Tag Archives: James Swain

A first-rate crafting of a tale about a series of heinous crimes

No Good Deed, by James Swain. Thomas & Mercer. 336 pages. Trade Paperback $15.95.

The second installment of the Jon Lancaster & Beth Daniels Series, following “The King Tides,” is a blessing for crime thriller fans. It continues to build the shaky relationship between the highly engaging and original lead characters while exploring a heinous series of crimes in human trafficking. What’s happening is terrible, but the crafting of the tale is first rate.

What begins as a missing person case turns into a horror story involving the disappearance of twelve young women within the state of Florida. Who is preying on them? Why? How can this serial abduction nightmare be terminated? 

Jon, retired from police work, has long been associated with Team Adam, part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The missing person he is tracking is young Skye Tanner, whose grandmother was murdered by the felons during her attempt to protect her. When he discovers that Skye’s abduction is part of a pattern, Jon puts himself on the case.

Of course, for a crime spree like this one, not only local authorities but also the FBI will be involved. Thus, Agent Beth Daniels will re-enter Jon’s life. Sparks will fly, a consequence of their mutual attraction and their contrasting understanding of the value of rules. Beth is a by-the-book person, Jon can justify breaking rules – and does.

The emotional dimension of the novel is deepened by the fact that Jon’s long estranged and often imprisoned brother, Logan, turns out to be working for the organization doing the human trafficking.


The mood of No Good Deed is lightened by such touches as Jon’s employment of teenage students, Beth’s niece and some of her classmates, to do computer search work that helps answer some questions about the perpetrators and their location. . . .

To  enjoy the full review, as it appears in the September 11, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 12 Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, Palm Beach, and Venice editions, click here:  No Good Deed

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The rush of roulette animates high stakes novel

Bad Action, by James Swain. Thomas & Mercer. 386 pages. Trade paperback $15.95, Kindle e-book $5.99.

This, the second title in Mr. Swain’s Billy Cunningham Series, continues to explore the exciting and often disgusting world of Las Vegas casinos. Billy knows how the resort casinos fleece their customers. The casino owners control the odds and seem to have the gaming commission in their pockets. Still a young man, Billy has already had great successes walking away from the casinos with huge piles of money. The casinos would be better off if Billy was found dead, and threats to his existence should shake his confidence. Swain-BadAction-21923-CV-FT

However, he doesn’t know a way of life that would thrill him more. He and the members of his carefully selected and proven team operate like a family; they all play by the rules of the cheater’s code.

Now, after a year in the planning, Billy’s biggest score is in sight. Each team member knows his or her part, and there has been no shortage of rehearsals. Yes, essentially they put on a play that has been carefully scripted by Billy. Billy’s part is to play “the whale,” the extremely wealthy and seemingly addicted gambler who will drop a huge bundle at the Carnivale Casino. Though he and his team are booked at the Rio, Billy is sure a Carnevale VIP host will lure them away from the Rio by offering huge incentives. Billy’s convincing role-play will set the invitation and the benefit package in motion.



Billy isn’t ready yet to share his secrets with the full team, though one of them knows about the mechanics of the scam that will lessen the house odds at the roulette wheel and insure that someone at the table wins when betting his “lucky numbers.” The secret only Billy knows is how they will get the casino to pay off. After all, an improbable lucky streak is a red flag to casino operators.

Mr. Swain invents roadblocks to Billy’s success during the countdown to the roulette action at the Carnivale. Mobsters are after him, gaming commission authorities are in his way, and he manages to get arrested after he kills someone in a confrontation. The author’s sure sense of how the gaming industry works allows him to build a sequence of vivid, suspenseful action scenes with authority. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 22, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 23 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter, and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Bad Action

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Casino scam thriller offers high stakes suspense

Take Down, by James Swain. Thomas & Mercer. 430 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

In his latest novel, James Swain is back to painting the milieu in which he has no peers: the gambling scene. Set in Las Vegas and focused on a new casino hotel that serves as a money laundering front for a big drug operation, this novel has all the thrills, chills, and insider information one could ever hope for. Billy Cunningham, a thirty year old professional cheater, becomes a strange kind of moral pillar in a ruthless world where the only moral code involves scoring big money and staying alive.  TakeDown-cover

For people like Billy Cunningham, and his one-time flame Maggie Flynn, the enemy is the gaming board, a group empowered to protect the public and the gaming industry from scammers and thieves. However, the gaming board agents whom we meet in this tale are always ready to abuse their power and might just as well be the subjects of investigations for their own corruption. It seems that at times that this powerful board colludes with the worst elements in the industry.

Should the owner of the Galaxy, a big-time narcotic distributor, be the recipient of the gaming board’s protection or the subject of an investigation?

The board makes deals to pursue its priority cases. It lessens or drops criminal penalties in exchange for evidence leading to the successful prosecution of bigger fish.

The set-up of the story goes like this: Billy has a fantastic, convoluted plan to duplicate the gold-colored, high denomination chips used in the Galaxy casino and then manage to cash them in. This would result in a huge, multi-million dollar “take down.” At the same time, he is in on the Galaxy payroll – checking their security and promising to foil the upcoming scam of another slick team of scoundrels known as the Gypsies.



In fact, Billy hopes to use the cover of the commotion regarding the Gypsy “wedding scam,” which is that group’s own cover for a slot machine payoff manipulation, to cover his own counterfeit gold chip operation.

As readers watch Billy prepare his team for its biggest trick, they get to meet a fascinating group of characters who must use their skills and play their roles with precision or the scam will collapse – as will their outlaw careers. For Billy, loyalty is the ultimate necessity for smooth functioning; therefore is very generous in buying that loyalty from his team members. Beyond that, he really cares about them and shows it in many additional ways. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 29, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions (all with additional information about Swain’s new publisher), click here: Florida Weekly – Take Down

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Magician, psychic, and FBI consultant Peter Warlock is back

“Shadow People,” by James Swain. TOR. 352 pages. $25.99.

This is the second in Mr. Swain’s arresting series that features youthful psychic/magician Peter Warlock in blood-curdling thriller plots. Peter is more than your everyday psychic, as he can be overcome by demonic forces that transform him, charging him with rage  and superhuman physical strength. Most often, his better nature allows him to bend that force to the good, but there is always the chance that he can turn into an uncontrollable menace.  ShadowPeople_HiRezCover

Besides working his regular, sold-out magic shows in Manhattan, Peter often uses his psychic powers to assist the FBI. This time out, he is in league with FBI agent Garrison to foil a serial killer before his next target is murdered. This madman is driven to kill those who do good in the world, and he has lured a young woman to meet him under false, but convincing pretenses. The clock is ticking.

What Peter seeks is normality. He wants fulfilling human relationships. He wants to be truthful, rather than having to hide his background, his tainted legacy, and his frightening talents. He wants to be deserving of beautiful Liza, the young woman whom he has allowed to enter his life to a deeper level than any other woman has.

Peter has the ability to enter the spirit world, which in Mr. Swain’s imagination is not a desirable place; in fact, it may not be a place at all but rather a state of being. He is threatened at the outset of the novel by the Shadow People, who give him a glimpse of the future that includes the serial killer’s purpose and plan. This killer in turn is connected to the evil Order of Astrum , a group of demonic figures who murdered Peter’s parents.

James Swain

James Swain

Enough plot lines? Indeed. But there’s more. The young psychic Holly, niece of one of the psychic elders who stand in place of family for Peter, has a huge crush on him. Holly is violating all the protocols of witch and psychic behavior by constantly spying (“scrying”) on him and otherwise making his life difficult. How can he resolve this without hurting her?

To enjoy this review in its entirety, as it appears in the November 27, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 28 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Swain’s Shadow People

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A devilish delight of mystery and magic

“Dark Magic,” by James Swain. Tor. 352 pages. $24.99.

James Swain has switched gears. After building two successful mystery series, he has begun a very promising third one.  It’s not just mystery, it’s not just mystery and magic – this time out it’s mystery, magic, and psychic powers. And more.  Meet Peter Warlock. It’s not just a stage name!

Peter performs spellbinding magic at his own theater on the west side of Manhattan. Still a very young man, he is already a superstar. Since his parents’ death when he was a boy, Peter has been raised by friends of theirs, all individuals with psychic powers and various kinds of special supernatural talents. The elders in this group have nurtured him, protected him while preparing him to deal effectively with his other home – the spirit world.

This ring of psychics meets regularly, and their séances can produce amazing results, often visions of forthcoming crimes or disasters. In “Dark Magic,” Peter has visions of thousands of people dying in the Times Square area. The cause is unknown, but they have only a few days to help the police discover the means, the ends, and the perpetrators so that the disaster can be averted.

Working with Garrison, a savvy FBI agent who will act on any lead, even a psychic’s vision, Peter gains knowledge that a demonic group called the Order of Astrum, a group that had murdered his own parents, has planned the impending disaster and has sent an assassin to kill Peter, and perhaps the rest of the psychic group.

James Swain

Now the chase is on. While the suspenseful action builds through the four day time line, several other issues build momentum as well. There is a dimension of Peter that is growing. He is inhabited by a hostile, dark force that is gaining strength and breaking out from time to time. Where does it come from? Can he learn to control it? To whom can he confide about emerging secrets about his true nature?

Members of his psychic family know more than Peter does, but they are reluctant to reveal too much too soon. His assistant, Liza, who is also his girlfriend, cannot get close to him. She knows there is a part of Peter that is sealed off from her. How can there be an intimate relationship without trust and sharing? James Swain artfully complicates his mystery plot with these elements of troubled romance and occult powers.

Is Mr. Swain serious with this spirit-world stuff? Well, sort of. There is a glimpse of tongue-in-cheek humor every so often, and a comic stream trickling through the novel that lightens tension and invites a complex reaction to the paranormal doings. Horror and charm coexist. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the July 11, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 12 Naples and Space Coast editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Swain pdf

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James Swain’s Monster of a Thriller

“The Night Monster,” by James Swain. Ballantine Books. 400 pages. $7.99.

Now available in paperback, “The Night Monster” continues James Swain’s “Jack Carpenter” series, assuring readers that they can depend on this quick-witted and resourceful private eye to provide the same level of excitement that Tony Valentine does in Mr. Swain’s earlier series. To keep Valentine in view, pending further development of that series, the author gives him a cameo appearance doing his thing exposing gambling cheats with a scene set in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

While James Swain writes out of Odessa, a small town in the Tampa area, Broward County is Jack Carpenter’s beat. Jack is a highly specialized freelancer, having accepted a forced resignation from his position as the head of the Broward County Missing Persons Unit. Now, a cold case and a new one merge into what looks like a stream of serial abductions, beginning perhaps with a case from eighteen years back that Carpenter couldn’t close. The perpetrator, a giant hulk of a man, has abducted Sara Long, a Florida State University women’s basketball teammate of Jack’s daughter, Jessie.  As the investigation proceeds, other unclosed missing persons cases turn out to have a similar pattern of victims: attractive, athletic young women pursuing nursing credentials. Why these women? Why the 4-5 year intervals between crimes? What is the relationship between the immense abductor and the small man whom Jessie had seen taking pictures of her basketball team?

Because the new case is high profile – Sara Long’s father is an important man – the police are in a rush to close it. They pick the easiest suspect, Sara’s ex-boyfriend, in spite of Jack’s insistence that he is not the perpetrator. Only after Jack has put several of the pieces together are his former workmates forced into following his lead. It helps that an FBI official, as well as Sara’s father, are willing to cooperate – though Mr. Long’s eagerness and arrogance often handicap Jack’s efforts.

When the investigation leads Jack to an abandoned mental institution named Daybreak and then to a small town about a half hour east of Daytona where the majority of the people are missing a limb or two, the creepiness factor accelerates.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the May 26-June 1, 2010 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – James Swain. It also appears in the June 10-16 issue of both the Naples Florida Weekly and the Charlotte Florida Weekly.

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