Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

You Can’t Walk Away From the War, June 1, 2012


Patricia H. Parker “Bookwoman”

This review is from: Getting Dunn (Paperback)

T. J. Dunn has seen much more of life than most women her age. Right out of college, she went on active duty as an Army Lieutenant in Iraq. When we first meet her, she is traveling in a UAH along a street in an Iraqi town. Her unit is attacked, they find themselves surrounded, and her Platoon Sergeant is shot in the head right next to her. She realizes that the unit’s 50 calibre gun is running low on ammunition, and the only supplies are strapped to the outside of the UAH. As she crawls out on the outside of the vehicle, she is shot in the arm and falls off onto the road, out in the open, and she knows she is going to die. As she watches her vehicle pull away from her, leaving her all alone, it explodes.

The reader next finds T. J., still in a drugged fog, in the hospital, three days later. The chaplain and one of her and her fiancé’s best friends, David Strickland, come to her, and she knows they bring news that her whole unit was killed in the explosion of the UAH. However, they also bring the news that her fiancé, Captain David Halle, has committed suicide. T.J and David were not stationed together, but he was also on active duty in Iraq. She is confused and distraught. Captain Halle was not the type to commit suicide. Also, he is the second man close to her who has taken this action. Her father, also an Army Officer, had committed suicide, without warning, a few years earlier.

Having been released from active duty, we find T.J. a year later, having run away from everything and everyone from her past, working as a stripper in a bar in Albany, New York and spending her spare time as a volunteer on a Suicide Hotline for a local charity.. She has no friends and keeps to herself. A few of the dancers and a couple of the other volunteers have become acquaintances, but she doesn’t let them get close, and she never speaks about her past. However, her past haunts her, and she is in counseling to help with the pain, but, to her, this is a new day, and she doesn’t want to even consider the old ones. Then, one night, she looks up during her performance, and thinks she sees David Strickland in the crowd. She looks for him later, but he has disappeared. From that point on, the story gets deeper and murkier. She finally realizes that, for some unknown reason, someone is trying to kill her, and it has something to do with Iraq, David’s suicide and secrets she may or may not know.

“Getting Dunn” is an intriguing book with a thrilling story. The reader is led from one point to another until the truth is laid out and the secrets are revealed. It is a well constructed tale with T. J. not knowing which are the good guys and which the bad until the very end. Mr. Schreck has written some other books which have won top awards in their genre. I recommend this book highly as it never lets up, and there are no down spots as this young woman fights her way back to some semblance of normalcy in a life which hadn’t known much up until that time.

This review is from: Getting Dunn (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

Good story and really appropriate for the time and generation. The mental health issues are brought out with compassion and frustration. T.J. is a perfect example of someone using their physical body to cover the emotional and mental damage done to them through no fault of their own.

Unfortunately, the bad guys are probably our neighbors and friends because they wear friendly faces. I will definately go looking for this authors other books.

Tom Schreck Brings It! Not a disappointment as usual, May 17, 2012
This review is from: Getting Dunn (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

Although tough, TJ Dunn knew the risk when she entered the army. Her team is ambushed in Iraq and when she’s the only survivor left, albiet physically and mentally tramatized she also finds out her fiance has taken his life.

When she comes back home, she drifts through life depressed and then she gets this anonymous call who says maybe her guy didn’t kill himself. Maybe the government or somebody else is making it look like suicide to cover up some drug conspiracy.

Life jumps back into her and she sets out to find the killer.

This was the second book by Schreck and I was burning the midnight reading this suspense! Good job … again!!

Ex-military topless pole dancer? Why not?, June 7, 2012

Unaccustomed as I am to heroines who relieve stress by kick-boxing, and then head for an establishment called “Taco” to entice men by topless pole dancing, I must admit that I was able to relate eventually. What makes this unusually interesting is that Dunn is experiencing a devastating grief for both her father and her love, who were both in the service, and who both committed suicide. The act was not something she would have thought either of them capable of – so something else was going on. She makes it her business to find out – all the while, in grief counseling with a psychiatrist who plumbs her depths with great professional precision. This process is aided by an author, who, himself, is a psychologist – so it’s all very real.

I must admit, the pages were turning and I did get caught up in the intrigue. This novel wasn’t the best of its kind – but it was a departure from the usual – and I celebrate a plot that is creative. If you like tough heroines (I wouldn’t want to meet this one in a dark alley), you might consider this novel a “diamond in the rough”.


Great!, March 28, 2012


Richard A. Mitchell “Rick Mitchell” (candia, new hampshire United States) – See all my reviews

Other reviewers have compared Mr. Schreck to Coben and Parker. They are absolutely right. He is definitely in that league. I was shocked this is his third book. I immediately went and bought his first. This book has all the humor, intelligence and human warmth of their best stuff.

This book has a few intrigues going on at once. Like the best of Parker and Coben, Schreck’s main character, the professional sparring partner and social worker, Duffy Dombrowski, is well-developed and with great depth. This enables the plot to include some real human interest elements to go with the humor and the mysteries.

Although classified as a mystery, this is not a standard whodunit. Duffy is going through life in his usual take-it-as-it-comes manner. There is a parallel under story of murders of Mexicans in Las Vegas, but this does not impact him for quite some time. For most of the book, Duffy is dealing with the vagaries of being employed by the Russian mob.

There is a lot of good humor here to go with the good story lines. Duffy’s “posse” of four, who normally don’t leave their usual bar stools is priceless. Their conversations are laugh out loud funny while being perfectly believable despite their absurdity. Duffy’s bassett hound, Al, adds to the book in unforeseen ways.

I have only one caution. In the first 60 or so pages, there was a lot of scatological humor that would put a 14 year old boy on his knees with guffaws, but not so much for adults. I was pleased and relieved that after that start, the humor became much richer.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough for a good fun read.

“Just Knockdown Refreshing”, April 17, 2012


John Mercier

I gave this story five stars because it was so refreshing in the truest sense of the word. The main character, Duffy Dombrowski, is the most likeable boxer that you could ever meet; being a social worker might have something to do with him being a people person. He helps people all throughout the story and being a professional heavyweight boxer and black belt in martial arts he is really able to help in some rough situations.

Duffy works as a social worker in upstate New York, but because he is a decent “South-Paw” boxer he is offered a chance to go to Vegas to spar with a Russian boxing heavyweight to get him ready for a championship bout for the best money that he has ever made. Of course he can’t turn it down; he just has to get out of going to a social work training camp in the Catskills. With Duffy where there is a will, there is a way. Nothing is ever simple for Duffy and his big heart and since he gets a whole house to live in at a “Brothel” he invites four of his friends to come on out. Oh yeah he couldn’t leave his basset hound, Al behind either. It’s so funny how he gets Al there. While in Vegas, Duffy helps out prostitutes, illegal, and legal Mexicans, with the help of Al, of course.

Duffy’s character reminds me of Nelson Demille’s John Corey, who always keeps me laughing. Tom Schreck is a very good story teller and his words go smoothly onto the paper and back to this reader’s mine to create a very refreshing story. I am going to read the two previous Duffy Dombrowski novels, since this one was so enjoyable. Like the author, Tom Schreck, I live in the Albany, NY area.

A Real Page Turner, May 30, 2012


Chris Warren

This is the first Tom Schreck book that I have read. I found ‘The Vegas Knockout’ to be a highly readable, funny and action-packed read with a very human element to it. The characters in general were very interesting, and Duffy Dombrowski, the main antagonist, was a flawed but likeable man’s man that would not be far out of place in a Hemmingway novel. I recommmend this light, highly entertaining book as the perfect laying on the beach with an adult beverage type read.

Loved It – Want More!, April 3, 2012


Brenda Frank “Eclectic Reader”

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

This is my first Tom Schreck/Duffy book, and I loved it. J.A. Konrath who writes the Jack Daniels series is one of my favorite authors. Konrath’s stories are irreverent, funny (sometimes on a juvenile level) and the good guys win. Tom Schreck is a likely winner for me since he has collaborated with Konrath to write: “Planter’s Punch,” encompassing both the boxing and the mixed drink themes.

Consider Al, a “rescue” basset hound given anthropomorphic qualitites. like dogs and stories including dogs as characters. Al is a hoot and gave me many laugh out loud moments. Duffy, the lead character, is a boxer, sort of. He’s really hired as a sparring partner for really good boxers. Basically, he’s paid to be a piece of meat to pummel. More important, Duffy is a really good guy prone to help the needy.

Adventures ensue in Los Vegas, in a brothel, in the gym, in the ring, and in the casinos. There are subplots, tearful and touching moments, lots of jabs, hooks and low blows. In the end, of course, the good guys win and happiness prevails. It works for me.

Vegas Knock Out, June 26, 2012


Rebecca Townsend (Indianapolis, IN United States) – This review is from: The Vegas Knockout (Paperback)

Tom Schreck landed the perfect punch with Vegas Knock Out. His cast of babes, boxers and bassets grabbed quick attention, which was held by a rampaging murderer, a damsel in distress and a loud, ugly Russian in need of a good smack down. Schreck admitted to encountering a seeming impasse during his writing process. Glad he got over it. Maybe Elvis is watching over him with a little help from Boggsy.The Vegas Knockout

Exceeds Expectations…Once Again, June 21, 2012


Abby Mead “Abby” (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Once again, another fantastic book from Tom Schreck.

His narrative and writing style makes it seem that you’re right there in his head while he’s writing it. It’s as if while you’re reading it, you can imagine how a film version would be.

It’s great to see Al, Duffy & the gang back, because, honestly, I was going through withdrawal. If you haven’t bought this book yet, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice. I think that this is the best one yet.

The Vegas Knockout

Short chapters full of suspense!, June 9, 2012


Kat “kttykat16” (San Francisco, CA) – See all my reviews

This is a great book and and easy read. With an eclectic cast of characters and 80 short chapters full of suspense, author Tom Schreck shows you the life of Duffy Dombrowski and Al, the basset hound and side-kick. Duffy is a social worker and professional boxing sparing partner who encounters the Russian mob, prostitution rings, illegal immigration and of course murder. If you love Vegas, boxing, or Basset hounds you’ll love this book even more. Chapter 7, and 13 and 14 where so funny I had to share those chapters with my wife and she was just as amused as I was. This is my first of the Duffy Dombrowski series and I jumped in not even realizing that there were three previous books. Tom knows his audience and how to appeal to the masses, with his master’s degree in psychology he keeps you reading, in fact after the first few chapters it was difficult to put the book down until I was finished.

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This One’s Got A Strong Heart And A Nerve Of Steel, May 15, 2012


W. Dolan (USA)

This review is from: The Vegas Knockout (Paperback)

I’m a fight fan, a rockabilly fan and rescue dog fan (anything with a white tipped tail and an annoying howl will do) so it was inevitable I’d find Tom Schreck’s ‘Duffy’ series.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the Duffy books and looked forward to reading ‘The Vegas Knockout’ since I heard about it.

The new setting opened up avenues that couldn’t be traveled back East. I liked the change of scenery and Las Vegas was a natural place for a fighter to end up.

Duff and Al have their usual dynamic that I’ve found hilarious and spot-on. Some of Al’s this-must-be-comic-relief-made-up-for-a-work-of-fiction antics are anything but fantastic. Live with a basset and you’ll laugh as you mentally commiserate with Duff (and know (some of) this stuff ain’t made up).

Happily, “The Fearsome Foursome” make their way to Glitter Gulch to hang out with Duffy. They are regulars at the bar back home and their conversations kill me every time. They’re the scene-stealers in all the Duffy books, IMO.

‘TVKO’ isn’t all fun, fluff an’ fightin’, though. Racism and nationalistic xenophobia figure into the story as well and the morality themes aren’t as subtle as in earlier editions of the Duffy Dombrowski series.

Not to worry, there’re hookers, mobsters, fights and breathless running through the streets of Sin City for you action hounds, too. It *is* a whodunit, after all.

I won’t go into the nuts & bolts of the story- Amazon’s ‘Book Description’ gives you that.

I can’t not mention the old stage hand at the Imperial, though. My favorite part of the story, and the parts I found most touching, involved him. Duffy (or is it Al?) is the hero we love and root for but the old timer gives TVKO huge added touches of heart and humanity.


Every thing you could want in a book., June 11, 2012


Siobhan Bourbeau (Billerica, MA USA) –

Another great book by Tom Schreck. I’ve been waiting anxiously for another Dombrowski book and this one did not disappoint. The story takes Duffy to Vegas for the opportunity of a life time and of course his best 4 legged friend, Al and the 4some have to come along as well. As a basset hound owner I found myself laughing out loud at Duffy and Al’s journey through the airport. The book delivered it usual great story line, filled with humor and suspense. Tom has a way of really bringing his characters to life and making you care about what happens to them. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down, I need to know how it ended.

Life imitates art imitates life


M. Hegeman (New York State)

This review is from: The Vegas Knockout (Paperback)

I’m also a social worker, drug counselor, Elvis lover, rescued basset hound parent. I don’t punch or get punched as a side job, but other than that have found my Doppelganger in Duffy Dombrowski. The scenes at his job, as a hapless therapist trying to help people who are too messed up to see how messed up they are, are bittersweet funny and true. Duffy has wit, good sense, and a heart for helping others. Plus he’ll kick your ass if he has to.

Schreck has created an original, endearing character. Duffy doesn’t want trouble; he’d just like to do his job, hang with his friends, and tend to his dog. But if you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place. Duffy is a reluctant hero; often as not he’s literally pulled into his adventures by his rambunctious basset hound, Al. But once he’s in, Duffy is in all the way, and the reader cheers him on.

Enjoy your wild ride with Duffy and Al. I defy you to read the scene at the airport check-in without laughing out loud!


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Jen Forbus is one of my absolute best friends in the book business. I know, as a writer, I’m not alone, either. When I finally got to meet Jen at Bouchercon last year I noticed the steady stream of authors who flocked to give her a hug.

Her blog,, is far more than a review site. It’s more like a tribute to everything in crime fiction. Her Six-Word Memoir project has drawn authors from near and far, from the biggest names to, well, names like mine. It’s worth a trip just to see it but while you’re there be careful, you can lose hours.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my first installment of Reviewing the Reviewers, fittingly with Jen Forbus.

1. What really gets you interested in a mystery?

Great characters definitely hook me in any book, but especially in a mystery. I want to care what happens to them. They can be repulsive villain-type characters and I want to see justice or they can be strong protagonists that I’m rooting for. I also appreciate characters who are witty or smart or both.

For me to care about what’s going on in the book, I first have to care about the people the action is happening to and around.

2. What bores the hell out of you?

The same old, same old. When it feels like the same plot is being re-enacted, just in a new location or with new supporting characters, I lose interest. Some people feel comfort in that; they know what to expect from their favorite writers, but I prefer when my favorite writers challenge me and surprise me.

Alafair Burke, Jen and Me in Milwaukee last month

I’m also not a big fan of gratuitous sex, violence or profanity in the books. If it serves no more purpose in the plot than to show how macho the protagonist is, it doesn’t need to be there. If it’s obvious that it’s serving a purpose in the overall scheme of things, I appreciate it. But violence for the sake of violence is offensive and insulting.

3. What cliches would you really like to see go away?

Probably my biggest turnoff cliché-wise is the damsel in distress. The woman who is so helpless that she needs the strapping hero to save her from life’s evils. And while I see less of that – maybe because I purposely stay away from it – I do still see it on occasion. There’s nothing wrong with having a great male protagonist. Some of my favorite characters are male. But, don’t make the females helpless. They’re allowed to be smart or funny or talented. They don’t have to be beautiful, dumb or helpless. They CAN help save the day and they don’t have to be every hero’s Achilles heel.

But, on the flip side, I’m also turned off by the female character who hates all men. Just strike a good, realistic balance.

4. What topics, themes etc would you like to see more of in mysteries?

I don’t like to see a lot of any one thing. I enjoy variety and uniqueness. I’ve been surprised at topics I’ve taken an interest in because the writers handled them so well. That’s one of the joys of reading, having your world open up to new ideas and concepts.


5. What mistakes do you think authors make?

I would never presume to know what makes the publishing industry tick and what mistakes authors do or don’t make in that realm. As a reader, what makes me stop reading an author is when he/she becomes formulaic. There are several very popular authors that I don’t read for that reason. Since they’re making the best seller lists, I don’t guess they’re actually making mistakes since they’re selling books, but I don’t read them.

Michael Connelly made the statement that publishing involves a great deal of luck. There are many, many talented writers but it’s often some element of luck that raises one above others. So, I guess you could be doing all the right things and just never walk under that lucky star.

6. Do you write? Would you like to?

Not beyond my blog. I’ve never felt like there was an idea or concept that I really needed to turn into a story. Maybe if that ever happened I might. But I prefer to be the reader and to talk about books with other people.

7. Who are your favorites?

Wow! Answering this one better not get me into trouble.  The two people I always credit with hooking me on the genre are Robert Crais and Linda Fairstein, so they definitely are favorites. Alafair Burke absolutely writes my favorite female protagonist, Ellie Hatcher, so she has to be on my list. Michael Koryta is simply amazing. Gregg Hurwitz and Marcus Sakey are my favorite thriller writers. People will often hear me say that I think James Lee Burke is one of the greatest living American writers today. And the folks I will always spend money on to get their books right away: Chris Grabenstein, Craig Johnson, Louise Penny, Tom Schreck, Craig McDonald, Kathy Reichs. An author I really like but he hasn’t published anything for awhile is Thomas Holland. And this past year I was introduced to and fell in love with the works of Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman.

A couple of writers who had their debut novels in 2009 and who I believe will join the ranks of my favorites are Sophie Littlefield and Brad Parks.

If you ever asked me to pick just one, I’d not be able to do it. These are all favorites for all different reasons. They are all amazingly talented writers. I’m so thankful that they do what they do.





8. Why did you start reviewing? If you really hate a book will you still review it?

I just wrote about this question recently. As odd as it may sound, I started reviewing because I left the classroom. I was a high school English teacher and when I left the classroom and didn’t have a daily opportunity to talk about books, I felt a real void. So, I started talking about books on a blog. It was purely for selfish reasons, so when CRIMESPREE contacted me about submitting reviews to the magazine, I was extremely flattered.

If I really hate a book, I won’t review it. I don’t think there’s any benefit in that. I want to encourage people to read, not discourage them from it. And I have absolutely nothing to prove by being snarky or mean. If there are minor elements that didn’t sit well with me, I’ll mention them in a review.  But if my overall reaction was, “god, this is terrible,” no, I won’t review that.

Read more Reviewing the Reviewers here.

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There’s a lot of bullshit communicated about successfully writing a novel. if you heed much of it you’ll get paralyzed and never be able to finish your own work of fiction.

The truth is that writing a book isn’t joining the Marines, it isn’t Transcendental Meditation nor is it discovering cold fusion. It has more to do with cleaning your basement, building a bird house or creating a garden in your backyard.

In other words it involves some planning, some trial and error and quite a bit of time on task.

It doesn’t require any of this crap:

Large amounts of uninterrupted time in a beautiful oak paneled office.

I write before my day job in between hound bays and getting up every 7 minutes to act as the uniformed doorman for my three four legged VIPs

You must have a completely formed idea, outlined neatly with Roman numerals, bullet points and color coded categories.

Actually, you need an idea. Then another idea of where to go. Do that for 300 pages and you get a book.

You can’t start your book until you go on police ride-a-longs, volunteer on the local SWAT team or travel to Rome to interview the custodian at the Vatican for your story background.

This is fiction. You make this shit up. Read an article, go to Wikipedia and then start writing.

You must write only when the muse comes to visit you.

Good luck with that. It’s plain crap.

You can’t finish because you’re blocked.

You’re not a colon and you don’t get blocked. You stop working. If what comes next to you isn’t obvious then you have to problem solve, do some trial and error and rewrite. It’s work.

For more blogs on writing click here.

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Are you thinking:

There’s only a few days left. I didn’t accomplish anywhere near my goal.

Are you like the guy who does P90x for 89 days and feels like a loser? The guy who doesn’t drink 364 days and takes one drink and immediately labels himself an incurable alcoholic?

All or nothing thinking, perfectionism–whatever you call it –not because we’re not being kind to ourselves but because it is self-defeating.

The point of NaNoWriMo is to jumpstart you and to get you started. Developing a demanding all-or-nothing attitude isn’t the point. Stay disciplined, don’t goof off and avoid excuses but when fallibility gets in the way don’t use it as an excuse to quit.

Got it? Good. Ass on chair, fingers on keyboard. Type!

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Hard luck fighter, Duffy Dombrowski, his low-riding basset side kick Al and the boys from AJ’s Bar got some exciting news this week.

Their next adventure, THE VEGAS KNOCKOUT will be published by Amazon’s new mystery publishing line THOMAS & MERCER! T & M already features the work of Ed McBain and authors like JA Konrath and Barry Eisler.

Amazon announced the creation of Thomas & Mercer this past May and it has already garnered a lot of attention in the publishing world as the “Seventh” of the “Big Six” publishers. You can read about T & M here.

In THE VEGAS KNOCKOUT, Al and the boys join Duff for his sparring partner gig in Vegas with the Russian-mob handled heavyweight contender. But while Duff gets one low blow after another in the ring he gets focused on the serial killings of The Strip’s Mexican street workers. Add in some boxing murders, a virgin-prostitute auction, an evil Elvis impersonator, Jerry Number Two’s disappearance and Al’s affection for the working girls and you got yourself the most exciting, raw and satisfying Duffy yet.

THOMAS & MERCER will release THE VEGAS KNOCKOUT as a trade paperback and a Kindle E-book on May 15, 2012.

You can pre-order it here.

THOMAS & MERCER also will be releasing the new mystery, GETTING DUNN. TJ Dunn is fresh out of Iraq suffering with PTSD and grieving the loss of her military fiance to suicide. She drifts into her own world of volunteering on a suicide hotline, exploring her pain in therapy and making a living as an exotic dancer. When she starts to get calls on the hotline warning her that the military suicides she’s hearing about aren’t suicides at all, she’s troubled. When her fiance’s best friend shows up out of nowhere she’s frightened and when she hears about heroin trade that was making corrupt military officers rich, she’s enraged. She decides to fight and go after those responsible for her pain.

Along the way she also runs into a certain left-handed boxer with a basset hound and a penchant for Schlitz.

GETTING DUNN will be released July 31, 2012. You can pre-order it here.

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Today marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month– a cool idea that focuses aspiring writers on getting a 50,000 word project out of their head and down on paper.

It’s a great way to fight procrastination and get going on something you’ve been dreaming of

My first career was as an addiction counselor. I’ve have a masters degree in psychology and I still teach a counseling course. I trained with a famous shrink named Albert Ellis and got certified in a cognitive behavioral style known as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy.

I’d like to help out NaNoWriMoers by offering some counseling for the most common irrational beliefs that will get in their way when it comes to writing. The NaNoWriMo site has plenty of practical writing advice that you can find here..

For the next thirty days we’ll look at the thoughts and emotions that keep people from writing their own novel/

Today’s Irrational Belief About Writing:

I can’t write a novel. I’ve never done it before and it will suck.

Let’s break this thought down. Can you type coherent sentences? Are you literate?

You can write a book, not necessarily a good book, but you can mechanically write a book. No question.

Now, for the second part. You’ve never done it before and it will suck.

This could very well be true. The first time you do something you have to develop a learn-as-you-go process. You will need to continue to type when you feel insecure.

And what if it sucks? Let’s suppose it does suck. What would be the problem with that? Must you only do things that you excel at? Is it shameful to attempt something and not be great at it?

Of course not.

Albert Ellis used to say “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” In other words, if you like something, do it because it’s rewarding not because you’ll excel at it. Not playing basketball because Michael Jordan does it better than you is a silly reason to not do something you like.

Okay? Ass on chair, fingers on keyboard. Type.