The Fitzgerald Ruse
Review: Mark de Castrique's second mystery with Sam Blackman, The Fitzgerald Ruse, has the Iraqi War veteran juggling two threats, one dating from before World War II and other much more recent.
Blackman and his new partner, Nakayla Robertson, have just opened a new private investigation agency when they get their first case: an elderly woman wants them to retrieve and return a manuscript she admits she stole from a hotel room in which F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed in the 1930s to his rightful heirs. "There's no crime worse than betrayal," she says. "A betrayal has to involve trust, even love. I betrayed Mr. Fitzgerald and I'm counting on you to make it right." It seems simple enough. Blackman gets a lockbox from a bank and stores it overnight in his new office. It's an ordinary lockbox, but with an extraordinary lead seal: a swastika. During the night, however, a security guard is killed and the lockbox stolen. The next day Blackman's buddy from the war shows up to warn him that a members of a rogue military operation who were responsible for the death of their two partners in Iraq, which also caused Blackman to lose part of his leg, think that he has a fortune stolen from the Iraqis … and they want it. Blackman hasn't stolen anything, but he did recently receive several million dollars in a wrongful death settlement from an insurance company after his parents were killed. It is possible these men are confusing an insurance settlement with stolen money? And how does a pre-World War II era lockbox fit into this?
Nakayla sums up the plot of The Fitzgerald Ruse quite succinctly: "One, we have a mysterious lockbox with a swastika. Two, a son who despises his father and works next to the office where a guard was murdered and the lockbox stolen. Three, the father who died in 1944 after attending a part for German POWs, and four, the father's sister who now has nearly five million dollars and knows a secret about the missing lockbox she wants to keep hidden. And last, but not least, a gang of thieves in Iraq who think you've ripped off their fortune, who probably know you've set up an offshore account, and will torture you before killing you. Am I leaving anything out?" It may seem overly complicated, but the author handles these disparate plot elements quite well. And those familiar with the plot and resolution of the first book in the series will likely have a greater appreciation of Blackman's financial situation than newcomers. There's a lot of intentional misdirection here, but the clues as to who did what to whom and when are liberally sprinkled throughout, allowing the perceptive reader to figure it all at about the same time as Blackman. The titular ruse is, in reality, a minor plot point, which is a bit of a disappointment since a clever literary deception or gambit would have really elevated the book into the top tier. Still, the story is well crafted, and a worthy and most satisfying successor to the exceptional first book in this series.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of The Fitzgerald Ruse for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), June 2008
ISBN-13: 9781590585177; ISBN-10: 1590585178
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590588017; ISBN-10: 1590588010
Location(s) referenced in The Fitzgerald Ruse: North Carolina
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The Fitzgerald Ruse by Mark de Castrique — A Sam Blackman Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: August 2009
List Price: $24.95