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A strange thing was happening to Warren Ritter. He certainly didn't believe in the tarot. He was a businessman, setting up a folding table on a San Francisco street where a stream of passersby could bring him as much as a hundred dollars a day when the weather was right. But he was beginning to notice more and more that what he had learned to predict from his tarot cards seemed to be coming to pass with an unsettling regularity. It made him do odd things. Like stop teenage Heather Wellington's tarot at nine cards instead of ten. The first eight had been ominous, the ninth more upbeat, so Warren simply stopped the reading there. It was only after Heather had left that he looked at number ten-it was the Death card.
The Death card does not automatically doom the person whose tarot it turns up in. But it doesn't mean there are good things ahead, either. So Warren, the scoffer, couldn't help feeling horror later that day, to see Heather's face on a pizza parlor TV screen with the word Kidnapped! slashed across the top. Guilt, that was what gripped him, as though he could have done something, warned her-but didn't.
"Warren Ritter" is not the name he was christened with. He is a fugitive of sorts. Everyone, including his family and the New York police, believes he died in a mysterious incident thirty years ago, and he has no intention of changing that. Now, on top of the guilt he lives with, is the feeling that somehow he is responsible for young Heather Wellington's capture-that it is his call to find her, and to get at the people who took her.
Eight of Swords is an astonishing debut novel, and a very different novel from the old notion that a traditional mystery is along the lines of "a dead vicar in the library." Warren's exciting and often dangerous quest through the streets-some of them quite mean-of San Francisco to find the girl and rescue her is more than just a suspenseful tale, it is also a moving portrait of a man returning to the world he had turned his back on three decades earlier.
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With Moses Wine, Roger L. Simon's once free-spirited, dope-smoking, "people's detective" (introduced in The Big Fix, 1973) having dulled the bite of his political cynicism over the years--and even threatening to go Republican!--there’s an opening for a new American anti-establishment gumshoe. Now applying for the job: the pseudonymous "Warren Ritter," a 55-year-old former "revolutionary guerilla" who’s been hiding out from The Man for the last three decades (ever since an explosion in which he supposedly died), and who has worked for the last six years as a tarot card reader in counter-cultural Berkeley, California.
When we first meet him, in David Skibbins's Eight of Swords, this anarchist-hero is offering his "fortune-telling jive" to Heather Wellington, a plucky brunette teenager burdened with a controlling stepfather, a black boyfriend her parents don't approve of, and a cretinish, gang-running ex-beau she can't seem to shake. Discomfited by the "oncoming cataclysm" forecast in her future, Warren chooses to downplay any imminent threats. But the next thing he knows, Heather's been kidnapped, he stumbles across her mother’s corpse in a downtown park, "pigs" (police) begin peppering him with questions, and his elderly therapist suggests that Warren expunge his guilt in these matters by locating the missing girl. For someone who's trying to lie low, solving crimes isn't exactly in the cards. However, this motorcycle-riding fugitive has picked up a few tough-guy moves during his "underground" years, and more than his fair share of resentment against an unjust world. So, assisted by a paraplegic computer hacker and a Hispanic security specialist, Warren embarks on a rescue mission that will lead him to tangle with malicious car thieves and meddlesome feds, face down slavering guard dogs, and--all in a day’s work--foil an incendiary bomb designed to destroy evidence of several crimes.
Although Eight of Swords won the 2004 Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press contest for Best First Traditional Mystery, the conventionality of this series debut shows only in its methodical progress from clues to conclusions. And, save for his tendency to refer to women as "chicks," there’s nothing especially old-fashioned about Warren Ritter--a man prone to bipolar mood swings and haunted by his past: abandoned lovers, a sister who's only just discovered he's still alive, and a daughter he has never met. Skibbins, a California life coach, demonstrates a flair for dramatic pacing and plausible character development. If Warren can resist fleeing whenever his carefully constructed façade seems endangered, bright prospects for this rebel detective with a cause might not be so hard to predict. --J. Kingston PierceFrom the Back Cover:
THE CARDS NEVER LIE...
Tarot reader Warren Ritter has never believed in the cards' power to foretell the future. But recently his predictions have come true with an unsettling regularity. When the first eight cards of teenage Heather Wellington's Tarot are ominous, Warren stops the reading at nine cards instead of ten. After Heather leaves, he looks at number ten-the Death card...
Warren knows the Death card isn't a guarantee of doom, but it doesn't mean there are good things ahead either. So he can't help feeling horror later that day when he sees Heather's face on the TV screen with the word "Kidnapped!" slashed across the top...
DEATH IS NEAR...
Now Warren finds himself pulled into the mystery of Heather's kidnapping--and then a bizarre murder heightens his fear for her life. Suddenly the cops, a beautiful lady, and a killer are all complicating Warren's life. But the cards have a final message for Warren: Only he can untangle the mystery of a young woman's disappearance before it's too late...
"David Skibbins's award-winning debut delivers atmosphere, suspense, and humanity at a breakneck pace...a true American original."
--Julia Spencer-Fleming, Agatha and Anthony Award winning author of In the Bleak Midwinter
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Book Description Minotaur Books. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0312339062 New Condition. Seller Inventory # EPS-MGCK-K325
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