Canary in the Coal Mine by Charles Salzberg

Canary in a Coal Mine: An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately (source:

“I’m a P.I. I have a license that says so. I take it out and look at it every so often, just to remind myself I actually have a profession. Profession. I say the word aloud. It’s a strange word. It makes me think of the “world’s oldest.” I’ve done pretty much everything in my life except for that, though some might not make much of a distinction between what I do and what they do. They do it on their back. I do it on my feet. That’s pretty much what sets us apart. It’s like that Sinatra song. You know the one. Puppet, pauper, pirate, poet, pawn and king.”

–Pete Fortunato

New York City—nine million people with a 24-hour nightlife, and an underbelly everyone knows is humming along, but most choose not to venture into it. Not so for Private Investigator Pete Fortunato, who makes his living searching for the bad behavior that is inevitable in such a giant metropolis. Today he is about to come into some cash and what seems to be an easy assignment when wealthy, sexy Lila Ashton appears at the door. In reality, Pete has no idea of what trials he will face. In Canary in the Coal Mine (Down and Out Books; ISBN 978-1-64396-251-1; April 2022) award-winning author Charles Salzberg introduces mystery readers to a new hard-boiled P.I. and a brand-new mystery series.

Lila Ashton’s request is simple: find my estranged husband. Easy money Pete thinks, until he finds the husband dead in Lila’s ex-lover’s run-down apartment. While Pete tends to follow his own rules and his own code, which is telling him to take the paycheck and walk away, he quickly finds that Lila Ashton is hiding something. If he doesn’t get to the bottom of it, he may join Mr. Ashton six-feet under.

Not able to wait for the Homicide Department to plod through their procedures, and with death threats at his door, Pete is going to have to step up and use all of his P.I. muscle to solve the case. Armed with Lila’s useless actor, ex-boyfriend, who is hilariously dense, Pete will literally travel miles before he gets a chance to sleep.

Fans of the Henry Swann Series, Devil in the Hole, Second Story Man, and other mysterious works from Charles Salzberg will enjoy getting to know this new gumshoe. Pete Fortunato as a P.I. committed to his case, with a strong distaste for personal physical danger, will join the ranks of other great characters in the genre, like Sam Spade and Mike Hammer. Canary in the Coal Mine is a gritty whodunnit that takes reader for a bumpy ride with an unexpected destination.


Canary in the Coal Mine
By Charles Salzberg
Down and Out Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-64396-251-1
Publication Date: April 2022
Price: 18.95 (Paperback) | 7.99 (eBook)


The Don Con by Richard Armstrong


The Mafia comes to Comic-Con — and criminal hilarity ensues — in the new comic crime thriller The Don Con

“I loved this book! It could be my f*#%$@ autobiography!”

—Joe Gannascoli, “Vito Spatafore” on The Sopranos

“A clever, fast-paced, and bittersweet caper. The Don Con is to Fan-Cons as

Galaxy Quest is to Star Trek conventions.”

—Jonathan Frakes, “William T. Riker” on Star Trek: The Next Generation

About the Author

Richard Armstrong has been a freelance advertising copywriter for more than forty years. His previous books include Leaving the Nest: The Complete Guide to Living on Your Own; The Next Hurrah: The Communications Revolution in American Politics; and the world’s only novel about direct mail, God Doesn’t Shoot Craps. Armstrong’s articles have appeared in National Review, Washingtonian Magazine, Advertising Age and many other publications. He lives with his wife Sharon and his dachshund Stardust in Washington, DC.

Review: Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Cuckoos Calling
Robert Galbraith/Mulholland Books

“He had never been able to understand the assumption of intimacy fans felt with those they had never met.”

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith is about an ex-army man and private investigator Cormoran Strike and Robin, his pretty, young, temporary assistant, and their quest to get to the bottom of an unexpected suicide. Although they are concrete characters, neither are particularly interesting.

The heart of The Cuckoo’s Calling is the compelling and heartbreaking story of Lula Landry, a beautiful but dead superstar model who was harassed constantly by the paparazzi, and how their interference led to her ultimate decision to commit suicide.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a fictional account and an allegorical dig about the world today, and how obsessed we are as a society with the lives of celebrities, dead or alive, and how even friends and families of celebrities are not immune to being the subjects of overblown stories in the media. Society treats these actors, models, musicians and the myths surrounding them as reality, when there is so much we don’t know and are not supposed to know about other people’s private lives.

The novel goes through the process of Strike slowly uncovering bit by bit pieces of the truth surrounding beautiful Lula Landry’s death by trying to experience life through her eyes–he goes out on a night drinking with a model friend of Lula’s, Ciara Porter, and Lula’s ex-boyfriend Evan Duffield; he meets with Lula’s homeless friend Rochelle, who is oddly murdered only hours after meeting with Strike; and he and Robin snoop around Lula’s favorite clothing shop, where they find more answers from the gossipy saleswomen about how Lula was acting on the day she died.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is Rowling’s second jab at writing in the mystery and crime genre. It was not an easy book to read and I could only read a few chapters at a time, since much of the writing felt flat. It is a solid mystery, but not one that I would recommend as my first choice. There are much better mysteries and thrillers that are far more engaging like those from Gillian Flynn or classics from Agatha Christie. If you are just getting started in the mystery genre, I would consider picking up something from a more established writer of these tales. The Cuckoo’s Calling won’t blow you away.

Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

SharpObjectsGF“I just think some women aren’t made to be mothers. And some women aren’t made to be daughters.”

-Sharp Objects

There are a fair share of books that use a narcissistic mother character, where the daughter feels misunderstood and unloved by her egotistical mother. Usually when I read books with this sort of mother-daughter relationship I don’t feel much sympathy for the female protagonist because it feels like I just read a book with the same exact relationship except the characters had different names. For instance, the last book I read with a bad mother-daughter relationship was Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. And even though the alcoholic, youth-obsessed mother had her adult daughter kidnapped, I couldn’t feel sorry for either character because I’ve become immune to this dynamic in books.

Gillian Flynn’s book Sharp Objects is an exception. Flynn writes the narcissistic, insane, manipulative mother so well that every time Camille, the protagonist, has any sort of reaction with her mother I not only get nervous for her, but with her. Her disassociation with her mother, Adora, dips and weaves through the entire book, with a sick, twisted ending that you’re expecting, but also sincerely hoping won’t happen. When you finish Sharp Objects you will shudder, and never look at milk or doll houses the same way again.

Camille Preaker hasn’t been home to Wind Gap, Missouri, in eight years, having set up a new life after spending time in a psych hospital for her cutting issues. Instead of cutting lines, though, Camille was cutting words into her skin, the scars of which were still etched into her body: “Richard let out a burp of a laugh, a shocked croak. Unworthy flared up my leg.”  Her sister Marian had died in her teens, something Camille-and the rest of her family-never got over.

Never wanting to set foot in the town she left behind, Camille reluctantly heads back to Wind Gap when her employer, the Chicago Daily Post, hears a rumor about a murder mystery involving two strangled and and deliberately “de-toothed” 13-year-old girls occurring in the same year.  If the paper gets the story, its sales will boom.

While in Wind Gap Camille realizes not much has changed-her mother is still a nervous, self-absorbed woman who has always had everything she wanted delivered on a silver platter. And Camille’s half-sister Amma is the most popular girl in school–a beautiful 13-year-old girl who Camille notices is developing-or already has- psychopathic tendencies: “’Sometimes if you let people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them,’ Amma said, pulling another Blow Pop from her pocket. Cherry. ‘Know what I mean? If someone wants to do fucked-up things to you, and you let them, you’re making them more fucked up. Then you have the control.’” There’s only one thing, however, that the arrogant Amma can’t control: she’ll never live up to her dead sister Marian or the two dead girls, and her overwhelming jealousy makes Amma an even creepier character.

Sharp Objects is a dysfunctional, sickening thriller that engulfs you in its first sentence. I’ll definitely be picking up Flynn’s novels Gone Girl and Dark Places in the near future, and you should be reading Sharp Objects.