The Rembrandt Decision

The Rembrandt DecisionAt the outset of The Rembrandt Decision, by Seeley James, number 12 in his Pia Sabel mystery series, Phil Jacobsen, the murder victim, and how he died, is known. Why he was killed and by whom takes longer to unveil. Although James plays it close to his authorly vest with subtle clues, who committed the crime becomes increasingly obvious. The why of things takes most of the book to uncover.

Christine Jacobsen, one of the three narrators in this who-done-it, attempts to steamroll the investigation towards Al Devino, a relation, and also part of an organized crime family that wants to invade Deeping, Maine, a small, fictional town where everyone knows almost everyone else. Why doth she protest too much about Devino being the culprit? What further complicates the investigation is that her adopted son, Scott Jacobson, is the town’s police chief. Christine thinks Scott is still a small boy (she continues to call him Scotty) and that she can control him as well as the investigation.

Pia Sabel, of Sabel Security, is in town to investigate if Deeping is a good place to locate Sabel Research Center, a new wing of her conglomerate. Once Sabel offers to assist Scott with his investigation, Christine continually denounces Sabel’s help. Christine declares that Sabel will uncover the town’s “secrets,” even though no one else agrees or even mentions secrets. Christine originally provided the impetus for Sabel’s invitation to view the town, but once Sabel and Scott begin working together, Christine wants her to move on as quickly as possible. Why? What harm can Sabel cause the town by accelerating the pace of the investigation? Or more importantly, cause harm to whom?

Readers learn about Pia Sabel through the other two narrators: Isaiah Reddick, one of her advisors, and Scott Jacobsen, the police chief. Sabel comes across as extremely smart and observant. Very smart, Sabel seems to know something about almost everything. She can be likeable, but also an obnoxious know-it-all.

Although I enjoyed The Rembrandt Decision, it was slow moving for the first two-thirds of the story. For example, a long-winded conversation between Scott and Pia details adoption. This interaction helps Scott grow as a person/character. However, the mystery plot comes to a screeching halt. Similarly, an interaction between Scott, Isaiah and Kubari Eady (who are both Black), underscores white supremacy and how white police handle dealings with minorities. Rather heavy-handed. A third subtext involving unhoused/homeless people. The impression is that those unfortunate enough to have no place to live are either mentally ill or alcoholic, or both. These subtexts could have been treated differently and more succinctly.

The Rembrandt Decision may not be a favorite of mine, but I’ll read others in this series. I’ll also read James’s second series about Jacob Stearne.

This is a repost of a previous review.
Originally posted on 4/3/23

The Rembrandt Decision
By Seeley James
© 2022
Machined Media

Out of Time

Out of TimeIf you like mysteries with an international and luxurious undertone, Out of Time, by Cathi Stoler, is your cup of tea. Or should I say champagne? Marina DiPietro and Nick Donahue are hired to find out who wants to kill or maim Devil Wind, a Kentucky Derby hopeful owned by Adnan bin Haddad, a billionaire from Dubai. Out of Time takes the reader traveling. From New York City to Kentucky horse country to Dubai—even to the Burj Khalifa, an ultra-luxury hotel on its own island.

Donahue is a professional gambler specializing in blackjack. DiPietro, a former MI6 operative, now owns her own private investigator agency in New York City. They solve crimes together and are a couple.

Bin Haddad tells DiPietro and Donahue that he must pay a king’s ransom to protect Devil Wind. Could the trainer or one of the others who care for the horse be in league with the blackmailers? Who is attempting this coercion?

But is that the real problem? Suddenly things get dicier. Bin Haddad is told that Samira, the sister of his trainer, and the daughter of an employee at one of his other businesses, has been kidnapped by Salifi terrorists, a splinter group of ISIS. And they want more than the stated ransom money for Devil Wind. A secret device made by ABH Technologies is now demanded for the safe return of Samira.

Can DiPietro and Donahue coordinate their efforts and solve these seemingly disparate problems? Can they keep the horse and the young woman safe?

Enjoyable Read

Out of Time is an enjoyable read with likeable protagonists. Sometimes this felt like two different plotlines, but Stoler manages to pull them together at the end. Although this is billed as a Nick Donahue adventure, he seemed to take a back seat to Marina DiPietro in this book. I look forward to future additions to this series.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Out of Time
by Cathi Stoler
© 2024
Level Best Books

Nick of Time

Nick of TimeIn Nick of Time, by Cathi Soler, Marina Pietro seduces Nick Donahue, a professional gambler, who’s in Venice to hit the casinos. Who is she and why does she want Nick’s help? Does she really work at Eurotec International, a global insurance company? Or is she really something else entirely? How and why does the deal Nick strikes with Marina to capture jewel thieves go so wrong and get him kidnapped and brutalized? And what do bankers at SuisseBank Ltd. have to do with anything? Are they crooked, too?

Nigel Phillips, a friend of both Nick and Marina, slips and slides in and out of the story. He works for the British government; exactly how is not specified, but most likely in intelligence (MI6). Luckily for both Nick and Marina, Nigel can extricate them from some dicey situations. The opaqueness around Nigel tends to bring Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s brother) to mind.

Nick of Time is a quick and enjoyable read. I enjoyed the characters but feel that Stoler could have provided a smidgen more background to each of the main characters. Also, when Nick goes undercover to a casino in Monte Carlo to catch one of the dicey bankers, the alias he’s given is Roger Moore. Really? Maybe a bit more imaginative thought would have been in order there. But overall, a pleasant, enjoyable, fast-paced read.

I received an advance review copy for free, and this is my honest review of the book.

Nick of Time
by Cathi Stoler
© 2023
Level Best Books

Great Love Story

Only Twice, a great love storyOnly Twice by Garrett James is a delightful ode to love that highlights one man’s life and how the simple act of telling one’s story can change another person’s life. The conventional viewpoint is that true love only happens once in a person’s life. But is that really true? Only Twice, a great love story, will convince you otherwise.

By chance, Jon drops down onto a barstool next to Matt Hansen, an older man, who was quietly nursing his whiskey. As Jon downs shots of tequila one after another, Matt looks at him and asks, “One of those days?” Little did either of them know that the outcome of that question would be lifechanging. Jon’s emotional reply of, “It’s been one of those lives,” encourages Matt to tell Jon the story of his life.

War, love, death, and a child, all hit Matt at once and suck him into a maelstrom of emotions that he tamps down to care for his child alone. Would love find Matt, again? Jon is irresistibly drawn into this tale of woe and lost love. But Matt disagrees and tells him it’s not about the losses you have in life. It’s about the love you get and receive. Would Matt’s story turn Jon’s life around?

Check out this tale of love lost and found again at And check out As Long as I Breathe by the same author at his website, (I reviewed this book here.)

As Long as I Breathe

Rarely will you find a love story that will appeal equally to men and women. As Long as I Breathe by Garret James is such a love story. James has brought to life characters that both men and women can enjoy, cheer on, and visualize as themselves in that situation.

Stephanie (Steph) Morgan is caught in an abusive love relationship. Even so, she shows herself to be strong and capable in her role as a single mom who has two jobs to care for Lilianna Rose (Lily), her seven-year-old daughter. She has the stamina to carry on after her fiancé, Matt Peterson, is killed while on duty as a police officer.

Mason Cain seems to be what the outside world wants him to be—a tough, tattooed ex-con who’s led a tough life. No one, except his new acquaintance and neighbor, Steph, has the privilege of seeing his true inner self. As Mason and Steph become better acquainted and closer, Mason’s tender heart comes to the fore. What will they both go through as their love blossoms and deepens, and the jealous, abusive boyfriend goes haywire?

Even the secondary characters are interesting in their own right. Lily is a smart, rambunctious, but well-mannered seven-year-old. Nicholas Canon, a DCI agent, investigates Matt Peterson’s mysterious death.  He’s also a strong and steady influence on Steph and her sister Beth. Can he bring closure to the matter of Matt Peterson’s mysterious death? Wayne and Jo, an older couple whom Mason and Steph meet while they’re on a short vacation, are fun loving and a great influence on Lily.

Well-written adventure

This adventure grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the final page is turned. Well-written characters and a finely tuned, well-paced story will entice you to read about and enter the world of Mason and Steph. And come to the end of the story wanting more.

The book and ebook are out now at

The author has said he sees As Long as I Breathe as the first book in a series. Do you want to read more about Steph, Mason, and some of the other fabulous characters, again? If so, leave the author a message at While there, read about his other book, Only Twice. Also, leaving a review online will persuade the author to continue writing more of this story arc.

To view a video based on this review, visit my YouTube channel.

Garrett James

If you’d like to read some excellent fiction, check out Garrett James at His writing style is superb, honest and enjoyable.

He and I worked together on two of his books. It was a joy to copyedit and proofread Garrett’s work.

Only TwiceOnly Twice is one man’s coming-of-age story as well as a truly amazing story of love striking one man’s heart twice. This book can be purchased immediately at

Garret’s other book, his debut novel, is As Long as I Breathe. This engaging story is one of love, jealousy, abuse and tenderness. Can a man who’s been viewed as a bad guy and ex-con for most of his life be the one who saves a beautiful, loving woman from an abusive relationship? Can he use his anger, the “beast” inside himself, to show love to this woman and her young daughter? As Long as I Breathe is still going through a revision process and will be available for purchase sometime later this spring.

Based on conversations with Garrett, I foresee a good number of great reads forthcoming over the next several years. So, stay tuned for more from Garrett James. He and I will be working together for a long time to come.