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A losing bet triggers a series of events starting in New York City and ending in war-torn Chechnya in this rapid-fire thriller of con men and corruption.

Dr. Preston Leonard is called the “Saint of Chechnya”–he will beg, borrow or steal to get what’s needed for Chechnya’s Mercy Hospital. From dealing with corrupt politicians to working the black market, nobody is better than Dr. Leonard at keeping the hospital running and dealing with the hard-driven characters he encounters. An acknowledged legend, Edward “Silky” Maginess will say anything in his quest to separate people from their money in telemarketing scams. He specializes in soft scams, having given up hard scams (seeking the target’s last nickel) because of the harsh aftermath. When Silky loses large betting on the World Series, he has four weeks to pay up. Only his trademark hard script will work, and Silky has just the ticket: raising money to buy ambulances for Mercy Hospital. Just as he’s ready to clean out and pay up, Postal Inspectors arrest him. The judge decrees that no actual crime was committed, just as long as Silky actually purchases and delivers the ambulances as promised–in person, amidst a war zone, with a mandate to stay and keep the ambulances running for 90 days. “Saint” and “Sinner” meet on the inbound flight, triggering plot lines and motives deftly woven through the first half of the narrative. Plunged into a world where people say one thing, mean another and do something else, Silky feels almost at home–that is, minus the shooting and mine fields. Use a scorecard to keep track as well-defined characters act on mistaken beliefs, and Burkholz peels back layer after layer to reveal countless hidden agendas. Nothing is as it appears, including the “Saint” and the “Sinner.”

Intriguing characters, nonstop action and endless twists and turns make this diverting novel an entertaining adventure.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2005
ISBN: 0-9759883-0-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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