The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2)

Author: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

Buy Links: Riptide and Amazon

Type: Short Novel

Received from Publisher


Blurb: All’s fair in love and war.

There’s something rotten in the state of Indiana. When con man Henry Page takes it upon himself to investigate the death of an elderly patient at a care facility, he does so in true Shakespearean tradition: dressed as a girl.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness has more to worry about than Henry’s latest crazy idea. Someone is trying to send him a message—via a corpse with a couple of bullets in it. He needs to figure out who’s trying to set him up before he gets arrested, and he really doesn’t have time for Henry’s shenanigans. Then again, he’d probably be able to focus better if Henry didn’t look so damn distracting in a babydoll dress and a wig.

But when Mac discovers that Henry has been keeping a secret that connects the cases, he has to find a way to live on the right side of the law when he just might be in love with the wrong sort of man.



Review:  Mac and Henry are still together despite Henry’s urgent escape. Henry’s sister, Viola, has left her care facility and is claiming an angel of death has killed her friend. Henry can’t send her back there, but he has no real safe place to keep her while he investigates her claims. Despite having serious doubts about it, Henry leaves his sister in the care of his friends at the Court of Miracles for a couple days while he poses as her to infiltrate her care facility. Mac has to find his witness. Again! He’s shocked to learn Henry has a twin who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child. He’s also shocked to find Henry in a dress. He’s then shocked to find that so completely sexy.

Despite the ludicrousness of the situation, Mac agrees to help Henry look into the goings on at the care facility. It’s a bad idea! Not only is it completely unsafe for Henry, but Mac is being investigated for possible wrongdoing by the FBI. Maybe a few too many suspects were a little too roughed up under Mac’s care. No single incident is outstanding, but investigators are looking at the big picture. And then there is the fact some sleazy drug user has claimed Mac has been buying cocaine from him and said sleazy drug user is now dead. Intrigue is swirling all over the place and Henry may have ties to it all. Then the hammer falls.

This is the book where Mac meets Sebastian. He saw brief glimpses of him in the first book, but he meets Sebastian and knows he’s met Sebastian, now. The slow introduction to Sebastian is as heartbreaking for Mac as it is for the reader. It makes sense Henry would want to hide this incredibly vulnerable person behind a facade. In saying that what I mean is the craftsmanship behind his introduction is wonderful. The actual character of Sebastian I found to be kind of clichéd. An expertly crafted cliché, but a cliché nonetheless.

The real mystery, who is setting up Mac to take a huge fall began in the first book, The Two Gentlemen of Altona. Something is up and Mac and Henry need to figure it out sooner rather than later. This set up an interesting dynamic in which Mac and Henry were able to ride to the rescue of each other. Both men felt powerful and awesome! I’m totally singing “Eye of the Tiger” right now. In a series that I feel relies heavily on cliché and some obvious tropes I felt this was trope busting of the highest order, and I loved it.

Overall this was a good book and a great continuation of the Playing the Fool series. I don’t think this is the best work I’ve read by the writing team of Lisa Henry and JA Rock, but it’s still absolutely worthy of reading. It’s fun and exciting as well as heart-felt and touching.



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