An auspicious series starter that blends murder, bad medicine, and screwed-up family dynamics.

Two Dead and Counting

From the Underdog Detective series

In Schwartz’s debut mystery, an amiable but flawed private investigator finds himself not only in the midst of two complex cases, but also dealing with a midlife crisis.

Former Mississippi policeman Jack Kendall is pushing 40, and all he has to show for his life is a struggling PI practice that specializes in cheating spouses, a dilapidated house, and a 10-year-old Toyota Camry. He’s never found Miss Right because he always pushes women away when the relationships become serious. As he explains to his best friend, Daniel Steinberg: “You know how I get. When she started talking about moving in together, I sent her packing.” Jack’s latest client is Teresa Lindsay, who suspects that her physician husband, Alan, is having an affair. Jack takes on more responsibilities after Daniel dies during elective surgery and an aggressive malpractice attorney, Cedric Johnson, urges Daniel’s widow, Christine, to sue the anesthesiologist. Jack was already planning to investigate Daniel’s death, but he’s also suspicious of the gold-digging lawyer: “No matter how he looked at it, it just seemed sleazy to approach Christine so soon after losing Daniel.” Neither case is as simple as it seems, as two illegitimate children, a spurned nephew, a dead child, and unethical medical experiments soon come into play. Schwartz skillfully weaves a complex mystery that keeps Jack and his helpers, including police captain Kevin Thomas; Johnson’s associate, Joshua “Josh” Royce; and Josh’s former assistant Stacy Young, in the dark for much of the story. He methodically doles out clues, however, so that readers will be likely to reach the solution before the professional and amateur detectives do. Schwartz fleshes out his characters well, making them believable and, in most cases, likable. Even Jack becomes a more evolved human by novel’s end, as he figures out what’s missing in his life. It all adds up to a fast-paced, challenging thriller that shows promise for future volumes of a planned series.

An auspicious series starter that blends murder, bad medicine, and screwed-up family dynamics.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9970965-0-7

Page Count: 398

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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