my background did not. Most men working for the President, even at the turn of the century, were college boys. Some had taken the grand tour of Europe. A few had gone to universities in New England. Three, fancying themselves adventurers, had traveled to the West with President Roosevelt, that is, President Theodore Roosevelt. Two of the older gentlemen had been heroes in battles in the South during the Civil War. Most of the White House office workers had nothing to prove, to the President or to themselves.

I followed a different path to Washington. After an unmemorable youth on a Pennsylvania farm, I moved to Oklahoma, where I took my first job as a junior clerk. I filled in paperwork for the more memorable 1893 land rush. Over time my responsibilities and the commands of the head clerk grew distasteful. A friend back in Pennsylvania recommended me for a position as a clerk for a state senator in Harrisburg. I worked for that state senator for one year and two months. Forgive the precision—I like to be accurate with details. Then the legislator was elected to Congress and took me to Washington. Three years later, almost to the day, word spread across town that President William McKinley’s office needed a stenographer. By that time I had married Clara Hays Bullen and had two sons. I aimed to improve my lowly position and my meager salary.

I moved down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. My official duties, those that were known, started on August 8, 1898. Three years and one month after I started, all hell broke loose in the office. Of course I wouldn’t have used such language then. Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, assassinated President McKinley. Like other Americans, I felt sorrowful. I had seen McKinley pass down the hall daily, but I had never been introduced to him and he never spoke to me.

My clerk’s job continued. Theodore Roosevelt became President. Little changed in the routines of our office, except now the President knew me by my first and last name. Maurice Latta. To be precise, Maurice Cooper Latta.

When the President’s Secretary, William Loeb, promoted me from Stenographic Clerk to Assistant Secretary on June 4, 1906, I hoped I might have the opportunity to travel, at least up and down the East Coast. Two months later, I heard rumors that TR wanted to assess progress on his canal. Oh, let me interrupt myself for a moment. While conducting my official capacities, I called the President President Roosevelt. Informally I called him TR. By the way, he was the first president to be known by his initials. And some called him Teddy, though I never did so. I am told his relatives called him Teedie. You will hear all these names in my tale.

This trip would be the first time a president, while in office, had ever left the United States. Many Americans thought a president should not travel to foreign soil. That seems odd to us now, after Versailles and Yalta. But in 1906 most Americans didn’t give much thought to the rest of the world, not until TR changed that.

I assumed Secretary Loeb, always interested in the press, would accompany the President to the canal. Mr. Loeb would want to shape the stories in the dailies and weeklies. Reporters called him Stonewall Loeb because of the way he controlled their access to the President. To my shock, Mr. Loeb asked me to go in his place.

Today, even after working in the executive offices of nine administrations, now for President Truman (no, I never call him Give 'Em Hell Harry), and managing a staff of 204 clerks, my title, a rather misleading title, is only Executive Clerk. I am proud, though, that the New York Times has acknowledged my worth. Four years ago, in a Christmas day article my family framed, the reporter wrote, “The actual ‘assistant president’. . . is an official who has been in the White House since 1898 and knows more about its procedure than anyone else. He is Maurice C. Latta, now seventy-four and known as ‘Judge’ Latta to the White House staff.” In truth I know more about what is happening, and what did happen, than most of the presidents I served. That statement is for this memoir only.

I won’t dwell on my years in the White House after Panama, but rather on four days in 1906, in and around the Canal Zone. For the public, I want to add to the historical record, which is silent on certain momentous events. For me and my family, I want to remember the turning point, when I came to realize both my limitations and my strengths. I am writing the tale of what I know, what I saw myself. If you wish, you can fill in gaps with stories you gather from the others present that November, the stories I couldn’t see.

William Loeb

Monday, October 15, 1906

“I’m tired, Maurice. I followed that wild man to Yellowstone and Yosemite three years ago. Still haven’t recovered. None of us could keep up with him.” Mr. Loeb, Secretary to the President, was talking to me about Theodore Roosevelt’s two-month long trip to the West. “Now he’s sailing to Panama. He’ll itch for another frenzied schedule. I can’t do it this time. Here’s the question. Are ready for that kind of a trip? Interested in going in my place? I’m forty, you’re thirty-six. Those four extra years make a difference, right?

William Loeb sat three feet away from my face, at his desk in the White House. When he questioned me he leaned forward, putting his square jaw one foot from my weaker jaw. What answer did he expect? Modesty? Confidence?

“You surprise me, sir. I have never traveled beyond Oklahoma. I have never sailed, and I’ve never been responsible for a presidential trip. But I have watched you. I assisted you from afar when you traveled with the President. I will be honest, it would be a big step for me. I wouldn’t want to disappoint.”

Mr. Loeb sat back, slouched. I had disappointed him already.

“Sir, if you will walk me through the responsibilities, I would be honored to accompany the President.”

I will never know if Mr. Loeb truly believed I could handle the job, or if he had no one else in reserve. He shook my hand, sealing the arrangement. A day later he called me back to his office for instructions.

“Above all, Maurice, keep to the schedule. I’ll help you prepare it. We start with essential meetings. Officials of Panama and representatives from other countries. Then we fill in as needed.” Mr. Loeb was in his element, flaunting his expertise. “Second, control the access of journalists. Give priority to Frederick Palmer, he’s a favorite of Teddy’s. And I’ve been asked to add in a local journalist named Herbert de Lisser. Limit access to those two. Manage the press like I do. Third, names. Keep on you, in your pocket, the identities of the people Teddy is to meet. Whisper him reminders. He’s smart, but that makes him seem even smarter. Fourth, keep notes. You’ll need them later for Teddy’s reports. Last, prioritize telegrams. The pundits are worried that the President, abroad for the first time, won’t be in charge of the business of the country. I’ve reminded them that telegrams will reach his ship and will reach Panama. Sort through dispatches when they arrive and make sure he deals with them.”

I feared Mr. Loeb would notice my twitching right leg. Instead, he looked down and hesitated. For more than a second.

“I need to be frank with you about another matter. There could be danger. Jimmy Sloan, the Secret Service agent who heads Teddy’s protection detail, he tells me he hears rumors of anarchist plots against the President. He has people checking ships arriving in Panama, looking for suspicious travelers. May not matter. Hunting for an assassin is like finding a needle in a haystack. And there’s more. Mrs. R. is frantic. Jimmy—fine to call him Jimmy—won’t talk to her. Teddy tells him not to. She tries to get information from me and I won’t talk to her either. She’ll see you as easy prey and try you too. A word to the wise—be wary of that elegant lady. She’s lived through three assassinations and she’s no fool.”

I could think of nothing to say. I was so anxious about my coming secretarial duties that I had forgotten about the President’s safety.

“Enough of the serious stuff,” Mr. Loeb said. Get yourself new clothing for the trip. Two suits and evening wear. Can’t have you looking like a farmer.” He must have seen me widen my eyes in a question.

“No extra allowance for that. Hope your Assistant Secretary’s salary will stretch.

Edith Roosevelt

November 1906

Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt married late, at age twenty-five, pleased to be Theodore’s second wife. His first, empty-headed Alice Lee, had been prettier, but only her memory was competition. Society column reporters called Edith an elegant, good-looking woman. Even the carpers acknowledged that her sharp nose and chin didn’t mar the impression. Those reporters never called her intelligent, but she knew she was that, and Theodore knew too. At age forty-five, after five children and two miscarriages, the last just three years earlier, she remained slender and attractive.

In the White House Edith stayed busy, watching over sons Ted, Kermit, Archibald, and Quentin, her daughter Ethel, and her rambunctious stepdaughter Alice. Thank goodness Alice had just married, even if it was to Nicholas Longworth III, a bald politician, much older than Alice, with a reputation as a playboy. The wedding nine months earlier had been the social event of the season in Washington. With that extravaganza over, Edith’s burdens did not disappear, but she could begin to reorder them. The stepdaughter now moved from second place to third. Worries about Quentin, her youngest, and his mischievous antics rose to second.

Fear for Theodore remained first in Edith’s list of worries. The year before, she convinced her husband to buy a rustic house, known as Pine Knot, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. A private retreat. Almost private. Always watchful, she arranged for two Secret Service agents to protect the house every evening, without the President’s knowledge.

Sounds. They drove her crazy. The pulsating wind and the rattle of cedar shingles at Pine Knot. The scraping sounds of old window frames and squeaky plumbing at the White House. With each sound Edith heard an alarm. She had trusted Theodore’s first bodyguard, “Big Bill” Craig. In a carriage accident four years earlier Bill died and Theodore was injured. Now Jimmy Sloan oversaw protection. Jimmy was a good agent. Could even a good agent handle the task ahead? The trip to Panama would attract an international cast of cranks. Edith hoped they were cranks, not trained assassins. After each attempt on Theodore’s life, a reporter invariably mentioned the statistics. Three of the last ten presidents had been assassinated, three in about forty years, all in her lifetime. She imagined these numbers branded on her forehead.

Edith needed to identify a member of the trip’s entourage who might keep her informed about threats. Jimmy Sloan and his agents had pledged secrecy. Or they dismissed a woman’s worries. Thought her hysterical. They would be no help. And Theodore refused to acknowledge her fears, refused to listen. Thought she didn’t notice he carried a pistol in his pocket when he mingled with crowds. She would think creatively. She would curry favor with someone else on the trip, someone with knowledge. Maybe that Assistant Secretary who was taking the place of Secretary Loeb. Maurice Latta. He might know and he might share. She would keep an eye out for him aboard ship.


Excerpt from Path of Peril by Marlie Parker Wasserman. Copyright 2023 by Marlie Parker Wasserman. Reproduced with permission from Marlie Parker Wasserman. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Marlie Parker Wasserman continues to write historical crime fiction. Her first book, The Murderess Must Die, was published in 2021. After spending many years in New Jersey, she now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society.

Catch Up With Marlie Parker Wasserman:
Instagram - @marliepwasserman
Twitter - @MarlieWasserman


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(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, March 16, 2023

A Bad Bout of the Yips by Ken Harris Book Review


A Bad Bout of the Yips

by Ken Harris

March 6 - 31, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


PI Steve Rockfish’s morning meeting was supposed to focus on a case of straightforward harassment. Two clients had purchased a miniature golf course and instantly became victims of vandalism and projected intolerance.

But as the team investigates, a neighborhood’s bigoted knee jerk reaction to a new sapphic-owned business, is in fact a laser focused plan of intimidation. Before anyone can yell FORE!, violence litters the front nine after Rockfish uncovers the real perpetrator, their actual motive, and dangerous accomplices.

Soon, an old nemesis returns to raise the stakes with plans of revenge and domination. Now facing a battle on two fronts, Rockfish finds his allies thinning at the worst possible time, and recklessly goes on the offensive.

The back nine takes Rockfish and McGee on a frenetic ride from a corporate boardroom, across cyberspace, and to the 19th hole where a long overdue showdown will change everything for the partners, for better and worse.

My Review:

Rockfish is a flawed hero but I like him. He's rough and ruthless and not afraid to bend the law or run right through it to get the job done. In this novel, he is a worthy opponent to the mob. The plot takes us into the murky world of big development corporations and mob influence. It takes someone like Rockfish and his team to break through all the false fronts to the dirty action. But when opposing the mob, there is always plenty of danger so there is lots of action too.

This novel is the third in the series and much of the threats, danger and emotional turmoil find their roots in previous experiences. There is sufficient back story to appreciate this novel as a stand alone, but I would recommend reading them in order to fully enjoy this one.

Rockfish is a tough character and his language reflects it. Be prepared for lots of coarse language. This is a good novel for readers who like a really tough hard boiled PI and crew.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the previous books in this series: The Pine Barrens Stratagem and See You Next Tuesday.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: March 2023
Number of Pages: 356
ISBN: 1685131530 (ISBN-13 978-1685131531)
Series: The Case Files of Steve Rockfish - 3
Book Links: Amazon | BLACK ROSE WRITING

Read an excerpt from A Bad Bout of the Yips:


You’ve reached Rockfish & McGee, Investigative Specialists. At the tone, leave your name and message. Someone will get back to you. [Beep]

Jawnie stared down at her phone, annoyed. She hung up the call after the office’s message ended and slid the phone into her messenger bag. With a proper receptionist comes a proper voicemail message. It’s about time. Where the heck is everyone? Rockfish could be out doing God knows what, but what about Lynn? Maybe she’s in the can after an extra spicy lunch? Jawnie laughed to herself. There were a thousand and one reasons Lynn couldn’t get to the phone. Don’t go all Rockfish at once.

The sun had slipped behind the clouds on a mid-Thursday afternoon when Jawnie walked down the endless row of marble steps in front of the Baltimore County Government building. She had submitted her final report regarding former county employee Harvey Henderson, who had been sitting at home on disability from a leg injury suffered while on the job. Henderson ran a bulldozer at the county landfill. That was until he fell off the equipment and reportedly injured his leg.

Jawnie loved this type of case. She conducted a couple of surveillances to find out Henderson’s daily schedule and then one final, quick outing to snap a few pictures from a safe distance. Jawnie followed Harvey and his mistress down to the town of Laurel and out on the Rocky Gorge Reservoir, where the couple spent the day attempting to wake-board. The day served as a twofer and the future ex-Mrs. Henderson would gain the information needed to win her freedom without spending a dime.

At the bottom of the steps, she pulled her phone back out, and double checked the time. Five after two and still no notifications. Apparently, nothing of importance had transpired while she was in the meeting with the County Commissioners. Her car was across the street in the paid lot, and she glanced up from the screen. Jawnie felt flush and concern filled her brain. The green Kia Soul remained parked at the corner, blocking a hydrant. Her heart kicked it up a notch.

The damn thing hadn’t moved in the hour and a half while I was inside. Jesus Christ, I don’t need this shit today. Or any day. Fuck.

Three times today since leaving her condo, the Kia coincidently found itself parked nearby, always within eyesight. The odd shaped vehicle and the color stood out. Amateur hour or someone who clearly wants me to notice. Jawnie gritted her teeth, glanced both ways, and then kept her head down as she jogged across the street. She walked through the small lot until she found her Subaru and slid behind the wheel. She pulled around to the exit gate and paid the attendant. A second later, the arm rose, but the car didn’t move. Thoughts of the Kia had Jawnie lost deep in her mind.

What Would Rockfish Do? Probably tell me to go on the offensive, concern be damned. Well, I’m definitely not going to pull sideways in front of this guy, jump out and confront him, that’s for sure. People are crazy these days and with my luck I’d end up TikTok famous #KarensGoneWild. Okay, let’s see if I’m imagining things. Maybe give him a little I see you action instead.

Jawnie turned left onto Pennsylvania Ave and sped up. At the end of the block, when she was right alongside the Kia, she held her breath and cut the wheel. The Subaru hung a hard right onto Baltimore Ave and missed the Kia’s left front fender by only a foot. Enough to make him take notice. She straightened the wheel and exhaled. Her eyes shot to the rearview mirror. The Kia followed suit but was losing ground as she pressed down on the accelerator. The car remained a block back when Jawnie turned right again. Her eyes flickered from the front windshield to the rearview, expecting to see the Kia at any second, but it never appeared. Or at least that she noticed. Her grip on the steering wheel grew tighter.

Did I lose him? Was he some civilian who flew into road rage when I almost hit him and then gave up once his blood pressure came down? No. I definitely saw that car multiple times today.

Half an hour later and back in Anne Arundel County, Jawnie received an answer to her question. She spotted the Kia two cars back at a traffic light. Alright McGee, you aren’t imagining things. Let’s figure out who this driver is.

“Hey Siri. New note.”

“What do you want it to say?”

“Dark green Kia Soul Maryland Plate 555-RJ4K.”

“Ok, I’ve created your note. It’s called Dark green Kia Soul Maryland plate 555-RJ4K.”

I’ll call Michelle at DMV to run it as soon as I get back to the office. The favor may cost me a drink or an actual date, but it will be worth it to know who he is. Hopefully, the name will ring a bell. The last thing I need is a fresh surprise.

Jawnie was only a mile from the office but took the Kia on a short sight-seeing tour of Linthicum Heights. See exactly how dedicated the driver was to their mission. First stop was Fairway Car Wash. Jawnie got in line behind the others and when it was her turn, she lined up the front left tire to the guide and selected the Supreme.

A tapping on the driver’s side glass caught her attention. “Hands off the wheel, ma’am.”

Jawnie looked down. White knuckles. Her hands slid off the wheel and fell to her lap as the car jerked forward. She tried to relax and think calmly as the conveyor pulled her forward. Each stage coated the windshield with a different chemical and blocked the view. Because you don’t see him, it doesn’t mean he’s gone. Maybe he’s hiding behind that iHop, but with a simple line of sight as you exit the car wash? What’s next? Mario’s? She had dry cleaning that was overdue to be picked up. Big ass empty lot there, nowhere to hide and nowhere to street park. As she exited the car wash, the track gave way. Her hands returned to the wheel. Jawnie waved off the man, wanting to finish drying the Subaru with an armful of hand towels. I’m good, no thank you, she mouthed as she cracked the window and slid out a five-dollar bill.

Mario’s was four lights further down the road and by the third red light, the Kia emerged from the background. Jawnie could feel the sweat building on her lower back. A single drop formed on the side of her face. She lifted her arm and wiped away the drop with her sleeve. Mario’s came up on the left and Jawnie put on her blinker. No need to attempt some big ruse at this point.

Five minutes later, she exited Mario’s with her dry cleaning hung over her left shoulder and iPhone held in her right, ready to capture the moment for posterity’s sake. Jawnie took the picture before the guy could raise his newspaper in a piss poor effort to hide his identity. She unlocked the Subaru and hung her clothes on the back hook. She got in and slammed the door. A combination of the force and noise caused her to jump.

Goddamnit! WWRD? I should have done something proactive after the meeting back at the county building. Jawnie reached into the center console. She chose her weapon of choice and speed walked to the Kia. Deep breath, deep breath. Look and act like you belong here.

The man was blond, with very short hair. Maybe balding. She couldn’t tell with the slight window tint. When he spotted her approaching, the newspaper went back up. Jawnie snapped another picture before sliding the phone into her back pocket. She tapped on the window. The early edition of the Baltimore Sun didn’t move.

She rapped her knuckles a second time. Harder, louder. This time the paper came down and the man’s eyebrows went up. He reached over and lowered the window, roughly two inches, before speaking.

“Can I help—”

The mace streamed through the opening as if she was an Olympic crack shot. The creeper didn’t see it coming and Jawnie didn’t stick around to see the after-effects. She could hear his screams, interlaced with every curse word in the book by the time she slid behind the wheel. Her death grip returned, and she rocketed out of Mario’s parking lot without a clear destination in mind and a little less rubber on her tires.

The Subaru ended up in the parking lot of a Wawa, a good half mile down the road. Jawnie parked behind the convenience store. She pulled up the note she made earlier with the Kia’s license plate and added the photos. At the bottom of the note, she dictated the man’s description in two sentences and returned her phone to the cup holder.

Jawnie exhaled and didn’t move. How long had it been? Three months? Maybe a little longer. Well, kid, it was an enjoyable ride. I look forward to the next extended period of calm. Maybe today showed I’m not built for this line of work. Her mind went back to the night on Rockfish’s front lawn. Porbeagle’s gun. The sound of the shot. The smell of burning cotton as the bullet passed through the material of her oversized sweatshirt. Fixing middle school laptops out of my garage doesn’t sound so bad now. Granted, no one’s launching a streaming network based on that show, but then again, I don’t have to look over my shoulder every time I leave the goddamn house. Jawnie stopped rubbing her hands and dropped her head into them. The tears flowed freely.

She didn’t remember how long she remained parked next to the dumpster, but when she felt she could make it back to the office without having a complete emotional meltdown, she shifted into drive.


Excerpt from A Bad Bout of the Yips by Ken Harris. Copyright 2023 by Ken Harris. Reproduced with permission from Ken Harris. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Ken Harris retired from the FBI, after thirty-two years, as a cybersecurity executive. With over three decades writing intelligence products for senior Government officials, Ken provides unique perspectives on the conventional fast-paced crime thriller. He is the author of the “From the Case Files of Steve Rockfish” series. He spends days with his wife Nicolita, and two Labradors, Shady and Chalupa Batman. Evenings are spent playing Walkabout Mini Golf and cheering on Philadelphia sports. Ken firmly believes Pink Floyd, Irish whiskey and a Montecristo cigar are the only muses necessary. He is a native of New Jersey and currently resides in Virginia’s Northern Neck.

Catch Up With Ken Harris:
BookBub - @08025writes
Instagram - @kenharrisfiction
Twitter - @08025writes
Facebook - @kah623
Twitch - @kenharrisfiction


Tour Participants:

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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Putting Jesus First by Courtney Tracy Book Review

About the Book:

In all the busy and bustle and noise of life, do you find it hard to keep first things first? We know that Jesus should be our first priority as believers, but with so many things fighting for our attention, what was once at the center can start getting crowded out. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Courtney Tracy has not only been there, she faces this struggle every single day. And you know what helped her return to Jesus as first priority? God’s Word! Particularly, the book of Colossians.

In this warm and encouraging devotional, Courtney walks with you through the lessons she learned in her journey through Colossians, and helps you discover the life-changing power of treasuring Jesus above all things. Each day includes a passage to read, a devotional entry to help you reflect, insightful questions to help you respond, and a prayer to help you approach God in confidence. On top of that, this devotional you are given:

  • A beautiful experience and space each day for you to actively reflect on God’s Word, no matter how busy your day is.
  • A 21-day format so that you might build a practical habit of prioritizing your time with Jesus daily.
  • Powerful gospel truths that offer daily encouragement.
  • The help you need to throw off your old identity and walk in the power of your new identity.

Jesus reigns supreme over all things, including our noisy homes and busy schedules. Let’s discover the joy that is ours when we live like that’s true, putting Him first!

My Review:

This is a good devotional on Colossians. The Scripture is included with each daily reading so can be read anywhere without having to have a Bible along. The devotions are a bit longer than one might usually expect and are more like a conversational study on each passage. Each daily reading includes questions for reflection, a prayer, and suggested reading for further study.

One of my favorite readings was on Colossians 1:13-20. Tracy has a good exploration of idolatry, reminding us that happens when we consider anything higher and better than Jesus. It might be knowledge, self-sufficiency, following certain rules or even the pursuit of happiness. The more we look to other things, however, the emptier we become. “We must always put Jesus first above everything else.” (493/1830) When we put Jesus first, everything else will be oriented rightly.

Another section I liked was her teaching on striving, trying to be sufficient on our own, apart from Christ. The point of Paul's teaching in this letter was Christ's sufficiency. Don't try to do what Christ has already done. (1031/1830)

This is a good study on Colossians. It is very readable, not technical yet instructive and thought provoking.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Courtney Tracy is a former elementary school teacher. She is passionate about Jesus and sharing the hope of the gospel. She lives in northwestern Minnesota with her husband and their three children.

B&H Publishing, 192 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Resilient Faith by Lewis and Sarah Allen Book Review

About the Book:

We all encounter problems and challenges on a daily basis, ranging from small things—traffic, losing your keys, or running late—to much bigger issues—job insecurity, health issues, and relationship struggles. What should a believer in Christ do in the face of such adversities? 

Authors Lewis and Sarah Allen propose that while the world may teach us one way to approach challenges, there is a better way—complete dependence on Christ and pursuit of wise living. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians are able to live more joy-filled lives in the midst of adversity. In a conversational and personal tone, the Allens walk through key biblical passages as they relate to challenges and share stories, case studies, and illustrations to encourage us to rely on Christ and commit to his church in the battle of Christian life. 

  • Ideal for New or Young Christians: Especially those feeling discouraged by doubt and disappointment
  • Engaging and Interactive: Includes case studies and illustrations, with questions and prayers at the end of every chapter 
  • Practical and Realistic: Readers will receive biblical direction for applying these principles to their daily lives 

 You can read chapter one here.

My Review:

We all stumble and fall. We all get discouraged. Resilience is required to get back up and continue on the journey of faith. The Allens address many issues facing young people and career age. They cover emotions such as feeling like a failure or feeling rejected. Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, they encourage us to remember that God has compassion for us. We can share that compassion with others, taking our minds off of ourselves and onto helping others. Some of the topics covered are practical things, like exercise and sleep and our diet. They go through the armor in Ephesians six for instruction, ending with prayer.

The book is rather conversational in style so would appeal to young Christians or those busy with family and career. It is not a deep, theological study. The authors suggest reading a chapter a day. I think that is a bit much. A chapter a week would make for a good study with a trusted group of friends. There are questions for reflection that could be used for discussion. There is also a prayer for each chapter.

This book is good encouragement to remain grounded in trust and faith in the midst of trials. There is an emphasis on the importance of being in God's Word as that is what God uses for our transformation. Practical suggestions are included for getting in the Word and for maintaining a good prayer life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Authors:

Lewis Allen (ThM, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as senior pastor of Hope Church in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, which he helped plant after twelve years of pastoring a church in West London.

Sarah Allen (MTh, Union School of Theology) is an English teacher and the northern director of Flourish Course (a Gospel training initiative). She also leads the women’s ministry at Hope Church in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England. 

Crossway, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Houdini's Fabulous Magic by Walter Gibson and Morris Young Book Review

Walter B. Gibson and Morris N. Young's






Houdini's Fabulous Magic

Book Summary

Incredible escapes, fantastic sleight-of-hand-Houdini's most challenging performances are dramatically portrayed in Houdini's Fabulous Magic. Walter Gibson, co-author, was in close touch with Harry Houdini for a number of years before his death and worked with the master magician in preparing material for the book. It is with the aid of Houdini's own scrapbooks and notes that this book was written.

The spectacular highlights of Houdini's career are described-and explained-here. Included are the famous escapes: escapes from a padlocked milk can filled with water; from locked jail cells; from a water-filled Chinese torture cell while suspended upside down; from packing cases weighted under water. Again, in this book, Houdini walks through a brick wall, vanishes a 10,000-pound elephant and is buried alive. Once more, Houdini and his wife Bessie mysteriously exchange places in a locked trunk-in three seconds!

And Houdini the man is not ignored. His impact on the world in the early years of the twentieth century was enormous. He was a public hero who, in his own way, helped sweep out the cobwebs of nineteenth-century thinking. While doing so, he distinguished himself as a patriot, writer, collector of magic, aviator, movie idol, philanthropist, and crusader against fraudulent spiritualistic practices.

This is a technical manual for magicians, complete with illustrations and diagrams, but it is also an astute analysis of the best of Houdini's magic and a readable biography of a man who turned himself into a legend. It is a book for would-be conjurers, for professional necromancers, for those curious about the methods and means of one of the most enchanting men of the previous century.

Publisher: Vine Leaves Press

ISBN-10: 0517180747

ISBN-13: 978-0517180747


Print length: 249 pages

Purchase a copy of Houdini's Fabulous Magic on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

My Review

This is a fascinating book. I have often wondered how magicians do their tricks and this book was very enlightening. Even just opening handcuffs, getting the keys or using other techniques, was very enlightening. Getting out of locked boxes, underwater escapes, and many other tricks are explained.

But there is more than just revealing techniques. The authors also write about the showmanship, how the audience is distracted in one direction while something important is happening elsewhere. We find out that Houdini evaluated the appeal of a trick and at times faced controversy over who owned a trick. There is also a brief biography of Houdini's life.

This is a great book for anyone interested in magic tricks and how they are done.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Authors

Walter B. Gibson (1897-1985)

Walter, a graduate of Colgate University, was a prolific writer including The Shadow novels under his pen name Maxwell Grant. For a time he was Houdini's personal secretary. Following Houdini's death, the attorney for the estate permitted Walter to examine many of Houdini's private scrapbooks and notes from which Gibson wrote
Houdini's Magic and Houdini's Escapes. Houdini's scrapbooks, papers and other documents form the background for Houdini's Fabulous Magic. Also a magician, Walter toured with and wrote for magicians such as Blackstone (Sr.), Thurston and Raymond. He was a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the American Society for Psychical Research, the Magician's Guild of America and the Magician's Club of London.

Morris N. Young, M.D. (1909-2002)

Morris, a graduate of M.I.T., Harvard and Columbia University was Director of Ophthalmology at Beekman Downtown Hospital in New York City. Aside from his numerous professional memberships, he was a member of the Society of American Magicians (to which Houdini had helped him join as a young man), the International Brotherhood of Magicians and a member of the Inner Circle of the Magic Circle (London). He was a founder of the Magic Collectors Association including their publication MAGICOL. Along with his wife Chesley, he established the largest private holdings on memory and mnemonics which now resides at the University of San Marino. Along with his friend John McManus, in 1955 they established the McManus-Young Collections at the Library of Congress, The University of Texas, Austin and the University of California in Berkeley.  Morris' other book publications include Hobby Magic, Houdini on Magic (with Walter Gibson), Presto Prestige, Bibliography of Memory, How To Develop An Exceptional Memory (with Walter Gibson), The Complete Guide to Science Fair Competition (with John Stolzfus) and Radio Music Live (with John Stolzfus).

You can visit the website created by Morris N. Young's children, Charles C. Young and Cheryl L. Young:

Blog Tour Calendar

 February 27th @ The Muffin

February 28th @ The Mommies Review

March 1st @ Word Magic

March 6th @ One Writer's Journey

March 8th @ A Storybook World

March 10th @ Reading is My Remedy

March 12th @ Joan P. Nienhuis

March 15th @ One Sister's Journey

March 20th @ My Beauty My Books

March 23rd @ Knotty Needle

March 25th @ Choices

March 27th @ Candid Canine

March 29th @ World of My Imagination

March 30th @ Silver's Reviews

March 31st @ The Faeries Review

April 2nd @ Jessica's Reading Room

April 2nd @ Coffee And Ink

 I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Women on Writing. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)