Books by Les Roberts

Released: Nov. 1, 2011

"A feast of vengeance served piping hot that's quite a departure for the generally more reflective creator of Milan Jacovich (The Irish Sports Pages, 2002, etc.)."
In 1985, a hardened Vietnam veteran who's settled in Chicago returns to Youngstown, Ohio, where he grew up and his priest brother has just committed suicide. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

"And old reliable at novel length (The Chinese Fire Drill, 2001, etc.) proves equally varied and adept in smaller doses in a volume that goes down quicker than the Cleveland sun."
This first story collection by mystery veteran Roberts, the creator of Hollywood actor/shamus Saxon and Cleveland investigator Milan Jacovich, whose name is forever mispronounced, is full of pleasantly understated surprises. Sure, the title story and "Willing to Work," in which perfect murders come undone because of a single overlooked clue, are routine; so is "Angel of Death," a miniature about an informant who isn't as well protected as he thinks; and Milan's one short outing to date, which finds him unsuccessfully working to protect a Klansman from danger before a Cleveland rally, has more heart than brains. But Saxon manages two surprising solutions in a pair of tidy whodunits, "Little Cat Feet" and "The Catnap," written for the Cat Crimes anthologies. The buildup of tension from a pointless Burger King argument about Elvis Presley to murder most foul in "The Fat Stamp" is expertly managed, even if the final twist is telegraphed early and often. "Good Boys," the tale of the grieving mother who goes on TV to denounce her sons' probable killer, walks a fine line between pathos and cleverness. And "The Brave Little Costume Designer," which updates the Brothers Grimm by taking fearless Oliver Jardiniere from the Martin Beck Theatre deep into the bosom of the New York mob by way of Damon Runyon and fashion sense, is shamelessly funny. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 12, 2002

"Milan is as likable as ever, his adventures as formulaic."
"I suppose," muses Milan Jacovich, "when you're in the business of messing in other people's lives moral dilemmas come with the license." In this 13th outing for Cleveland's Marlowesque shamus (The Dutch, 2001, etc.), the moral dilemmas are particularly sticky. What to do, for instance, about the beautiful woman arguably out of bounds, the trusted friends who just happen to be mob-connected, and the vengeful murderer with whom he can't help but empathize? It all begins when Common Pleas Judge Maureen Hartigan hires Milan to recover property conned from her by an Irish charmer whose brogue was as broad as his character was spurious. Was, that is, because soon enough Brian McFall (alias Jamie O'Dowd, alias William Poduska) turns past tense, shot to death in a shabby motel room. Near his corpse is a piece of paper with Milan's name scrawled on it. Nowhere near, however, is the jewelry, the cash, or the envelope with certain family photographs Judge Hartigan had asked Milan to recover. A pair of dispiriting developments soon follow. One: Enter fire-breathing Lt. Florence McHargue, head of Cleveland PD's homicide department, whose fickle tolerance for Milan is manifest mainly when she wants his help. Two: Fretful Milan now doubts that the Hartigan family is really what those purloined photos show. He's right, of course. But before he learns for sure, his own name will flirt with the Irish Sports Pages—in Cleveland, the newspaper obituaries. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 19, 2001

"Roberts, who's scored with the eminently likable Cleveland p.i. Milan Jacovich (The Dutch, 2001, etc.), fares less well on the Pacific Rim. Flimsy plot, pedestrian prose, and a cast hurting for believable characters."
Just as he's in Bangkok putting the finishing touches on yet another bestseller, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Hilton gets a drop-everything phone call from Hong Kong. But Jake McKay, an old friend who's troubled about something, goes lost, strayed, or stolen before he can divulge details. Anthony, to whom friendship will always matter more than glittering prizes, zooms off to Hong Kong, where he meets Jake's platonic flatmate, beautiful Brit Kate Langley. In the flash of a thigh, however, her relationship with sexy Anthony becomes strictly nonplatonic. Through Kate, Anthony also meets an array of local types who may or may not have had something to do with Jake's disappearance: an ex-footballer who enjoys killing, a bogus film producer seeking to make a killing, and a film-struck Chinese billionaire about to be led like a lamb to the slaughter. In the process, Anthony learns that Jake's cherished sailboat, the Lady, vanished shortly before its owner, and begins to suspect that (1) the speedy craft was hijacked for nefarious purposes by a particularly vicious Chinese triad, and (2) if he finds the Lady he'll find Jake. But first, he'll find a lot of people eager to do harm to even the most free-swinging, head-knocking, bestselling author. Read full book review >
THE DUTCH by Les Roberts
Released: July 16, 2001

"Milan is always good company, but this time his detection is merely workmanlike, and the rickety plot weakened by too many echoes of classics from A Dance at the Slaughterhouse to I, the Jury."
Apart from being fat and homely, Ellen Carnine had everything to live for: a sunny disposition, a well-paying job, the esteem of the bosses at her Web-design firm. So why, her distraught father asks Milan Jacovich, did she leave a suicide note on her computer screen and take a 4 a.m. header off the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, doing the Dutch over dry land instead of water just to be sure? Looking for a motive rather than a perp, Cleveland's premier p.i. (The Indian Sign, 2000, etc.) makes the rounds of Ellen's so-called friends—the roommate who insisted there was nothing between them, the sleek clothing designer who can't keep the smug superiority out of her regrets, the computer-graphics designer who trolled bars in Ellen's company because she was sure to get all the attention—and soon connects Ellen to a world of pain and sorrow. Meantime, an obligatory warning off the case from a pair of thugs alerts Milan to a clue both he and the cops should have noticed long ago that reclassifies Ellen's death as homicide, and sends Milan into still another wary tango with his sometime ally, mob-connected stockbroker Victor Gaimari. There'll be an early series of arrests and an ill-advised switch of gears, with Milan going to bat for the most likely conspirator before Ellen's death, before it's time for the final curtains. Read full book review >
INDIAN SIGN by Les Roberts
Released: Aug. 1, 2000

"As always, tough, smart, honorable Milan is Cleveland's best company."
On a punishing midwinter day in Cleveland he sits on a bench, snow collecting on his shoulders, staring up at the building in which Milan Jacovich (The Best Kept Secret, 1999, etc.) happens to have his p.i. office—this ancient, stone-faced Native American. Milan tries hard not to take serious notice. He's aware that curiosity is one of his major character flaws, that it gets him into trouble, and that it makes his girlfriend Connie wobbly about the future of their relationship. So Milan grits his teeth, reins himself in, and does a good job of minding his own business—until the following day, when the mysterious Indian disappears, and Eddie Ettawageshick turns up at Milan's door to unload his troubles. Eddie's a member of the Odawa, a tribe that has settled in backwater Cross Creek, Michigan, and Joseph, the old man, is his grandfather. Sedentary Joseph, says Eddie, made the journey all the way to Cleveland because his daughter's baby was kidnapped. But the Odawa are hardscrabble people, Milan points out, a thin bet for a fat ransom. And why Cleveland? All Eddie knows is that his grandfather knew something important enough to bring him there. He begs Milan to discover what that something is. Connie in mind, Milan tries to resist, but he can't walk away. Reluctantly, he buckles down, finds a baby, and solves two murders. As for Connie . . . well, win some, lose some. Read full book review >
Released: June 15, 1998

Still mourning the shooting of his best friend, Lt. Marko Meglich (The Cleveland Local, 1997), Milan Jacovich is in no mood to go back to work. But producer Sidney Friedman insists he'd be the perfect minder for Monarch Films' callow megastar Darren Anderson, who's come to Cleveland to shoot exteriors for Street Games. It's easy money for serving as an all-expense-paid tour guide, says Sidney ("Mr. Friedman is my father, and he's dead." Milan dutifully leads irresistible, narcissistic Darren around town for two weeks before taking a Sunday off at this charge's insistence. So he's not around to see Darren's assignation in Edgewater Park with the underage daughter of the film's major backer, or—since he quits Sidney on the spot when he finds out about Darren's roving eye—to see Darren get shot back in his Bay Village apartment the next day. From here on in, things get even more smoothly conventional, as Milan swears to avenge the kid he let down, goes hunting for suspects who might not have liked Darren (starting with the Cleveland and Hollywood phone books), finds a promising new love, and gets caught amid a school of sharks—Darren's hopeful heirs, a predatory tabloid hostess, a jealous fiancÇ convinced Milan's moving in on his intended, the ubiquitous Cleveland mob—who all want a piece of him. Roberts puts her story through its paces with vigor and heart, if without any real surprises. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 14, 1997

The Cleveland Local ($22.95; Nov. 14; 288 pp.; 0-312-16801-2): At least looking into the tropic-island murder of Joel Kerner, Esq., will buy him some relief from the Cleveland winter, thinks shamus Milan Jacovich (Collision Bend, 1996, etc.). He doesn't realize that some fates are even more harsh—including the sad truths he'll have to face about his inescapable hometown before the case is wrapped up. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 13, 1996

Slavs, as Milan Jacovich observes, aren't prone to forgive and forget. So it's not easy for Milan to say yes when his former lover, Channel 12 sales exec Mary Soderberg, wants to hire Milan Security on behalf of Steve Cirini, the smarmy charmer who stole her away from Milan. The Cleveland cops like Steve for the strangling of rising Channel 12 star Virginia Carville. Since the other suspects, though they offer strikingly different opinions of Ginger—was she a careerist saint, a hard-nosed pro, a hot- bodied bedmate, or an amoral user?—share a conspicuous lack of motive, it looks like a tough case—unless, of course, Milan minds failing and watching Steve twist slowly in the wind. But a cryptic series of notes on a diskette Mary filches from Ginger's desk leads Milan to an explosive story Ginger was working on, a story that casts many of the suspects in a nasty new light. Working through his own romantic problems—a particularly masterly scene takes Milan and his current partner from tender, spirited lovemaking to breakup—Milan follows the trail of Ginger's story to a satisfyingly surprising denouement. The only flaw in Milan's seventh case (The Duke of Cleveland, 1995, etc.): a vital clue cribbed from one of the best-known contemporary mysteries. Otherwise, all is low-key perfection. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 11, 1995

Beautiful, featherheaded April Delavan's boyfriend Jeff Feldman, a slimy potter/con artist old enough to be her father, has gone missing, and April wants him backor at least the $18,000 he glommed from her before he left. But Cleveland Heights p.i. Milan Jacovich, in a sixth outing, swiftly discovers that the only people who care where Feldman went, or even whether he's dead or alive, are his potential customers for a 250-year-old ceramic vase last seen in Nazi Germany. Feldman's client list includes prissy gallery-owner Edgar Curtin, Milan's old mob- connected non-friend Victor Gaimari, and (surprise, surprise) April's megadeveloper dad, Chase Delavanheavy hitters all of them, and just the sort of people who wouldn't flinch from having one of the potters who shared Feldman's studio space pushed down the odd elevator shaft. So how can Milan identify the murderer, locate the vase, and keep the panting ceramic collectors from killing each other or him? Actually, it's easier than getting a date for the Indians' opening game. A welcome recovery from the untidy The Lake Effect (1994)a neatly turned mystery with Milan's wit providing a piquant counterpoint to the grim proceedings. Read full book review >
THE LAKE EFFECT by Les Roberts
Released: Dec. 15, 1994

A double departure for industrial-security specialist Milan Jacovich (The Cleveland Connection, 1993, etc.): To repay a favor from slimy, well-dressed Victor Gaimari, he signs on as security chief for novice Barbara Corn's underdog mayoral campaign way out in the pristine suburb of Lake Erie Shores. Uncomfortable with both the turf and the job (``This was the first time I'd ever been hired to keep anyone from hurting my client's feelings'')—not to mention his queasiness about the Gaimari connection, which screams setup- -Milan soon finds that the campaign faces even bigger problems than Barbara's pathetic intimidation by Princess True, gimlet-eyed sister of long-term incumbent Gayton True. One: Barbara's take- charge husband, Evan, won't let her use the dirt about Gay True (ballot-tampering son, kiddie-porn brother-in-law) dug up by her savvy campaign manager, Cassandra Pride. Two: Somebody is sending threatening notes and calls to Barbara and Milan. Three: True's chief of security is a vindictive ex-cop who hasn't forgotten that Milan got him tossed off the force. Four: Princess True gets killed by a hit-and-run driver just days before the election. Milan sorts out these problems with vigor and occasional flashes of style, but his work is mostly dutiful, as if he were finishing a dubious four- course meal just to be polite. Even the political setup, which is indeed a fix, is a letdown, and the hit-and-run is from hunger. A pleasant couple of hours—well, more hours than usual for Milan—but don't be fooled: This ragbag of subplots is untidy rather than complex. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 15, 1994

A year after has-been comic Nappy Kane settles down with his Hong Kong mail-order bride, Doll, and a few weeks after he puts all his property in her name, surprise! she's cleaned out his house and taken off, and he goes crying to actor/detective Saxon (Seeing the Elephant, 1992, etc.) to track her down. The trail leads Saxon and his adopted black son Marvel to that northern California seaside paradise, San Angelo, where Saxon gets loosened up by an amateurish rubdown at Far East Massage, then tensed up all over again when he's thrown down the stairs of the adjoining Rustin Imports, has to talk Marvel out of jail for loitering, and high-tails it out of town a day early—only to find in the middle of a grueling stretch of freeway that his fuel line's been cut. So it's back to San Angelo under slightly deeper cover (Saxon dies his hair orange) to rescue Doll from the clutches of the Asian slavers who've been running this scam on Nappy and who knows how many others. Saxon keeps talking about how the pieces are fitting together, as if they were ever apart. But he provides good-humored company and great food all the way from A to B. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 23, 1993

Milan Jacovich, the Cleveland p.i. of Slovene heritage (Deep Shaker, etc.), in trying to locate a missing grandfather of Serbian extraction, must sort through age-old Balkan animosities—as well as modern-era wise-guy rules of conduct. Bogdan Zdale is eventually found, executed, by means of a single bullet to the back of the head. Whom had this morose, and mostly silent, old man—who'd spent four years in a Nazi death camp—angered? As Milan acquaints himself with Zdale's friends at Janko's Tavern and with the Serb community's paterfamilias, Lazlo Samarzio, he becomes more convinced that the killing tied in with Zdale's war experiences. Was he a patriot? Or Nazi-lover? The answer pricks the consciences of survivors from Ohio to Wisconsin while Milan also wrestles with death threats to his newspaper friend Ed, whose column condemning impropriety in city contract bids caused the Dosti family to call in a New York hit man. A concussion or two later, Milan has warned off the assassin and offered an ``honorable'' way out (suicide) to one of Zdale's misguided, misinformed family members. Editorial pruning would have helped, particularly with the repetitiveness, but, still, a good—and timely—Yugoslav cultural primer. Read full book review >
Released: March 18, 1992

L.A. actor/sleuth Saxon (Snake Oil, etc.) flies to Chicago, his hometown, to attend the funeral of Gavin Cassidy, a cop who moonlighted as an actor and was Saxon's mentor at the North State Street Theatre Guild. There, Gavin's former girlfriend Marian asks Saxon to investigate: Even at his alcoholic worst, she says, Gavin would never have also swallowed the amphetamines that killed him. As Saxon looks up their old gang, he quickly learns that Cassidy was recently suspended for soliciting bribes—from Saxon's own father, a political stalwart of the Fifty-fourth Ward who once went to prison for the party machine and who hasn't spoken to his son in over 20 years. Soon, Saxon and his dad are edgily making contact, and it seems that more political chicanery was at work, setting up Cassidy as the patsy to the benefit of former Guild members and the Ward. Before Saxon can return to L.A. and his adopted, black teenaged son Marvel, he must confront both his and Cassidy's past lovers (sometimes one and the same) to find the killer. Facile but oddly touching in the father-son rapprochement scenes. A semi-hardboiled trip down memory lane, then, guided by a capable old pro. Read full book review >
DEEP SHAKER by Les Roberts
Released: June 19, 1991

Slovenian sleuth Milan Jacovich (Full Cleveland, Pepper Pike), in an attempt to wrest an old pal's son from drugs, again must call on a Cleveland don for help and, at the same time, avoid the ``Jamaican Connection,'' a bloodthirsty island gang that uses school kids as dope-runners. In the midst of saving Paulie, Milan uncovers crack houses owned by rich car-dealer/would-be power-maven Waco Morgan and his mistress, the dumb but luscious Barrie Tremont. Several lethal and near-lethal hits later, Milan concludes that Waco, the Jamaicans, and the don's boys are not the brains behind the drug-racket—and then, in a grisly confrontation in a warehouse storing the Thriller, an old Euclid beach roller-coaster ride, he eliminates (at least temporarily) Cleveland's drug-kingpin. The divorced, middle-aged Milan's best scenes are with his two sons, the most clichÇd with young Mary, his disenchanted lover. And if he seems a shade too written-to-formula, his food is still as mouthwatering as anything Lawrence Sanders has come up with. Read full book review >
Released: April 17, 1989

L.A. actor/sleuth Saxon's third venture (Not Enough Horses; An Infinite Number of Monkeys) finds him toughing it out south of the border—in search of movie-mogul Mark Evering's drugged-out daughter Merissa, who took off for there with a sleaze lawyer, 40-ish Martin Swanner, whose money comes from junk and defrauding illegal aliens. When Saxon mentions Swanner's name, all of Tijuana cringes away, and the intrepid sleuth is soon the n£mero uno suspect when Swanner is eviscerated and hung from the bathroom door hook. Confiscating the bullfight tickets in the dead man's pocket, Saxon sits in his box, meets the enigmatic Carmen; her husband and Swanner's business partner in smuggling aliens, Rafael Iglesias; and crummy lawyer Jesus Delgado, who may be responsible for the goons on Saxon's tail. At an after-the-bullfight party, Saxon humiliates matador Pepe, threatens Rafael, who's soon found dead—also eviscerated—and is again in trouble with police Sergeant Ochoa. Several punch-outs later, Saxon locates Merissa in the local whorehouse, escapes with her but has to mn over Delgado first (Ochoa accepts his plea of self-defense). Meanwhile, Pepe, madly in love with Carmen, admits to killing Rafael and Swanner in order to take over the business and the girl; but Saxon's not buying and, in a long, tell-me-what-happened chat, hears the real instigator's confession. Slicker than its predecessors, with less overheated prose. Not particularly original, but certainly in control of the stereotypes. Overall: fast, violent, and typically hard-boiled. Read full book review >