Author: JA Rock and Lisa Henry
Cover Artist: L.C. CHASE
Rating: 5.00 of 5 Stars
All’s fair in love and war.
There’s something rotten in the state of Indiana. When con man Henry Page takes it upon himself to investigate the death of an elderly patient at a care facility, he does so in true Shakespearean tradition: dressed as a girl.
FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness has more to worry about than Henry’s latest crazy idea. Someone is trying to send him a message—via a corpse with a couple of bullets in it. He needs to figure out who’s trying to set him up before he gets arrested, and he really doesn’t have time for Henry’s shenanigans. Then again, he’d probably be able to focus better if Henry didn’t look so damn distracting in a babydoll dress and a wig.
But when Mac discovers that Henry has been keeping a secret that connects the cases, he has to find a way to live on the right side of the law when he just might be in love with the wrong sort of man.
The Merchant of Death, book two in Lisa Henry and JA Rock’s trilogy Playing the Fool, follows immediately hot on the heels of the first book, The Two Gentlemen of Altona. It kicks off with Henry running out on Mac just as they were finally about to get down and dirty together. Henry receives a call from his sister Viola who’s run away from the care facility she calls home. This is the first we’ve heard of Henry’s sister and pretty soon we find out she was brain damaged as a young woman and has the mental age of about 8 which is why she lives in a care home, paid for of course, by Henry. Every penny Henry has ever made has gone to pay for Viola’s care, she’s the only family he has and he loves her more than anything. Viola is convinced bad people are at the care home and she’s scared enough for Henry to take her seriously. With Viola safety tucked up with Stacey at the Court of Miracles (a bolt hole Henry calls home) he enters the care home disguised as his sister to investigate the facility himself. As Henry and Viola are identical twins Henry is convinced he can pull off the impersonation, in fact he looks so good Mac starts to get strange ideas once he takes a look at Henry in a dress!
Mac’s not impressed with Henry’s weird plan, once he tracks him down that is, however he reluctantly agrees to leave Henry in situ to see what he can find out. It’s not long until Henry realizes Viola is right and before you can say boo to a goose Henry is in trouble, cue Mac to the rescue.
Mac, who is supposed to be on sick leave following the events at the end of book one, is fighting his own little war while all this is going on. Lonny Harris a murdered fence, had apparently before his death, accused Mac of buying coke from him and Mac is now being investigated by Janice Bixler of the Office of Professional Responsibility and for reasons only known to herself Janice is determined to find Mac guilty.
The Merchant of Death while as funny and exciting as the Two Gentlemen of Altona is a different type of story. The first book is more slapstick comedy, and while this book has a comedic tone the story is a lot darker and more intense. We get to see what makes both men tick. We see a deeper hidden side of Henry, we see him at his most vulnerable which makes us forget he’s actually a conman and a crook. We delve into his childhood and pity the sixteen year old kid whoring himself out to feed his sister. We learn how Viola was injured and why Henry feels responsible for her. Viola is Henry’s Achilles’ heel, the one person that sees through him and she opens up his deepest fears. I think it’s safe to say Henry would die for Viola. I really liked Viola her character was well written and I got the impression she’s much stronger than she first appears. As for Mac, he wants Henry but doesn’t know how to want him, and he knows he shouldn’t which adds to his general grumpiness plus the accusations have thrown him for a loop as he doesn’t know how to fight them. And when he sees Henry in a dress, well, it seems Mac has a cross dressing kink even he wasn’t even aware of! Mac knows he should stay away from Henry, he’s warned by his friends to stay away from Henry but the man fuels Mac’s most hidden fantasies.
The story is chock full of other wonderful characters, but at the end of the day it all comes down to Henry, Mac and Viola and as the Merchant of Death comes to an end it’s now up to Henry to save Mac.
JA Rock is a writer I adored long before she started co-writing with Lisa Henry and the two of them writing together produce absolute gems. If anyone’s reading this review and they haven’t yet read The Two Gentlemen of Altona don’t delay, get both these books and read them back to back then be prepared to bite your nails until book three, The Tempest, releases on the 9th March. Then book the day off to read it, that’s certainly my plan.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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