“Pap-pap, he’s gone! Somebody swiped Bobby Bucco Bear.” I looked at Anna, who was pointing toward the park bench we had just vacated. Her eyes were wide, mouth open as if preparing to scream. “I can’t believe it! Someone took him. We have to find Bobby Bucco!” I grabbed her hand instinctively, gently pulling her closer to me. The ice skaters in the rink stared at the screaming girl being held by the older man.

The Bethel Park High School choir was singing the last verse of “Up on the Rooftop.” Behind them, the brightly lit tree illuminated the somber gray sky of late December.  Fat snowflakes frolicked in midair, offering the hope of a white Christmas. The cool temperature had given Anna’s cheeks a reddish tint that matched the curling red hair escaping from her hat. She made for an adorable picture marred only by the tears forming at the corner of her brown eyes.

Her lower lip quivered. “I’m sorry, Pap-pap. I forgot to bring him when we walked to the skating rink.”

I bent down to look in her misty eyes. “No need to worry. He couldn’t have gone far.” I surveyed the sparse crowd in Market Square. It was mid-morning of Christmas Eve; most downtown workers had forsaken their jobs in favor of an early start to the holiday. My shopping complete, my seven-year-old granddaughter and I had trekked to the Square to view the giant tree and the elaborate street decorations. Her mother had alerted me that Anna had some doubts about Santa Claus. I hoped the scenery would rekindle her spirit.

She had built the brown fuzzy bear for me last Father’s Day. He was dressed in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, the hometown team, accessorized with a cap, glove, and bat. We had agreed that she should care for it on a daily basis. She accepted the chore with enthusiasm.

Anna, breaking her hand from my grip, ran for the bench. She picked up a seven-inch wooden cylinder with the black and gold paw print. “I found his bat,” she squealed. “Mommy says you’re a detective. You find things for people. Can you find Bobby Bucco?” Her jaw tightened and her eyes squinted, letting me know she was determined.

My name is Glenn Beckert, private investigator and owner of Blue Water Security. In the past year, I have been involved in two murder cases, but in the eight years since I opened the firm, I had never tracked a missing bear, real or stuffed. Maybe it was just what I needed. The two murder cases had hardened me. Like Anna, I found myself struggling to enjoy the season.

“Let’s see what we can find, but you have to hold my hand.” She nodded so rapidly, the pom-pom on her hat bobbled. She stuffed the miniature bat in her coat pocket.

The choir had moved on to “Silent Night.” The snow was coming down at a more determined pace, although none had accumulated on the ground. We circled around the skating rink, passing by storefronts. I paused to search into each alleyway, seeing nothing. There was no sign of the brown bear with the white jersey, the front emblazoned with PIRATES across the chest.

Anna had played softball last summer and was infatuated with the game, as her mother and grandfather were. She had heard the stories of our playing days and the generations before her. Anna was now old enough to understand family. She realized that her grandma and I were no longer together. The bear had become her piece of the family tree.

Over my shoulder, I heard the shout, “Hey Beck.”

I turned to face Bernie Allen, a former employee, now a Pittsburgh cop. He approached me. “Merry Christmas. Who’s this cutie with you?”

I introduced Anna.

He was on duty, patrolling the Square. Bernie wore a PPD bomber jacket against the December chill. “So, Anna, are you ready for Santa to come?”

She rolled her eyes as only a seven-year-old can. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Well, I hope he brings what you asked for.” Turning to me, he said, “What’s going on?”

“We’re having a little problem. Have you noticed anyone carrying around a stuffed bear? Anna lost hers.” I described the bear to Bernie.

“No, Sorry. Can’t say that I have. I’ll keep an eye out though.”

“Thanks, Bernie. Have a Merry Christmas.”

We continued walking as lunchtime approached. Hoping to distract Anna’s focus from the bear, I asked, “How about we get something to eat?”

“Yeah, whatever.” She looked up at me with a deep frown, “We’re not going to find Bobby Bucco, are we?” She hung her head and for a second, I thought she might cry.

I bent down and hugged her. “I’m sorry. We may not.” I held her hand as we walked in silence for two blocks.

Anna pulled at my hand and shrieked, “There he is!” She was pointing into the alley between the fast-food restaurant and an office building. Nestled behind a dumpster was that familiar black baseball cap with the golden “P” embroidered on the front, round fuzzy ears poking from the sides. Keeping a firm grasp of Anna’s hand, I cautiously walked toward the dumpster.

Peering behind the trash container, I saw a young boy sleeping with his head resting on the bear for a pillow. He had to be about the same age as Anna. The boy wore a heavily stained dingy jacket, jeans, an oversized knit cap with long blond hair escaping from the edges, and no gloves. I wasn’t certain if the stench originated from the garbage bin or his clothing. I knelt down and gave his shoulder a shake. He woke with a start.

His eyes widened quickly and he started to rise, clinging tightly to the bear. I grabbed him by the arm. He calmly said, “Let go of me or I’ll scream.” He’d been through this before.

Anna chimed in, “You stole Bobby Bucco. He’s mine. Give him back.”

The boy peered around me, noticing Anna for the first time. “You’re not the cops. Who are you?”

“My name is Glenn Beckert. What’s yours?”

“Chris.” He stared intently at me. “Are you going to take me to the cops?”

“Are you in some kind of trouble, Chris?”

“Well, no. My dad always told me don’t trust the cops.”

“Where’s your dad now?”

“He’s gone. The police took him.”

“What about your mom?”

“She died a long time ago from cancer.” He looked away. “Daddy was never happy after that.”

Still kneeling in the filthy alley, my body went limp from the heartache. This boy was homeless, no family to wait on Santa’s arrival with him. His blue eyes were lifeless, no sparkle of Christmas delight. I had to get Chris someplace warm and safe. I loosened my grip on him. “Are you hungry?”

“It’s okay. I wait here until lunch is over and they bring the leftovers out.” Leftovers sounded more appetizing than garbage.

Anna was standing with her fists on her hips, her jaws clamped, staring at Chris. “Are you going to give me back Bobby Bucco Bear?”

I put my hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t we let Chris hold him for a while? Let’s go inside.” They held my hands as we walked around the corner. I ordered kid’s meals and found a table. Chris devoured his food. Anna took the time to dunk her nuggets in the sauce, never taking her eyes off the stuffed animal clutched tightly in Chris’s arm.

After Chris polished off a second order, I endeavored to find out about him. “What’s your last name?”

“Nichols,” he said.

The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t come up with a reason. “Tell me about your dad. Where do you live?”

“We live in Millvale. Dad took me to meet the Pirates players at the baseball show. I got an autographed ball from Andrew McCutchen! We love baseball, especially the Bucs.”

Major League teams have a weekend Fan-Fest every December to keep fans interested during the offseason. The players sign autographs and of course they sell team merchandise and tickets for the upcoming season for Christmas gift giving.

I couldn’t help myself. “A McCutchen autograph. Do you still have the ball?”

He pulled a pristine white ball from his inside jacket pocket. Handing it to me, he said, “Here, take a look.”

Gently I reached for it, careful to touch only the slightly raised red-stitched seams. I spun the sphere to view the scribbled black signature. A shiver ran the length of my spine. The weariness of age was replaced by a childlike astonishment. I showed Anna the signature. Her eyes widened in amazement. Turning to Chris, she said, “Wow! He really signed it?”

“Yeah, and Cutch told me to keep practicing. I could be a player someday.”

I had to get back to Chris’s problem, so I returned the ball. “What happened to your dad?”

“After the show, we got back to the car, he took his meds and fell asleep. He had a sick heart ever since Mom died. I couldn’t wake him up. I went to get help, but no one listened to me. When I went back to the car, there were lots of people there, lots of cops.”

“Why did your dad not like police?”

“Dad didn’t have a job. He was on disability and was afraid they would take me away if he got too sick. I was scared, so I ran. I’ve been hiding ever since. I don’t want to go to jail.”

The story of Kevin Nichols and his missing son had dominated the local news channels the past two weeks. The father was found in the parking lot of the convention center passed out from an overdose of his heart medication. The paramedics had been able to get him to the hospital in time. Kevin Nichols had survived.

The police had been desperately searching for Chris ever since. His grandparents were pleading for the safe return of their grandchild on every public outlet possible. I recalled that his father had been released and was staying with Chris’ grandparents. I decided to say nothing to Chris, in case I was wrong about his father.

“What about the rest of your family?”

“My grandparents live out of town, on Mars, I think. I don’t know how to get there.” He was referring to the town of Mars, PA, a forty-five- minute drive north of the city. “I love Christmas Day at Grandma’s. She makes the best cookies.”

Anna, after listening to Chris’s story, broke her silence. “Pap-pap, we need to take Chris to his grandparents.” Turning to him, she said, “My grandpa is a detective. He can find your grandparents.”

The right thing to do was call the Pittsburgh PD and let them handle it. Given Chris’ fear of the police, that was going to be a problem. I contemplated how to get him to his family. If Children’s Services got hold of Chris, the bureaucratic mess wouldn’t untangle until well after Christmas Day. The media swarm would guarantee no privacy for Chris and his family. I had to avoid the police for the moment. There would be plenty of time for the reporters later.

“Okay, guys. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to take you to my office and we’ll do a search for Chris’s grandparents. Would that be alright, Chris?”

He stared down at the table for a few moments. “Can you do that? Find them for me?”

“We can sure try.”

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the nearly vacant offices of Blue Water Security. Chris, still clinging to Bobby Bucco Bear, stared at the various posters and plaques on the office walls commemorating the numerous Pittsburgh sports championships.

Chris exclaimed, “Wow, are you a baseball fan too, Mr. Beckert?”

“Absolutely. Did your Dad take you to many games?”

“Yea, we went a couple of times. I love baseball, especially the Bucs.” He placed the bear on the couch and sat beside it, Anna staring intently at him.

I was struck by the contrast in clothing of the two. Anna removed her pristine fur-collared coat and placed it on the chair with her hat and gloves. Chris left his stained and pungent jacket on. He had learned quickly to keep his meager belongings close.

I grabbed a couple of juice boxes from the mini-fridge for them. The laptop on my desk was already open. I started a search to locate the grandparents’ name.

Anna joined Chris on the couch. “If you have no home, what do you do all day?”

Chris looked at the bear. “There are no other kids around and I’m afraid of the grown-ups. I mostly hide in alleys during the day until I get hungry. One time, an old lady tried to talk me into coming with her. When I said no, she tried to grab me. I ran.”

“Maybe she was trying to help you.”

“My mom and dad told me to never go anywhere with strangers.”

Anna’s forehead crinkled, realizing the dilemma Chris faced in seeking help.  I interjected, “Why did you come with us?”

Chris twisted his head to the side. “I don’t know for sure. I figure that I had to trust someone. You guys seemed okay.”

Anna asked, “Do you go to school?”

“I don’t know where my school is. I miss my friends and Ms. Rafferty, my teacher. She helps me read fun books. I like the Boxcar Children.

“Really! I like The Babysitter’s Club. Was your mom nice?”

Chris stared into space. “I think so. I don’t remember much except for the pictures in our house. She was always sleepy. Dad said it was the medicine.”

Anna frowned and looked at the floor. “I’m sorry. Did your dad play baseball with you?”

“He did a lot, except he couldn’t play long, said he had to rest his heart. Do you like baseball?”

Anna almost leaped off the couch. “I love it. My mom and Pap-pap play with me too.”

“Can your grandpa find my grandparents?”

“You bet he can, right, Pap-pap?”

I looked away from the laptop screen. “We’re going to do our best. Chris, are your grandparents your mom or dad’s parents?”

“They are my mommy’s parents.”

That’s why I wasn’t finding anything under the name of Nichols. “Do you know their last name?”

“No. They are just Grandpa and Grandma.”

Turning to the computer, I searched the newspaper accounts for the stories about the search for Chris. According the accounts, Kevin Nichols was alive. I found the grandparents’ names, Albert and Helen Powlaski, in addition to public service numbers to report information regarding the missing boy. If I called that number, Chris would be thrown into a circus. I had a better idea.

I had met Irene Schade, a tech wiz, in college and we became friends. Last spring, we became reacquainted working a murder case and had developed a romantic relationship.

She answered the phone immediately. “Hey Beck. I’m looking forward to seeing you later. It’ll be our first Christmas together. How’s your day going?”

I imparted the details of finding Chris. “I want to get him to his grandparents for Christmas so they can enjoy the day before the police are involved. I believe the father is alive and staying with them. Can you help me, honey?”

“Sweet talk will get you anything you want. What about your police buddies? They’re not going to be happy if you don’t turn the boy in.”

“I’m certain they’ll be upset, especially Lieutenant Paglironi. I’m more concerned about Chris. I’ll make sure the police know you had nothing to do with it.”

“What do you need, Beck?”

“See if you can find an address or phone number for the Powlaskis. They probably live near Mars. I searched public listings but could not find anything.”

“Well, it’s not as easy you think, but I can find something. I’ll send you a text. Promise me this won’t interfere with our plans later.”

“No way, dear. I’m looking forward to seeing you.”

I turned my attention to the kids’ conversation. Anna asked, “Where do you go when it rains or snows?”

Chris seemed to welcome talking to someone. He had been avoiding people for two weeks. “I can crawl underneath a garbage dumpster. Nobody bothers me there. When it gets cold, I go to a garage that goes down. It’s warmer there, I miss my bed though. My dad always read me stories at bedtime, usually about baseball.”

“Weren’t you lonely?”

He turned his head, staring out the window. “Yeah. I was really lonely and scared. I cried a lot. Dad said it was okay for boys to cry. He cried a lot when Mommy left.”

Chris’s father was correct: It was alright to cry. Tears were dripping from the corner of my eyes. My cell phone buzzed with the phone number from Irene.

Ten minutes later, I was on the road to Mars with Anna and Chris in the backseat. The two chattered about movies, school, and video games, Chris still clinging to Bobby Bucco Bear. His grandparents knew we were on the way. Chris’s father wanted to surprise him, so I remained quiet. They shared my desire to keep the matter from the public until after the holiday. I had called Anna’s parents, telling them we would be delayed, but in plenty of time for dinner.

The snow was falling heavier as we left the city. A white powder covered the grassy areas, but the roads were wet. The Powlaski’s home was an older, but well-kept, Cape Cod. Pine trees lined the side yard to the right. I had barely parked in the drive when the couple came rushing out the front door to greet their grandson. With the aid of a cane, Kevin Nichols hobbled behind them.

It was several minutes before the group disentangled. Mr. Nichols, with tears still streaming down his cheeks, turned to me. “How can I ever thank you, Mr. Beckert?”

“It’s Beck. There are no thanks necessary. I’m just glad he’s with his family for Christmas.”

He choked back a sob. “You know, somehow, we just knew he would be home in time for Christmas. We have presents under the tree for him. Would you and Anna like to come in for some punch and cookies?”

“Thanks, but no, although I hear the cookies are great. Anna’s parents are expecting her.” Despite the brisk air, I was feeling only warmth. “It looks like Santa brought your wish.” We agreed to meet after things settled down.

Chris ran back to my car and retrieved the stuffed bear. He took it to Anna, holding it out. “Here is your bear. Thanks for letting me use him. Bobby Bucco Bear felt like Dad was with me.”

Anna looked at me with a questioning expression. I nodded. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the miniature bat. She smiled and held out the bat. “No, you keep him. He kept you safe like your Daddy. Merry Christmas!” She had a big smile.

“Really! Gee thanks.” He pulled the autographed ball from his jacket and offered it to Anna. “I know you and your grandpa like Cutch. Merry Christmas to you.” They hugged warmly.

On the drive to her house, the frown had returned to Anna’s face. Twirling the ball in her hands, she asked, “Pap-pap, is there a Santa Claus?”

“Yes Anna. There is a Santa Claus. Like the baby whose birthday we celebrate tonight, Santa loves everybody. That means Santa’s heart is really, really, really big. It’s so big, he has to share it with other people.”

She turned abruptly; eyes wide in amazement. “Is that why there are Santa’s helpers?”

“Sure. Today you become Santa’s helper.”

I glanced at her in the passenger seat. Her smile was wide and her eyes sparkled with joy. I glimpsed in the rearview mirror and to my surprise, I had the same smile.

Don’t Play Small

What is your deepest fear as a writer? Are we afraid to expose our writing to anxious readers? Does the fear of criticism hold us back?

Our necks are on the line every time we put our written words out in the world. As soon as we start writing, the self-doubt begins. Hunched over a keyboard the writer tells their story. Every word choice, syntax, comma, and dialogue produce heart palpitations. Eventually we reach completion. Yet, despite our diligence, the feeling of imperfection persists.

What is your deepest fear? This question was posed by Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course on Miracles. However, the quote is commonly associated with the movie, Coach Carter.

In the heart of an undefeated season, Coach Carter locks the gym when his players have failed to fulfill their academic contract. The players reluctantly comply, despite an outraged community. The confrontation persists until the school board votes to reopen the gym. The Coach resigns.

Throughout the season, Carter had challenged troubled player, Timo Cruz with the question “What is your deepest fear?” As the coach spoke to the team before leaving, Cruz answered the question.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that our people won’t feel insecure around you. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Don’t play small. Write your best story and let the world know. I guarantee that not all readers will like it. Stand back, welcome constructive suggestions and improve. Ignore those who play small. They haven’t faced their greatest fear.

A link to Marianne Williamson’s full quote.


The movie clip from Coach Carter


What A Character

What a character! When using this phrase, we know what that means to us. Character is an umbrella for the temperament, morality, personality, and so much more of an individual. These are the tools writers use to craft a story.

In a murder mystery, believable characters are essential to move the plot. Every possible plot has already been written. Intrigue and suspense depend on the reader identifying with believable heroes, villains, and supporting cast. We painstakingly craft the many facets of each person we introduce to our story.

How does an author develop believable characters?

Do not make the person perfect, introduce flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections. Each potential suspect has a secret to hide, contributing to the suspense. Characters must demonstrate a personality through their actions and in their dialogue. The protagonist can even be disliked by the reader, as long as the reader cares about them and their success.

A well-developed character will lead the writer through each scene. Several times I froze when writing Dead Air, stuck in a scene not knowing where to go. I was trying to think for Beck, determine his next step. When I allowed Beck to do the thinking, the story moved on. I had to let him solve the crime in his own way.

Pay attention to your characters and readers will be saying “What a character.”

Taking Second Base

Writing is hard! We struggle over the keyboard searching for the right words, the perfect combinations, coherent sentences. When the story is finished, we realize it’s not perfect. There is editing and revisions to slog through. Once it is completed what happens next.

All too often the beginning writer closes the file allowing it to drift in cyber obscurity. Maybe they take the time to show it to a friend or a significant other. Certainly not another writer, agent, or publisher. The author is not willing to take the risk, whether it be criticism or accolades. The fear of taking a risk stifles far too many potentially good writers.

I took a break the other day to watch the movie Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt. It was about Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team. He defied conventional baseball theories and built a team based on statistical analysis rather than traditional baseball wisdom. The A’s made the playoffs that year, only to lose in the first round.

Beane was despondent afterwards. The character played by Jonah Hill showed him a video of Jeremy Brown, a 240-pound minor league catcher who was afraid to run to second base. Jeremy hit a fastball to deep center, this time determined to make it to second. His head down, running as fast as he could, he rounded first, tripped and fell. You could see the old fears in his face as he scrambled and crawled back to first base. The crowd was laughing because Jeremy did not realize he had hit the ball sixty feet over the centerfield wall for a home run.

Jeremy beat his fears and took the risk. In baseball if you succeed thirty percent of the time, you’re in the Hall of Fame.  As writer, our success rate may not be that high. If you fail to take the chance, there will be a zero-success rate.

As a writer I’ll always try to take second base.

The Mystery of Writing a Mystery Novel

All stories are mysteries.  Will star-crossed lovers live happily ever after or not?  Will the Empire survive or be conquered?  Will the hero hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth or strikeout?  All are unknown to the reader. The reader is induced to finish the book to find the answer.

I prefer to write murder mysteries. They can occur anywhere, committed by anyone, in any time in history. The selection of scenes, characters and plot are diverse. The characters can be cunning, stupid, disgusted, charming, confused, and down-right angry. The motives explore a wide range of human behavior and emotions. The possibilities for a compelling story are endless.

How does someone get started creating a masterpiece? Writing a novel is not that hard. Your first sentence has to be the best you’ve ever written. Every sentence after that has to be better.

The mystery writer starts with an idea, someone is killed for an unknown reason. Some authors like to work from an outline. I am what is known as a pantser, writing by the seat of their pants. I sit down and start writing.

A plot is the first step, keeping in mind there is no plot that hasn’t been already done. Plots can be update by new technologies, advanced weapons, and forensic improvements. It still boils down to the motive for murder. Possible motives fall into three categories, love, greed, and to cover up a crime.

Love can include jealousy, infidelity, or the woman scorned. The reason is still connected to a love relationship. An inheritance, a theft, a business takeover can all be classified as greed. Also, the opportunity to deprive someone of a treasure can be greed. Covering up a crime is simply a case of the victim knowing too much.

Plot is only a part of the story. An intriguing saga is built by the development of characters, setting, and action. Authors rely heavily on one of three to attract the readers.

In Dead Air: A Glenn Beckert Mystery, I focused on the characters. The story is set in Pittsburgh, almost becoming a character itself. Creating suspense requires action scenes. Beck is compelled to confront increasingly physical challenges, placing himself outside his comfort zone.

The creation of characters can be the most daunting challenge facing a novice writer. They must be believable, not robotic. The main character must be someone the reader wants to succeed. The protagonist does not necessarily have to be likeable. He can even be disliked. The hero must have a personal flaw that complicates his search for justice. The writer has to resolve the flaw in a manner that allows the hero to solve the case.

Secondary characters need to be equally developed. They assist the investigator, on occasion providing the critical clue. In my novel, I use Irene, a tech wizard, to assist Beck and provide romantic tension. A former teammate and police Lieutenant becomes a competitive antagonist. These people provide an opportunity to tell back story to better illuminate the characters.

Walk-on individuals need proper attention as well. Although their appearance may be brief, I like to give them a full name and describe their appearance. This assists the reader to envision the scene, becoming a part of the action.

Characters should drive a novel. The original plot for Dead Air contained a victim, killer, and PI. I followed the lead of Beck and found out that the killer I envisioned was indeed innocent. Imagine an ending that surprises the reader and the writer.

My First Review

This is the first review of my new novel DEAD AIR

Full Text: 4 and 1 / 2 stars

     Investigator and owner of Blue Water Security Glenn “Beck” Beckert finds his friend Richie Zito dead at his radio station Z-Rock. One of his operatives was there at the time. Glenn feels that his employee is not telling the truth. Richie’s brother Ron is also at the station. 

     When the police arrive, Beck has mixed feelings to find his old teammate Lieutenant >>>>> “Pags” Paglironi is in charge of the case. Initially shut out by Pags, he learns later that Pags wants his help. Together they will investigate the case.

     The widow Geraldine “Gerry” is naturally a suspect. She and Richie had what one might call an “open” marriage. They each had several sexual partners. Gerry is currently involved with a man called Vince Coleman. Beck suspects him of something. He and Gerry have a large connection to a local organization that provides assistance to the blighted areas of Pittsburgh. 

     An encrypted file is found on Richie’s computer. Pags slyly slips Beck a copy of it and he takes it to Irene Schade who is an old love interest and a computer hacker. When the file is finally opened, it turns out to be a spreadsheet showing large money transactions between this organization and several offshore banks. Beck believes it is money laundering. Meanwhile he is being followed. He gets a beating in a parking lot. I appreciate the way in which Beck just didn’t bounce back up and keep going. It’s nice when the hero acts like normal people who would take a beating and hurt for days afterward.

     Irene and Beck are being followed. A police officer was able to get the license number of the car and Pags tells Beck who it was. He then visits the man and does some rough talking. After Beck tells Gerry about the file she disappears. Is she afraid for herself or is she protecting someone else?

     When Mr. Jenkins the head of the organization that is running the scheme is also killed the tension ratchets up. Beck must find Gerry. He and Irene think they’ve located her and then all hell breaks loose. 

     The name of the murderer is somewhat of a surprise, but Mr. Protzman gave sufficient clues towards the end of the book to give it away.

     This is a remarkable book for a first time author. It is both very well written and plotted. It read linearly and made sense every step of the way. It had just the right amount of tension and delivered it at the appropriate times. Sufficient background was given on the main characters, but not so much that it intruded on the story line. I truly enjoyed the novel. I am very much looking forward to reading more of his work.