MURDER ON CAMAC by Joseph R.G. DeMarco Tuesday, Sep 22 2009 

Murder on Camac

Murder on Camac
Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Publisher: Lethe Press (August 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590212134
ISBN-13: 978-1590212134

Murder on Camac is a P.I. novel so believable even I, who have not read many such books, was totally pulled into the story.

Marco Fontana, our hero, is a gorgeous Italian-American Private Investigator. He’s wary and a little cynical, as you would expect of a P.I. He’s also highly intelligent and sensitive-not the weeping kind of sensitivity but the kind that makes him aware of what makes people tick, how they think, and he’s a pretty wicked judge of character. Nor is he your average fictional P.I.; on the side Marco also owns a troupe of male strippers (with class and a whole lot more!). He is, in fact, good-looking enough to dance in a G-string himself – if he loses a particular bet with a friend.

The book has a cast of colorful characters, from a many-times-widowed Russian secretary to a stunningly handsome Catholic Monsignor, from a teenage hit man to a heartbroken stripper, and many more in between. DeMarco presents even the supporting cast perfectly; if he had gone a shade further with the characterizations some of them would have become stereotypes and the story would have been ruined for me, but with precision artistry he shows just enough but not too much.

Helmut Brandt, a youngish, successful author, is shot and killed on Camac Street in Philadelphia one night. The police dismiss it as a mugging gone bad, but Brandt’s much older lover believes it was murder, and he hires Marco to get at the truth. Brandt, you see, had rattled quite a few cages with his first book that levied broad hints that Albino Luciani – known to the world for four short weeks in 1978 as Pope John Paul I – had been murdered. Brandt had promised that his second book, nearing completion at the time of his death, would prove that men high up in the church were responsible, possibly including members of a shadowy organization called P2. But where – and what – was the proof? Brandt was dead, and not even his lover knew where he had hidden his manuscript and research notes. And why, since decades had passed and most of the principals were dead, would anyone think it necessary to murder Brandt? Or could he have been murdered for more mundane reasons, such as jealousy? Or could the one behind Brandt’s murder be the twitchy rival author who wanted to stop his competition dead in his tracks? Or could it actually be what the police said: simply a mugging?

Marco gets to the bottom of it all and unearths the guilty party, as of course he would. Before he reaches that point, though, he is threatened, nearly run down by a car, cracked on the head and hospitalized with a concussion, and, worst of all, he’s completely baffled. But he is Marco Fontana and you know he’ll get his man. Red herrings and MacGuffins abound, and I was often tempted to peek at the ending. But I didn’t. And I was glad I behaved myself.

Murder on Camac
is a fast, entertaining read. I expect we will be seeing more of Marco Fontana in the future, with or without the G-string. I give it five Sherlocks and a Watson.


VOYEUR: a suspense novella by Jon Michaelsen Saturday, Oct 4 2008 

Originally, I did not intend to review short stories or novellas, originally, but have since decided “Why not?” My first is called Voyeur by Jon Michaelsen. Voyeur is a short novella included in an anthology entitled MEN and e-published by loveyoudivine Alterotica. Buy links are below.

Jon Michaelsen

Take one bored and lonely youngish account executive named Kevin, who lives on the 28th floor of a high-rise. Add a pent-house in a building only 26 stories high, where there lives a young, physically perfect specimen of young manhood who can be seen—accidentally at first—sunning himself, working out, living a healthy, athletic and apparently idle lifestyle.

Kevin begins by being curious, and soon graduates to binoculars, a camera with a telephoto lens, and obsession to the point where he can’t sleep, his work slides, his job is in jeopardy. When the mysterious object of Kevin’s obsession appears at his door one day, battered by a jealous lover and seeking help, Kevin is undone. Not long afterward a man is found dead in the penthouse and everything points to Kevin as the killer.

Michaelsen carefully crafts the tension in his story, taking the reader into Kevin’s mind as he sinks into ennui and then is energized by his discovery of the beauty across the way. We see his growing unhealthy obsession as he watches and lusts after the stranger. The sex scenes are more graphic than I usually like, but Michaelsen’s writing is such that they are an integral part of the story and not just thrown in to be titillating; he blends them seamlessly into the fabric of his tale.

There are only a couple of things that bothered me about the story, and both are simply the result of its being a novella rather than a stand-alone book. It’s too short; I would like to see it expanded into a novel, see the tension built even more, see Kevin and the mystery man become more involved because that would make the ending even more startling. The other thing is also probably due to the word-length restrictions. I don’t want to write a spoiler here so I’m not quite sure how to put it. Let me just say that there is a resolution, that comes far too abruptly, and gives the impression of cutting the story off at the knees.

There’s no doubt that Michaelsen is a talented writer who can spin a good tale of twisted psychology! I recommend the story for anyone who enjoys shorter pieces with lots of increasing tension. I haven’t read the other stories in the anthology, but if they’re as good as Voyeur it would be well worth buying.

Buy links for the anthology:
Voyeur will be available at All Romance eBooks as a FREE download during the entire month of Nov 2008.
Author’s website:

Dispatch to Death — mystery with a delightful character Thursday, Sep 11 2008 

Dispatch to Death

Martha Miller

New Victoria Publishers

222 pages


There are times a girl just can’t catch a break.


Case in point: Trudy Thomas, cab driver. One ordinary, soggy Illinois day Trudy picks up a rain-drenched fare, a mysterious young Hispanic woman named Anita Alvarez, and drops her off near the governor’s mansion. It was the last ordinary day Trudy would have for a long, long time.


A routine cleaning of Cab Number 4—which is painted lavender for reasons that have nothing to do with being gay—turns up a key. And then all hell, as they say, breaks loose.


Within days Trudy finds a co-worker murdered in the ladies’ room, Cab Number 4 broken into, and her own personal information missing from the office files. It’s all downhill from there for the hapless Trudy. Before it’s over, she is shot, hospitalized, stalked, threatened, and locked in a trunk God knows where. And that’s just scratching the surface of the perils Trudy (“I’m not a hero. I’m a cab driver”) faces in this lively mystery.


I really like Trudy. She’s an ordinary woman struggling to support herself and her mutt dog on what she makes as a cab driver. That she is a lesbian is neither a big secret or a big deal. She loves her Harley and her dog, and asks for nothing more out of life than to get by and be left alone.


Dispatch to Death is a great get-wrapped-up-in-a-quilt-on-a-chilly-evening book, with a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows on the table beside you.


Martha Miller’s writing is crisp, clear, and unmuddled. The story is written in first person, a notoriously difficult technique, but she does it well. Her characters are three-dimensional and real, and the plot is a dizzying series of twists that will keep the reader guessing until the low-key, satisfying conclusion.


My only criticisms are few and very minor indeed. I really didn’t need to know that Trudy likes to wear boxer shorts. And the frequent appearance of brand names dropped into the text quickly became distracting.


But minor glitches aside, I highly recommend Dispatch to Death to anyone who wants a fast-moving, enjoyable mystery to read. It would also make a darn good TV movie. I see Joan Cusack….


I have also read Ms. Miller’s mystery “Nine Nights on the Windy Tree” and her “Tales From the Levee” — the latter peopled with wonderfully eccentric characters done with Miller’s usual flair and grace. I highly recommend all of them.


Reviewed by Ruth Sims

Author, “The Phoenix”


author’s website: