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Thursday, 6 February 2020

☀ Poisoned Pawn - David Siegel Bernstein

Thank you for joining us on the Virtual Book Tour for Poisoned Pawn, a Detective Mystery by (, Intrigue Publishing LLC, 275 pages).

Don't miss our interview with author David Siegel Bernstein.

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and the excerpt below.

Author David Siegel Bernstein will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.   Please do take part: comment on our post and follow the tour where you will be able to read other excerpts (☀), interviews (ℚ), reviews (✍) and guest blog posts (✉).

|| Synopsis || Teaser: Excerpt || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||


Caleb Jacobs is a man with a past. After serving on a failed dark ops assignment in Afghanistan, he leaves Marine Corps Intelligence to try to build a new life in Philadelphia as a homicide police detective.

Jacobs is happy, for a time, until he is assigned to solve the murder of Shannon Faraday. During the investigation, he is convinced the evidence points to him as the killer. He knows it is only a matter of time before other investigators see the same. He has no alibi and the clock is counting down.

Behind his partner’s back, Jacobs hires a private investigator named Lawrence Holmes. The PI is an irritation to the police, but he is unmistakably brilliant. And, many powerful people in the city owe him favors. Holmes is a bit odd. He insists on calling Jacobs Watson but claims to never have heard the name Sherlock. Jacobs can live with this kind of crazy as long as together they find the real killer.

They quickly link the murder to a series of seemingly unrelated crimes occurring throughout Philadelphia, and Jacobs becomes convinced the murder is related to the truth of what had happened during his time in Afghanistan. Old secrets have come back to haunt him.

Teaser: Excerpt


I felt like shit for having to hire a private investigator, especially one who was most likely insane. Still, I couldn't deny that his type of crazy got results. Reluctantly I handed over an envelope to the man sitting on the sun-bleached bench.

He opened it. Satisfied with my offering, he slid it into his jacket. "Ah, Watson," he said. "Good to see you again."

I shook my head and dropped onto the bench next to him. "My name is Jacobs. Caleb Jacobs," I said, hoping the reminder might stick this time.

He turned to me. ''Did you say something?" I sighed. "No, Holmes."

If I wasn't desperate for his help, I'd strangle him. Of course my superiors at the Philadelphia Homicide Unit wouldn't appreciate that. But I wondered if a cop hiring a private investigator was any worse of a violation. I needed Lawrence Holmes for his connections and unique viewpoint, things my PHU colleagues couldn't provide. He might not be the fictional character he played at, but he was a talented PI.

I first encountered him almost three years ago when I had been working a case involving a matched set of corpses that washed up from the Delaware River. He had been hired by an interested third party who didn't trust the PHU to do their job. It had been one of my stranger cases but I had got the job done anyway, and without Holmes. Granted he had come to the same conclusion we had and that satisfied his client. Since then we had shared information on a number of occasions. And each time he called me Watson. I tried calling him Sherlock once. The gag was not well received.

He stood up, tapped out the burnt tobacco from his small corncob pipe into the trashcan, and pocketed it in his houndstooth jacket. "Come, Watson. It's going to rain and we have a mystery to solve."

I looked up at the March sky. "Did you deduce that from the clouds?"

"No. I checked the weather app on my phone before you arrived."

I let him lead me out of Rittenhouse Square, a large park on the fringe of the shopping district of Philadelphia. As a former Marine I was still in good shape, six feet and an inch tall, a bit gray with a few extra pounds. Holmes stood just little higher than my shoulder. He wasn't that old, I figured somewhere in his mid-to-late-fifties with salted black hair. He had a chin-up, shoulders-back pompous way of walking. I felt the stares from each mother pushing a stroller and each guy walking his dog as we made our way.

"I'm glad to see that you and Mrs.Jacobs have reconciled."

Oh no. Here it comes. "I'm not here for you to investigate me and Kayla." But I knew he wouldn't stop until he knew-that I knew-that he had me pegged.

"Your shirt isn't wrinkled, and the color of your tie has a feminine sensibility that you lacked when you and Mrs. Jacobs separated . And of course, there is the faint hint of Eau Du Soir. Her favorite perfume, I believe."

I shot him my Yeah, I get it look and increased the pace. He only knew of our separation because I had told him all about it the last time we'd worked together.

Kayla and I had been through a rough patch but since she moved back into the apartment things were getting better. She was the reason I originally moved back here to my hometown. After my military service I ended up on the police force in Atlantic City. The gambling city had provided me my first detective job. I had met Kayla Kekoa at the Borgata casino. I had been off duty relaxing with a vodka and tonic when she came to the blackjack table where I was losing a week's pay to try and pick me up. She'd come down from Philadelphia on vacation with some of her girlfriends.Liquor or not, I never stood a chance after seeing the gleam in her almond shaped eyes and the smile on her pouty lips. I was putty in her hands. There had been many long weekend commutes in our future but they were worth it. Our relationship got even more solid when I moved to be with her. And, I loved my new job with the Philadelphia police department. Things worked great for a while but the late nights working cases, sometimes not coming home at all, caused problems.

Mercifully, Holmes and I made it to his bookshop, All Booked Up, without any more of his deductions. This place was one of the many business interests he had in the city, but I'd never seen him work at any­ thing but "sleuthing," as he would say. I knew he was rich, but it beat me where the money came from. I'd never heard of him collecting cash for his work, only gifts and favors. My gift to him was my season tickets to the Philadelphia Eagles home games, the precious contents of the envelope I'd given him.

He held the door of his shop open and allowed me to pass. It had an interesting odor that I can't say I hated, it had the right mix of decaying paper from the used books and crisp machine processed pages from the new ones. I had once searched this place for Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I had failed.

Inside, a woman in her sixties dropped the newspaper she was reading onto the Formica counter and curtsied slightly. "Welcome home, sir," she said with an English accent.

"Ah, Mrs. Hudson. Look, Watson has returned to us."

I frowned, but said nothing. I needed this man's help too much to let craziness get in the way.

She bowed her head at me. "I haven't seen you since Holmes consulted with the police on the Case of the Vanishing Corpse."

He had to have been paying her six figures because there was nothing he could sling that she wouldn't catch. I bet her name was just as much Hudson as mine was Watson. Before I could reply to her, Holmes said, 'We will be in my study, Mrs. Hudson. Please bring us some of your strongest coffee."

"You name the cases you work on?" I asked him. "Merely for clarification, besides it is much more interesting than assigning case numbers. I'm thinking about having someone write them up for me.Why de­prive the world of my exploits? They are learning opportunities."

"Yeah. Good luck with that."

He led me through the cramped aisles with shelves stuffed with books to the back room he called his study. This was my first time here. Of the half dozen or so times we worked together, he always came to me. The study was larger, much larger, than I had expected. The floor was covered with an ornate oriental rug and the walls were either covered in art or hid­ den by bookshelves that I'd wager a week's pay were loaded with first editions. Of course, the aroma of pipe tobacco permeated the room.

There was one thing, or rather a group of things that ruined the Victorian tone of the room-bright yellow Post-Its. A bunch dangled from the edge of the large antique mahogany desk in the back of the room. When he wanted something from me, a Post-It would mysteriously appear on my desk at work or in my jacket pocket. Of course it would've been easier for him to call but, no, where would the fun have been for him then? I swore he got off on annoying me.

He removed his jacket and with great reverence draped it over a coat rack near the door. Then he sat down on the lounge chair beside the unlit fireplace and gestured at the folder I carried. I sat down on the Queen Anne chair across from him and then handed it over.

He fanned the pages and frowned. "Is this everything?"


He snorted, snatching his spectacles off the end table and sliding them over his ears. His glasses magnified his drooped puppy eyes. "Interesting," he said more to himself than to me. "The Shannon Faraday killing."

My heart beat fast at the mention of her name. I said nothing.

He didn't look up. "I take it your partner doesn't know you're here."

"No. He does not."

My partner Jerry Warren could be a real ass at

times but since we'd been paired up these past three years, we'd become unlikely best friends.

He had grown up on the rough North Philly streets, and now fought hard to protect them. On the other hand, I had grown up in a comfortable suburb but shortly after September 11th, 2001, I dropped out of college to join the Marines and they trained me to protect and defend. After a disastrous event in Afghanistan, I couldn't stay in the military, so I returned to the States to become a cop. After moving to Philadelphia, Warren upped my game, making me into a first-rate detective. Coming to Holmes felt like betrayal.

Mrs. Hudson entered with a couple of Starbucks cups. "I made it fresh, just the way you like it, Mr. Holmes."

Yeah, she's earning her pay today.

Holmes waved, shooing her away. "Please see that we are not disturbed." To me he said, "He doesn't like me, you know."


"Your partner."

"He doesn't like most people. In your case, it's just a little easier."

"And where does he think you are right now?" "His anniversary is coming up so he took his wife to the Jersey shore. Now please concentrate on the job." I didn't want to talk about Warren. It made me uncomfortable.

He returned to scanning the documents. "I see a single 9mm shell casing was found at the scene. If I re­call correctly the news reported only a knife being used."

"The coroner confirmed she died of a knife wound . What wasn't reported was there was also a bullet hole in her head delivered post-mortem. Jerry and I figured it best to keep that information from the press."

Holmes stiffened. His eyes narrowed. "Killed and then a bullet to the head. How sure are you of this?"

I leaned forward. "Very. Does it mean something to you?"

"I don't know, yet." He remained tense as he studied the forensic picture of the body and then the one of the bullet shell. Then he shook his head, closed the folder and tossed it across the coffee table. "This information is stale. The murder happened a month ago." He cleared his throat. "The popular opinion in the press was that Shannon Faraday was killed by her husband, Daniel Faraday."

"Like it said in the report, there was no hard evidence of his involvement, mostly circumstantial. Be­ sides, this murder doesn't look like the act of an accountant."

"It is my experience that accountants can be the most dangerous of all." He reached back into the folder and pulled out a single page and held it up. "The office cleaning lady saw Ms. Faraday leaving work around 6:30 p.m." He held up another page. "Her husband claims she phoned him at 6:45 p.m. to say that she had a late appointment with a client. Have you had any luck finding the missing phone?"

"What are you talking about?" I crossed my arms and shot him my most innocent look.

"Come now, Watson! It is highly unlikely an attor­ney from the law firm of Lucius, Brandon, and Felder would use a payphone, if such devices still exist, yet I see no reference to a cell phone in the list of her possessions recovered at the crime scene."

Sharp as ever. Good. "As far as we could tell, it's the only thing missing. When we questioned her hus­band, he confirmed that she obsessively carried it with her."

"Who pays the cell phone bill?" "LBF."

He snapped his fingers and held out his hand.

I reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out a pho­tocopy of the last phone bill and dropped it into his greedy hand. "I wanted to see if you were worth your high cost."

"If you want my help, don't test me." He unfolded the paper and reviewed the list of outgoing and incoming phone numbers. "Are any of these unusual?"

"No. Her office manager recognized most of them as clients and her husband identified the rest."

"So the only thing of interest about the phone is that it is missing?"

"Yeah, that's about it. We subpoenaed her client list and couldn't find anyone with a grudge, and no one on the list had an appointment with her on the evening of her death. So she lied to her husband or he lied to us."

Holmes removed his spectacles and relaxed back in his chair. "The only other facts here are these: she was found in an alley almost a mile from her work, and the estimated time of death is 7:30 p.m., just 45 minutes after her call to Mr. Faraday. Is there anything else you want to tell me?"


"Fine. Go home. Let me think on this matter. I'll contact you when I have something."

"I want to be involved in your investigation."

He reached out to the wooden pipe stand on his desk for his pipe. This was no ordinary pipe, it was the pipe. The Calabash. Unlike the ubiquitous corncob pipe he traveled with, this one had a long curved stem and a wide bowl. Using it was a clear sign that he was taking the matter seriously. He picked up a tobacco bag lying on the coffee table and began filling its bowl. "Meet me back here at 8 tonight. And you must not question my methods."

Poisoned Pawn
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About the Author

To support his writing addiction and excessively extravagant lifestyle, David Siegel Bernstein, PhD, is a data scientist who consults as a forensic statistician. That sounds really boring until you realize that his clients include the US National Security Agency (NSA), the Secret Service, the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and a host of other acronymonious agencies who cultivate exciting and shadowy reputations. Alas, those reputations are mere facades that disguise the real reason these organizations exist, which is to keep him entertained and fed.

When David wants a break from this spellbinding work, he writes. His fiction credits encompass two novelettes and sixty shorts. His nonfiction has appeared in newsletters, popular blogs, academic journals and he is the author of the book Blockbuster Science: The Real Science in Science Fiction.

He lives within the shadow of Philadelphia with his wife, Michelle, two children, Seth and Gwendolyn, and a dog named Ringo Biggles Woofington.

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Giveaway and Tour Stops

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Rita Wray said...

The book sounds great.

Victoria Alexander said...

Can't wait to check this one out!

James Robert said...

My family loves reading so hearing about another great book I appreciate. Thanks for sharing and also for the giveaway.