Title: The Ashtabula Hat Trick
Series: A Milan Jacovich Mystery #18
Author: Les Roberts
Publisher: Gray & Company
Release Date: August 14, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Private Investigator, Police Procedural
The people of Queenstown, Ohio, don’t take kindly to
strangers. But they have no choice in the matter after a
man’s body is found in a local park, pants unzipped and
stabbed through the heart—and a second man’s body turns
up days later, his head bashed in. Local law enforcement
needs help with the town’s first-ever murder investigation.
Private investigator Milan Jacovich (pronounced
MY-lan YOCK-ovitch) tags along when his main squeeze,
Cleveland homicide detective Tobe Blaine, is dispatched
to rural Ashtabula County to handle the case.
Word travels fast in the small town, and the mixed-race
couple receives a cold welcome. The motel manager
doesn’t like their looks, the coroner conveniently forgets
key details, and patrons at the local watering hole flaunt their
disrespect for Tobe’s out-of-town badge and her skin color.
Milan enlists his young assistant, Kevin “K.O.” O’Bannion,
to glean information from the town’s teens, who tell tales
of their parents’ fervent devotion to their local pastor, an
outspoken bigot. Did homophobia factor in the murders?
Looming over the case is nearby Conneaut prison—privately
run, overcrowded, and rumored to employ some questionable
methods (as well as many local residents). Inside its walls, a
powerful convict known as “The Prophet” just might have the
information Tobe and Milan need to solve the
case—if they can get him to talk.
Queenstown might only be an hour’s drive from Cleveland, but
Milan, Tobe, and K.O. find themselves strangers in a strange
land. They also soon find themselves neck-deep in serious trouble.
An Excerpt from The Ashtabula Hat Trick
“This was Number One,” the chief said.
The photograph was of a middle-aged white male wearing a gray suit, dark blue tie, glasses, and one of those comb-over haircuts ineffectively hiding a bald spot, smiling into the camera while sitting at a table in a restaurant. “Paul J. Fontaine. He has a ranch, right on the Queenstown-Conneaut border. Raised and sold horses—not good horses, but he unloaded lots of them to the Amish. Also sold scrub veggies. He made a good living, but no millionaire.” Koskinen puffed up his chest, or was he sticking out his gut? “I liked him.”
“You knew him?” I said.
“It’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody.”
“Married or single?” Tobe asked.
“Me or him?”
Tobe sighed and pointed to Paul J. Fontaine’s photograph. “Married to Maude Fontaine for twenty-one years,” the chief explained. “Two teen kids, a boy and a girl. Paul was born in Queenstown; Maude went to Conneaut High School, down the road.”
Tobe looked at me. “Locals. How did he die?”
Chief Koskinen moved the top photograph aside. The second had been taken at the crime scene—Fontaine at the wheel of his pickup truck, wearing a lightweight windbreaker over a white shirt, lying back against the seat, head back and mouth wide open. The left side of his chest was soaked with blood.
“Knife wound—right through the heart.”
“Where’s the knife?”
I asked, “Who did the autopsy?”
He looked annoyed. “The coroner. Who you think did it?”
“Where was the car?” Tobe wanted to know.
“In Sunset Park.” He extracted another photograph—taken about ten feet away from the car with Fontaine’s body still in it, in a small parking area next to a stretch of grass and trees on a ridge overlooking Lake Erie and an ancient beach that had been traveled by seventeenth-century Native Americans so often that it formed a natural road. “My officer Joe Platko found him. He was on his usual shift, just driving around, when he—uh—found Paul Fontaine.”
“Was this near Mr. Fontaine’s ranch?”
“About four or five miles away—between here and Conneaut.”
“Why did Officer Platko investigate a car in a parking lot?”
Koskinen fussily neatened the report pages on the table. “Sunset Park is—the kind of place people visit in order to—uh, meet other people, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m not sure I do know what you mean,” Tobe said.
He sighed. “Aw, hell. You go up there if you’re horny—hoping you’ll meet somebody else as horny as you are.”
“You mean prostitutes hang out in Sunset Park?”
Now the chief looked shocked and offended. “We have no prostitutes around here, Detective. This is a straitlaced town.”
She nodded. “So townies go up to Sunset Park when they want to get un-laced. Is that it?”
“Mostly kids, doggone it. Teenagers deal with raging hormones.”
Tobe’s eyes locked with mine and she silently mouthed “Doggone it” and tried not to smile. “Doggone it” isn’t an expression heard often in Cleveland.
About the Author
Les Roberts is the author of 18 mystery novels featuring Cleveland private eye Milan Jacovich, as well as 11 other books of fiction. The past president of both the Private Eye Writers of America and the American Crime Writers League, he came to mystery writing after a 24-year career in Hollywood writing and producing television shows. He has been a professional actor, a singer, a jazz musician, and a teacher. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Northeast Ohio.
To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Ashtabula Hat Trick by Les Roberts,
leave a comment below. *Four* winning
names will be drawn Wednesday evening,
September 2nd. This drawing is open to
residents of the US and Canada.
This is an engrossing and well-written, powerful story —
taken from the front pages of newspapers everywhere
these days.— Kelly Ferjutz, CoolCleveland