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"An Ax to Grind," by Frank F. Atanacio, Book Review

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Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.

From the Sealed Cases of Nick P.T. Barnum

From the Sealed Cases of Nick P.T. Barnum

No one likes it when a crook is set free because of a legal technicality, that is, except for the criminal. The reason for the police quoting the familiar Miranda Warning before questioning a suspect is based on an incident in which a suspect confessed without being told he had the right to remain silent and not incriminate himself (under the Fifth Amendment). His guilty verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

— Miranda Warning

"Even the best, most respected lawyers will defend someone as sick and twisted as Willie the Greek for the right price." This statement from the text of An Ax to Grind sets the tone for courtroom drama and loopholes that criminals are able to exploit with the aid of their legal counsel.

As the plot thickens, author Frank F. Atanacio expertly sets a scene in which drug dealers are waiting to secure their supply source when a dispute breaks out and a stray bullet hits an unintended victim. The aftermath of that unintentional murder is the basis for this fantasy fiction murder mystery featuring the likable detective, Nick P.T. Barnum.

By Luigi Zanasi

By Luigi Zanasi

For those unfamiliar with the idiom, "An Ax to Grind," the UK definition suggests that it refers to a person that holds a grudge or a beef against someone with a private end to serve. The phrase likely comes from the act of sharpening an ax with the intention of using it to take revenge. Quora defines it as "To have a grievance with someone, especially where one feels the need to seek damaging retribution."

Revenge is the motive for a string of murders perpetrated by the primary suspect, Gary Manda, in the case after his young child is slain. Gary is the son of virtuous, well-respected, and God fearing matriarch, Mable Manda, who is torn between her desire for retribution of her grandchild's murder and her strong Biblical beliefs.

Private detective, Nick Barnum, walks a thin line between sympathy for his friend, Mable's loss, and the compelling desire to hunt down and find a serial murderer.


Atanacio is well equipped to serve up portions of suspense, humor, camaraderie, justice and reality in this fast-paced fiction story where many of the characters are familiar from his previous novels. Between Willie the Greek and his Bridgeport Police Department companions, the author spins a web of intrigue and mystery that puts P.T. Barnum to task in solving the case. The detective's sense of humor and self deprecatory nature is endearing often revealed in his "boy bashing" meals shared with other agents of the law.

The author mixes playful, flirtatious banter into the interactions between police officers, office staff, and restaurant servers inviting the reader into the scene with the natural flow of colorful characters.


Set in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the story takes the reader on an adventure that incorporates elements of the legal system, the criminal mind, a hint of romance for a not-so-perfect aging detective and realistic portrayals of characters in their station of life.

Barnum's office assistant is a sassy, young, adept and impressionable character whose full story is not revealed, leaving the reader to form certain conclusions as to her true nature and desires. She holds her own against the detective who can dish it out as well as take it on the chin. Their playful banter and casual working relationship is an enjoyable sideline to the story.

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Paul Drake, (W. Hopper), private investigator and Perry Mason, (Raymond Burr)1959.

Paul Drake, (W. Hopper), private investigator and Perry Mason, (Raymond Burr)1959.

Other characters like Bolo and Carlos seem to fit the profile for newbie drug dealers with their rationalization for their activities leading them into the danger zone. One asks, "Hey, aren't we next to a school yard?"

The would-be leader of the fresh partnership lies with grace telling his concerned conspirator, "We're nowhere near the school." Carlos explains that they're in the alley way. "The school is across the street. We're cool," he reassures his reluctant accomplice.

This simple choice of location sets the stage for tragedy that is to come.

By Shankarnikhil88 [CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

By Shankarnikhil88 [CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Frank's use of the common vernacular of the different characters is authentic and believable, leading the reader to assume the author knows these characters in person. He doesn't shy away from uncomfortable or politically incorrect slang that makes the dialogue flow smoothly as if spoken on the street.

He can effectively capture the stirrings of young love and the angst of a young man who has feelings for his first crush. The author's mastery of the characters brings them to life allowing the reader to empathize or despise as necessary based on their actions.

By Corwinhee, Creative Commons

By Corwinhee, Creative Commons

As the pivotal scene occurs in the playground, the narrative inches the story into the next dimension between life and death.

"He knew something was happening, but he could not tell what it was. The commotion was simply not registering in his head. . .Suddenly, he saw a bright light pass before him. It was almost blinding as he tried to adjust his eyes to it."

From that moment, everything in the story takes a new turn.

For someone like me, hooked on murder mysteries like Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, Live PD, Snapped, The Homicide Hunter, Dateline, First 48, I Almost Got Away With It, and other reality TV drama, this story was a compelling and enjoyable read written by one of our own authors here on HubPages.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Peg Cole


Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 13, 2019:

Hello Barbara, Nice to be able to introduce you to one of our favorite writers. Frank truly has a way with words and is a great writer of crime stories. Glad you enjoyed the review.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on February 13, 2019:

Thanks, Peg. You've just introduced me to an author I haven't read yet. I'm going to put it on my TBR list. I appreciate your excellent review.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on January 23, 2019:

Hello Frank, So good to see you again. You've been missed. Hoping that all is well and I'm glad you liked the review of your book.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on January 23, 2019:

when, I never knew you did this bang of a review on that book.. amazing and God Bless you

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on October 13, 2018:

Thanks so much for the visit, John. I agree with you on Frank's amazing style of writing. Never a dull moment in his stories.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 13, 2018:

Frank is one of my favourite fiction writers here on HubPages, and your review of an Ax to Grind is spot on, Peg. I will have to get myself a copy and support a friend and fellow hubber. Nice job.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on September 14, 2018:

Thanks, Lawrence. I think you'd like Frank's story telling style.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on September 13, 2018:


This book sounds really interesting, I'll have to keep an eye out and see if I can get it on Kindle.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 04, 2018:

Hello Maria, I do, too. He is a masterful storyteller. Thanks so much for dropping in today. Happy Independence Day! Hugs.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on July 04, 2018:

I always loved Frank's crime stories on Hubpages.

Your masterful review brings his latest achievement to my attention - thanks, dear Peg.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 03, 2018:

Hi Shauna, Your comments are most appreciated and your kind words are music to my ears. Thank you.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 02, 2018:

Hello Dora, It's always great to hear from you in the comments. Glad you are a fan of Frank's. I hope you will enjoy the entire series of Nick P.T. Barnum adventures.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 01, 2018:

Hi Linda C, Frank writes crime type stuff here on HubPages. His book is a murder mystery with some funny overtones and interesting characters. Hope you enjoy it.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on July 01, 2018:

Sounds like a winner, Peg. I like those kinds of stories, too. Thanks for bringing it to light. Frank always has something good to read!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 30, 2018:

Hi Flourish, Yes, Frank sure does have a way of dealing with the darker side of reality. I enjoy his writing, too.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 29, 2018:

Hi Jackie, It looks like Frank has written a number of these Nick Barnum Detective books. I've only read a couple so there's more reading to do!

Thanks so much for dropping in.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 29, 2018:

Peg, you're the master - or should I say, mistress - of book reviews. You intrigue your readers without giving away too much of the story. Your reviews are always professionally presented.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 28, 2018:

Great job on this review. Being familiar with Frank's splendid story-telling style on HubPages, your review boosts my desire to read this book, and I think I will. Thank you.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 28, 2018:

Thanks so much, Lisa Jane. Nice to meet you here.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 27, 2018:

It was kind of you to review Frank's book, Peg. It certainly sounds like I should explore his work.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 27, 2018:

Thanks so much for dropping in on this book review, Mary.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 26, 2018:

Frank is an immensely talented writer and it’s encouraging to see one of our own produce a fine product like this. I love his sense of humor as well as the darker way he deals with his subject matter. He is a very versatile writer. Thanks for reviewing his work!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 26, 2018:

Hi Bill, It was my pleasure to read Frank's book and write this review. I agree, his pace is well done. I love the suspense and a trip to the dark side is a guilty pleasure. This read is somewhat more lighthearted than many of his articles here despite the homicide aspect.

Thanks so much for coming by!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 26, 2018:

Linda, Good morning and thanks so much for the visit.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 25, 2018:

A great service for a fellow HP writer, Peg. It does sound like a very good and engrossing book.

Lisa Jane from Washington on June 25, 2018:

This is an interesting book review. I love it. You did a great job.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 25, 2018:

You made this so interesting that I am now inspired to get hold of a copy and read it. It's good to read something written by one of HP's writers.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 25, 2018:

Hi Peggy, As you can tell, I'm a fan of Frank's work, too. He is a gifted writer who has a way with words. Thanks so much for coming by to read this.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2018:

Very nice of you to do a book review for Frank. He is one of the best crime writers I know...great pace to his work, always suspenseful, and always dark. No wonder I like his work.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 25, 2018:

Hello Rinita, Thanks for coming so quickly to this fresh-off-the-press review of Frank's book.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 25, 2018:

What a great book review! Frank is a gifted writer.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 25, 2018:

Thanks Peg for your book review of Frank's novel. I am very familiar with his HubPage articles so I have no doubt that this book of his is excellent. He certainly knows how to set a scene.

Rinita Sen on June 25, 2018:

Wow! This is great! wonder if I could get an autographed copy, Frank?

Good review Peg.

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