Herman Jackson has chosen St. Paul as his place of permanent exile from Detroit, 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 brothers bail bond, its really the beginning of an elaborate con game. But the game is barely underway when she is brutally murdered in front of Jacksons 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 cant 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 Coxs 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 doesnt look so dangerous at all.
This uneven debut introduces bail bondsman Herman Jackson, who sees nothing unusual when a woman calling herself Amy Cox comes to his office to arrange bail for her brother. She offers her violin as collateral, claiming it's an Amati worth $60,000 or more. Shortly after handing over the instrument to Jackson and getting a replacement from a nearby pawn shop, Amy is killed and the loaner stolen. Thus begins a wild, extravagant bait-and-switch. To get to the bottom of Amy's death and figure out who's conning him, Jackson must go back 60 years to learn the full story of the violin. The most charming character is a brassy waitress, Rosie, who plays Watson to Jackson's Holmes. Jackson himself is not especially well-developed, and the mystery would be stronger with fewer plot twists. Still, Jackson's location on the edge of the justice system is a good setup for a sequel, and with a bit of seasoning, Thompson may have a successful series on his hands. (Jan.)
Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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Poisoned Pen Press
January 14, 2008
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