Sunday, March 3, 2024

Black & White by Justin M Kiska Blog Tour Book Review


Black & White

by Justin M. Kiska

February 19 - March 15, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


Parker City, 1985 . . .

A picturesque spring morning takes a disturbing turn when the frozen body of a young woman is discovered in a field on the outskirts of the city. As Detectives Ben Winters and Tommy Mason arrive on the scene, they have no idea upon what type of an investigation they are about to embark. With no identification, no breadcrumbs to lead them to the girl’s origins, or even a cause of death, they face a daunting task ahead as they take on their latest case.

As the investigation lingers in limbo, a surprise revelation connects it to a mysterious chapter from Parker City’s past. One that Tommy's own uncle was a part of four decades early as a debonair private investigator working for the venerable Stride Detective Agency, tenaciously searching for the missing daughter of a former diplomat. It's a connection that binds two generations of detectives in an intricate web of intrigue.

In this captivating new installment of Parker City Mysteries, both investigations unravel simultaneously, forging an unbreakable link between the past and the present. As Ben and Tommy navigate their way through the case, they must confront the truth to a secret that has remained concealed for far too long.

My Review:

I enjoyed reading this historical novel with dual mysteries decades apart. It was refreshing to read of a murder investigation without all the modern forensic technologies. Both mystery investigations required the old fashioned dedicated investigative techniques. I appreciate the parallel plot developments although we do know the ultimate life and death outcome of the older mystery before it is solved in that time. I like to learn about something when I read a novel and I found out about Nazi art looted by U S servicemen.

This is an entertaining historical mystery. While it is part of a series, it reads well on its own. It's a good book for any lover of mysteries.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

I have read two of the previous books in the series and you can read my reviews of them: Vice & Virtue and Fact & Fiction. 

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedural
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 2024
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: Coming Soon!
Series: Parker City Mysteries, Book 4
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Stepping out of the car, the weather was so nice, Ben left his suit jacket laying on the backseat where he’d tossed it before leaving the station. But, as he always did when he was about to enter a new crime scene, he placed his hand on the Smith & Wesson on his hip. The weight of the cool metal helped to center him so he could focus on whatever he was about to be confronted by. It reminded him how important his work was and the duty he believed so much in. It was thinking like that that earned Ben a reputation of being a Boy Scout. An idealist who truly wanted to protect and defend the people of Parker City. He always wondered how some people could make that sound like a bad thing.

Some of the older members of the department liked to live in a gray area of the law, while Ben tried his very best to always do what was right. It’s when what was right fell into those gray areas that Ben needed to rely on his partner to help make sense of what needed to be done.

Trying to imagine what they’d been called out for he knew no two crime scenes were ever the same. Sure, elements could be similar. There was always a tragedy overshadowing them, but each was unique. Which is why Ben walked into each with a completely open mind and a keen pair of eyes trying to take in every single detail. It was always the details that cracked a case. Which meant one never knew how important the smallest piece of evidence could really be. If something was out of place, it was important until it wasn’t. That’s how he thought. And sometimes-and this was often the more confusing part-the absence of something was just as important. If not more.

“Not putting your jacket on?” The voice of Ben’s partner, Tommy Mason, came from the other side of the car. “I didn’t realize this was a casual crime scene.”

Ben raised an eyebrow and shook his head.

The two were always picking on one another. It’s what they did. It’s what made their friendship so strong. When it came to what to wear as police detectives, there was a continuing debate between the two. Ben felt a suit and tie was most appropriate. Not only did it look more professional and attract a certain level of respect but, with his clean-cut babyface, it helped him look a little older than his thirty years. Though not much. Tommy, on the other hand, saw nothing wrong with wearing jeans and a T-shirt under a leather jacket. While he looked like a cop on one of the popular crime shows on television, Ben always pointed out that that was Hollywood’s version of a police detective. Since Ben technically was his supervisor and commanding officer, Tommy begrudgingly put a tie on every morning. Most days though, he usually left it loose with his collar wide open. Ben still took it as a victory.

Blowing a cloud of smoke into the air, Tommy dropped what little remained of his cigarette on the ground and stamped it out before taking his corduroy jacket off and tossing it back into the car. If Ben didn’t have to wear his jacket at the crime scene, he sure as hell wasn’t going to wear one.

“Doesn’t this feel much less constricting,” he asked with a grin. “And it’s so much easier to get to our guns in the event we’re in danger.”

“Shut up,” Ben said as he started toward the cluster of men in the field.

“I’m just saying. If your life was in danger, it would be so much easier for me to shoot someone to save you–which you know I would do–if I didn’t have to worry about my jacket getting in the way. Those few precious seconds could save your life one day. Natalie would agree.”

Stopping and turning to look at his partner a few steps behind him, Ben asked, “Why exactly do you think it would have to be you saving me and not the other way around?”

“Because that’s just the way it is,” Tommy answered very matter-of-factly. “Think about how many times I’ve saved your life?”

Ben’s forehead wrinkled, a puzzled expression appearing on his face. “What the hell are you talking about? I’m the one that saved you at least two times that I can think of in the last year alone.”

“Clearly we remember things very differently.”

“You’re a pain in my ass. You know that, right?”

Smiling the thousand watt smile for which he was known, Tommy answered, “I like to think that I keep you grounded.”

So was the way of Detectives Ben Winters and Tommy Mason. More often than not, they sounded like an old married couple bickering about one thing or another. Completely devoted to one another, they were closer than brothers. They’d grown up together, gone to school together, joined the academy together, and when the order was given for a new Detective Squad to be created within the Parker City Police Department, they were tapped for the job.

As it was, for the last four years, they were the only two members of the department’s official criminal investigation team. Though Parker City was by no means a hotbed of criminal activity, they’d been involved in several major investigations which rocked the city. Two of which even attracted the national spotlight, making the pair famous for a few minutes. Most police officers could go their entire careers without being involved in the types of cases which had kept them up at night, but the two young men had earned their detective shields through trial by fire.

Catching his foot in a clump of thick weeds, Ben knew if he tripped and landed in the dirt, Tommy would never let him hear the end of it. Thankfully, he was able to quickly regain his balance and keep himself upright.

His hope that Tommy didn’t see the awkward contortion the lower half of his body performed to avoid hitting the ground was dashed when from behind him he heard the sarcasm-laced comment, “As graceful as a gazelle.” Which was then followed almost immediately by the unmistakable sound of something hitting the dirt. Hard.


Ben turned in just enough time to see Tommy jumping to his feet and dusting off his pants.

“Not a single word,” Tommy admonished, vigorously shaking his head. “I’m well aware Karma’s a bitch.”

Deciding to take the highroad, Ben valiantly stifled the laugh fighting to burst free.

“You’ve got a little bit of something there on your…” Ben started, pointing to his partner’s pant leg.

“Shut it!” Tommy said. At which point Ben couldn’t contain himself. The laughter won and overpowered him.

As the two detectives reached the other men standing in the field, they recognized one of the patrolmen as a new officer who’d just recently joined the department and the other was one of Tommy’s least favorite people on the planet, Buck LuCoco. An overweight, lazy throw-back to the days when the police in the city did as little as they needed to. Neither Ben nor Tommy understood how he was still on the force. Or why he wanted to be with his attitude.

“LuCoco, Brown,” Ben said giving the uniformed officers each a quick nod of his head.

“How is it, Buck,” Tommy began, “whenever a body drops in this town, you’re the first man on the scene?”

“Just lucky, I guess,” LuCoco said, mopping his sweaty brow with a wrinkled handkerchief from his pocket. “It could also be that the scumbags in this city do their dirty work at night and since I’m the first one outta the door in the morning, I get the call. Either way, it’s crap. I tell ya!”

“Being that it’s after lunchtime already–,” Tommy began to say before Ben placed a hand on his arm, giving him the signal to let it go.

Then, turning to the younger officer who appeared quite eager to give his report to the department’s chief detective, Ben asked, “What have we got?”

“This is Sam Ruppert,” Brown introduced the man, referring to his notebook. “He’s one of the city’s engineers. He was doing some routine work out here this morning when he found the body of a young female. D.O.A.”

Turning to Ruppert, a tall, beefy guy in a flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots, Ben took his own notebook from his shirt pocket. “Morning, Mr. Ruppert. I’m Detective Ben Winters. You’re with the city?”

“Public Works Department,” he said in a gravelly voice. “Almost fifteen years now.”

“What brought you out here today?”

“The city’s getting ready to do some work in this field and I needed to take a few quick measurements. We’ve been out here every day for the last week. I thought I’d be here and gone in a few minutes. Then I found…” His voice trailed off as he looked away toward something another twenty or so feet away.

“What did you find?”

“A body. She wasn’t there yesterday. I know that for a fact because I was here all day with a couple other guys. We were all over this place. We’d have seen her for sure.”

Pointing at the mound the engineer was staring at, Tommy asked, “Is that the body?”


“Did one of you cover her up or did you find her like that?” Ben asked, referring to the tattered, green checked blanket.

“She was like that,” Ruppert said taking a deep breath. “At first, I thought it was someone in a sleeping bag or something. Thought maybe they’d slept out here last night. Sky was clear. They could see the stars. But when I got close and hollered, there was no… She didn’t move. When I got up close I saw... Geez. I’ve never seen anything like it. This isn’t how I thought my day was gonna go.”

Other than the occasional funeral, it was true, the average person didn’t have much exposure to dead bodies. But there was something in the way the man was acting that made Ben think there was more to the story. He was too shaken up. If one could be too shaken up after finding a dead body on the job.

“What is it you’ve never seen before?” Ben inquired, interested to hear the conclusion to Ruppert’s story.

“Oh, I think you should just see for yourself, Detective” LuCoco said interrupting, a twisted smirk on his fat face.

“What is it, LuCoco? Just tell us.” Tommy had no patience for the man. There was a time he used to hide his contempt, now he didn’t even try. Not that LuCoco was very observant. Or he just didn’t give a damn.

“Sirs,” Officer Brown interrupted, “let me show you.”

Walking the group over to the covered body, Brown knelt down and, using a handkerchief he’d had in his pocket, pulled the blanket back revealing the naked body of a beautiful young woman with dark wavey hair. But something wasn’t right. Not that the naked body of a woman in the middle of a field was right. But in this instance, it was her skin.

“What the hell?” Tommy’s reaction matched what Ben was thinking. “She’s blue.”

Blue wasn’t entirely accurate, but it was pretty close. The skin was a pale hue, almost white. And there was a frosty sheen to it, with small ice crystals visible around her eyes and mouth. Little droplets glistened on her eyelashes.

“She’s frozen,” Brown said, looking up at the detectives.

“It was cool last night,” Tommy said, kneeling down himself to get a better look, “but not cold enough to freeze to death.”

“No. I mean, she’s frozen like a block of ice.”


Excerpt from Black & White by Justin M. Kiska. Copyright 2024 by Justin M. Kiska. Reproduced with permission from Justin M. Kiska. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

When not sitting in his library devising new and clever ways to kill people (for his mysteries), Justin can usually be found at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, outside of Washington, DC, where he is one of the owners and producers. In addition to writing the Parker City Mysteries Series, which includes Now & Then (Finalist for the 2022 Silver Falchion Award for Best Investigator), Vice & Virtue, and Fact & Fiction, he is also the mastermind behind Marquee Mysteries, a series of interactive mystery events he has been writing and producing for over fifteen years. Justin and his wife, Jessica, live along Lake Linganore outside of Frederick, Maryland.

Catch Up With Justin M. Kiska:
BookBub - @JMKiska
Instagram - @JMKiska
Twitter/X - @JustinKiska
Facebook - @JMKiska


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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. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(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.)


Wall-to-wall books said...

Thanks for the review. Yes, this sounds like a fun and interesting series!

DVDgal75 said...

Sounds good