A Deadly Game (Nick Fallon Investigation #1)

Title: A Deadly Game (Nick Fallon Investigation #1)
Author: J.P. Bowie
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary P.I. Thriller
Length: Novel (160 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: A wonderful thriller, the first in a new series that continues other books by Bowie.

THE BLURB

Nick Fallon, private investigator, gets a rude awakening when his past life unexpectedly catches up with him. Four years earlier, Nick, then a member of the Pittsburgh Police Department, was instrumental in arresting Francisco Garcia, a drug dealer and cold-blooded murderer.

Now, Garcia has escaped from death-row, intent on making good his threat of reprisal for the death of his son in the shootout that brought down his notorious empire—a confrontation that also claimed the life of Nick’s close friend, Sam Valance.

Nick, only too aware of Garcia’s ruthless and cunning tactics, fears for the safety of his family and his lover, Eric Jamieson. Nick knows in order to protect those he loves he cannot, for one moment afford to let down his guard, until Garcia is either apprehended—or dead.

A Deadly Game is an erotic thrill ride, filled with danger, excitement and suspense.

Nick Fallon Investigation Series

THE REVIEW

Originally self-published in 2006 and re-released by MLR Press in June of this year, A Deadly Game is the first book in the Nick Fallon Investigation series, which continues this author’s five-book Portrait series. It is also the first book by this prolific author that I’ve read. I had no idea this story was related to other books and can say that it can be read as a standalone and feel comfortable recommending it without reading the rest. That being said, I do plan on going back to pick up the other books to read the backstories of how Nick met Jeff, his PI partner, and the secondary characters who grace this and the ADG sequel, A Deadly Deception (which I will be reviewing next week).  Related to this, I admit that as I was reading it — and this no way detracted from my overall enjoyment — I had a feeling I should know more about some of the secondary cast and didn’t (like the casual reference of a friend of theirs with no explanation), there were offhand mentions of happenings in recent past history, and I had expected Nick and Jeff’s professional relationship to be explained just a little more.

Nick Fallon lives with his lover of two years, Eric, and is a partner with Jeff in a private investigation firm in Laguna Beach, California. A former cop in the Pittsburgh PD, Nick detoured through the NYPD before making his way to California, but not before sending notorious drug lord and all-around baddy Francisco Garcia to prison. Garcia swore revenge on those who gunned down his youngest son, Joseph, during the raid where his arrest was made, and now Garcia has escaped from death row to avenge Joseph’s death. His sights are set on Nick, the final piece and who tries to anticipate Garcia’s clever, tenacious and merciless moves from the east coast to the west while attempting to keep Eric and his family safe from the madman who has only one thing on his mind — making Nick pay.

After a string of mediocre or even pretty bad reads, I was happy to come across this well-written thriller, partially set in my hometown of Pittsburgh (one of the reasons I picked it up in the first place). Though told mostly from Nick’s POV, the tale is presented in third-person omniscient so we get perspective as well from multiple major and minor secondary characters, and it intertwines the current and past successfully, with a detailed background of the situation with Garcia that lays the groundwork for the current situation. It is no secret that Garcia is after Nick, and because we are in his head at times as well, we know ahead of time what the majority of his plans are.

I liked flawed Nick very much, a tough exterior with a soft inside, especially when it comes to Eric, his partner. By his own description, he is “quick-tempered, pig-headed, sullen” — and we do get to see that — but he is also sweet with Eric, comfortable with his family and friends (I liked the scene with him and his brother-in-law), and guilt ridden when he believes he’s at fault. He also has lack of closure over the death of his first partner and close friends on the force. Sometimes Nick reminded me of me, leaving Pittsburgh and living on the west coast, so different from what he has always known and missing his friends and family, but loving it there way too much to consider going back. I think in some ways he secretly admires Garcia for his cleverness, tenacity and sheer nerve even while looking to stop the terrorism he is inflicting on Nick and Eric as quickly as possible.

Eric seems very sweet, and it is obvious that he and Nick are in love, especially at the end after the final showdown, so to speak, with Garcia. I also found myself wanting to see how these two met, along with some of the other cast couples, and I am hoping that when I go back to read the Portrait series, I’ll get my wish.  And I look forward to seeing their relationship progress in future installments.

Garcia, described as “cold, ruthless and full of rage” and a “clever son-of-a-bitch” on more than one occasion, is the perfect homicidal maniac and bad guy. Willing to stop at nothing to destroy everyone associated with his son’s murder, he has almost nothing to lose and it shows.

I thought it was a good blend of action, suspense, backstory and smexxin. I admit that some of the situations Nick and Eric found themselves in hit me as TSTL moments, but what made it okay for me was them afterwards thinking the same thing as I did. And the thing with Nick’s psychotherapist, Norman, bordered on a bit over-the-top and I said to myself “oh no, not another one of these,” but was saved by it not going further than it did and how it was resolved. The nice ending was left open for more installments (and I already know that Deadly Deception is already out).

Two minor niggles. The first is a question: why weren’t the cops wearing Kevlar vests in the raid that facilitated Garcia’s arrest? Just wondering. Second, I found a very noticeable editing error: Pittsburgh is misspelled in the heading of Chapters 6 (it’s missing the “h”). As a native ‘Burgher, all I can say is grrrrrr…

OVERALL

Fans of the author as well as those who like police, P.I., thriller or murder mystery stories should head on over to MLR Press and snatch this up. I will be reviewing the next book in this series, A Deadly Deception, next week, and have plans to pick up the Portrait series.

10 comments

  • Lynn

    Excellent review. 🙂

    I think MLR Press released these books out of order because Murder Above Fourth, book 3 in the series, was released first late in 2009 and reviewed by Leslie. She didn’t like it very much and didn’t pick up A Deadly Game or A Deadly Deception.

    As far as I can tell, MLR has no plans to release the other books in the series in the immediate future since they are not listed on their upcoming releases. I’m emailing Jim on another matter and I’ll ask him what’s going on with the rest of the books.

    • Thanks Wave. I just went back and read Leslie’s review of Murder Above Fourth, which seems to be the continuation of the middle story A Deadly Deception. If she had read that book, some of what she said may have been cleared up (though it wouldn’t have helped her other, bigger issues with it). It reminded me of this review; it could have been a standalone, but there obviously were some things missing.

      And yeah, releasing them in order would be helpful to the readers…

  • Some of the secondary characters are protags in Bowie’s Portrait series, where Nick and Eric appear as secondary characters. That is the reason you missed their history.

    Yeah, I gathered that when I went back and looked at the blurbs for the other books and one of the reasons I will go back to read them. Again, I don’t think it hampered my reading, just an observation.

    some of the actions seemed to me to be on TSTL side

    Yup. That would have been a bigger niggle of mine if afterward they didn’t say how stupid they were. I found myself yelling at the monitor “You idiot, don’t do that (go there, whatever)! Don’t you know that you don’t do X when you have a homicidal maniac after you???!!” 🙂

  • “I had a feeling I should know more about some of the secondary cast and didn’t (like the casual reference of a friend of theirs with no explanation), there were offhand mentions of happenings in recent past history”

    Some of the secondary characters are protags in Bowie’s Portrait series, where Nick and Eric appear as secondary characters. That is the reason you missed their history.

    I read this a long time ago, but I remember had a few problems with the novel, namely some of the actions seemed to me to be on TSTL side and I’ll have to read it again to see how the story holds now.

  • Thanks Tam.

    You American’s really need to step up your security. Bad guys are always escaping in books, movie and on TV. 🙂

    Amazing isn’t it? 🙂

    You could start here, as I did. Had I known there were back books, I may have started there, but I don’t feel that I missed out on huge things by reading this first. And it did whet my appetite for the older books…

  • “escaped from death row”

    You American’s really need to step up your security. Bad guys are always escaping in books, movie and on TV. 🙂

    I do enjoy a good mystery and it sounds like this might be the one. I’m wondering if I should go back or just try this one first. Hmmmmm. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll try this and see if I like it enough to check out the previous books. Nice review Lynn, it does feel great when you have a string of ho-hum and then get one that really catches your fancy.

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