Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Fiddle Game by Richard A. Thompson

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Fiddle Game by Richard A. Thompson. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Fiddle Game by Richard A. ThompsonBuy from Amazon.com
Fiddle Game by
A Herman Jackson Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-455-4 (1590584554)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-455-2 (9781590584552)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Herman Jackson has chosen as his place of permanent exile from , where his former life as a bookie got too hot to hold. Now he leads a respectable, low-profile life as a bail bondsman, selling second chances to losers and looking over his shoulder. When a young woman named Amy Cox leaves Jackson a priceless antique violin as security for her brother’s bail bond, it’s really the beginning of an elaborate con game. But the game is barely underway when she is brutally murdered in front of Jackson’s office. And for reasons that make no sense, the police are calling him the prime suspect. That is, unless he gives them the violin “as evidence.”

With his criminal past, Jackson can’t afford to be a prime suspect for jaywalking. But neither is he prepared to give in to extortion. Soon he is on the road and on the run, trying to solve Amy Cox’s murder, pursued by one real and one crooked cop, a band of urban Gypsies who claim to have first rights to the violin, and an unknown killer who also wants Jackson dead. Nobody is who he claims to be, nothing is what it seems, and the violin, which is reputed to carry a 400-year-old curse, begins to take on a life of its own. While Jackson tries to sort it all out, the killing continues, and suddenly his old life back in Detroit doesn’t look so dangerous at all.

Review: Fiddle Game is Robert A. Thompson's first mystery that introduces Herman Jackson, a bail bondsman living in St. Paul, and it is a winner. Jackson is someone who is smart enough to stay just above the law but not quite smart enough that the police keep an eye on him.

Jackson generally leads a quiet life. That is, until one day when Amy Cox came in for an $18,000 bond for her brother Jimmy. She has no cash, but she's willing to put up something worth far more, a 400-year-old Amati violin with a certificate of authenticity. Together, Amy and Jackson visit a pawn shop when they receive the necessary cash. After the transaction is complete, Amy leaves Jackson's office and is killed by a hit-and-run driver. To Jackson's surprise, the police accuse him of murdering Amy, and want him to turn over the violin as part of their investigation.

And so begins a thrilling, cross-country adventure as Jackson uses numerous fake IDs to keep one step ahead of the people following him, at least one of which wants him dead. He takes off for Seattle, and then rents a car to Arizona where he meets his incarcerated uncle who advises him to have piece of pecan pie at local cafe. Be sure to ask for Rosie. Rosie's pecan pie is actually a selection of guns, and she accompanies Jackson to the suburb of Skokie which has a large gypsy population. As a band of gypsies have claimed the Amati was theirs to begin with, Jackson thinks he'll find the answers there to all his questions, and who killed Amy Cox.

Fiddle Game is a face-paced caper that keeps the reader guessing as to what happens next. The characters are original and well drawn; each has a bit of a rough side and no one is quite who they seem on the surface. Though the plot moves along at breakneck speed, the writing is surprisingly well balanced, especially for a first novel.

If Thompson can continue this level of excellence in subsequent books, this will definitely be a series to look forward to. In the meantime, enjoy Fiddle Game; it's a real treat.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Fiddle Game and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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