Love, Murder and Redemption

Bruce Von Stiers

John Paul Carinci is an insurance executive. He is also a writer. I've reviewed John's work before. When he had finished his latest effort, it seemed like a good idea to review it as well. After a few months of scheduling conflicts, I was finally able to make time to read John's new novel.

The title of the novel is Defying Death In Hagerstown. It was published by Morgan James Publishing. The novel has 251 pages and carries a list price of $18.95 U.S.

The idea for the novel came from a diary that John had gotten on eBay. I know people bid on a lot of obscure things on eBay, but a diary? I asked John about that. His response was that he loves memorabilia and bids on a lot of different things. And was surprised that he won the bid on the diary. But what further surprised him was that it was written by a young woman named Lolita, with 365 handwritten pages done in pencil. John was intrigued enough about the content and the mysterious young lady that he spent over 2 years researching her. After finally finding information about Lolita, John felt that there was a story to be written, but only as fiction. Five years later, he had finished writing Defying Death In Hagerstown and it was published.

Just fictionalizing material from the diary wouldn't do. So John added a decades old triple murder mystery to the mix. And a young reporter seeking redemption in several ways.

The Washington Gazette is one of those newspapers that is trying to stay viable. And as such, has a tough as nails editor named Harold Glavin. One thing that Glavin is most harsh about is getting great stories from his reporters. And those stories should be coming from the likes of reporter Louis Gerhani. But Louis has been going through a rough patch of life. His fiancé broke up with him and he'd do just about anything to get her back. So down in the dumps is Louis that his reporting and writing has become shoddy and he is on the verge of becoming an alcoholic.

Glavin gives Louis one last assignment. If Louis turns in a great article, he just might save his job. If not, then as Glavin puts it, I'll fire your worthless ass. The assignment is to interview and gather background on a woman in a nursing home in Hagerstown, Maryland. The woman is Lolita Croome and at age one hundred and ten, is the oldest living person in Maryland.

In doing a bit of advanced research, Louis finds out about the murders of three young women ninety years ago. He decides that the unsolved murders might add a bit of spice to his article. But what he soon discovered was that trying to reveal old secrets can be deadly.

Having given you the setup for the story let me talk about the lead character, Louis. I took an instant dislike to the guy. Here is a guy who should be on top of his game as a reporter. Yet he is petty, bitter and feels really sorry for himself. But I soon realized that Louis reminded me of myself at one point in my early 20's I had just come out of a very destructive relationship, was screwing up on my job and was drinking way too much. And like Louis, I too had several friends who were looking out for me. Louis's friends included a co-worker and a bartender. They convince him that it's in his best interest to forget the girl and get on with life. And to write a kick ass story.

Well, Louis hasn't been in Hagerstown a whole day and someone has tried to run him over. There was a robbery and he got in the way. He finally gets to meet Lolita. And he meets a nurse, Felicia, who is taking care of Lolita at the nursing home. Louis is smitten with Felicia, but can he overcome the emotional baggage he's brought with him? Louis is given Lolita's diary to read, which she has written in since she was a young girl. As he goes through the diary, Louis gets a spark of an idea about the murder and who the killer might have been.

Lolita is very spiritual and that element plays a big part of things later in the story. Even though she is old and frail, Lolita has more on the ball than a lot of people less than half her age. She somehow sees potential in Louis that he can't see for himself.

There are a lot of different plot elements that combine to make this a good book. There is the murder mystery that Louis may or may not be able to solve. There is love lost and potential for new love. There is spirituality and redemption mixed together in a way that isn't preachy yet is pretty effective.

Taking an old diary as a base and then building a solid story of love, redemption and murder, Carinci has written a novel that just might become a best seller.

Defying Death In Hagerstown is available at and selected other book retailers.

You can check out the author's web site at

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© 2015 Bruce E Von Stiers