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

Updated on February 28, 2020
PegCole17 profile image

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

From the Sealed Cases of Nick P.T. Barnum

Copyright 2007, Frank F. Atanacio
Copyright 2007, Frank F. Atanacio

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 | Source

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.

Paul Drake, (William Hopper), private investigator with Perry Mason, (Raymond Burr) in 1959.
Paul Drake, (William Hopper), private investigator with Perry Mason, (Raymond Burr) in 1959. | Source

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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
By Shankarnikhil88 [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 | Source

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.

What's Going On? Marvin Gaye

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.

© 2018 Peg Cole


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    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      16 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      16 months ago from Templeton, CA

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      17 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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 profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      17 months ago from Shelton

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

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      21 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      22 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


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

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I always loved Frank's crime stories on Hubpages.

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

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      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!

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 years ago from Central Florida

      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.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      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!

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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!

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

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

    • Lisa Jane39 profile image

      Lisa Jane 

      2 years ago from Washington

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

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

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

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

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

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      2 years ago

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

      Good review Peg.


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