The Mystery Gazette
Monday, October 20, 2008
Deadly Bones-Boris Riskin
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
Former Shakespearean teacher Jake Wanderman knows he is lucky to have survived his recent encounter with the Russian Mafia (see SCRAMBLED EGGS). However, when his beloved late wife’s friend TV star Toby Welch, asks Jake to investigate the brutal murder of her father, art dealer Cormac Blather, Jake agrees.
Homicide Detective Sienna Nolan does not want Jake on the case, but knows she cannot prevent him from sleuthing. Thus she teams up with him finding clues that tie Cormac’s homicide and that of an art forger Chase McCleod to billionaire art collector Bryson Mergenthaler. Hints of fraud involving a missing biblical ossuary emulate from Jerusalem. Sienna is unable to go so encouraged by his rabbi Jake travels to Israel not quite prepared that some people want to send him home in a coffin while Israeli police detective Liat strongly suggests he return to the states.
DEADLY BONES is an interesting investigative tale starring a depressed hero still grieving his wife’s death although the two female cops who enter his life give him an emotional lift. The story line is fast-paced with a lot of knife play from an unknown adversary leaving a growing death toll behind. Jake is at his best in Jerusalem where he does what all former Shakespearean teachers do alienate the cops (same as he does in the States). Although overwhelmed at times by the Bard, fans will enjoy this fine mostly amateur sleuth with the additional insight into the Jewish mitzva of Tefillin.
Riskin, Boris. Scrambled Eggs. May 2005. 275 p. Five Star, $25.95 (1-59414-291-2)
"Jack Wanderman's life is spinning out of control. The retired, Shakespeare-loving English teacher's wife leaves him without an explanation. Then his best friend asks him to help an attractive widow whose late husband was a member of the Russian Mafia. It seems there are stolen Faberge eggs hidden in the widow's home, and various people want them. Jake suddenly finds himself dealing with the New York police, the FBI, the KGB, and assorted mobsters. This fast-moving caper takes Jake from Sag Harbor to Moscow and back again. With a colorful cast of characters and enough action to keep readers on their toes, Riskin has all the ingredients for a very entertaining series. Expect to hear more from Jake Wanderman."
The following review appears in the April 1 edition of Kirkus Reviews.
Riskin, Boris. SCRAMBLED EGGS. Five Star (278 pp.) $25.95 May 1, 2005. ISBN: 1-59414-291-2.
"Trying to dispose of six Faberge beauties, a retired English teacher runs afoul of nogoodniks.
Jake Wanderman thought early retirement would mean long afternoons with his wife of 25 years. But following a year in Sag Harbor, Rosalind moves out. After moping around for several weeks, Jake goes to a party at Morty and Sherri Adler's, where he meets blond beauty Cynthia Organ, whose dollar-bill green eyes shine with excitement as she shows him an attaché case filled with Faberge Imperial eggs she discovered after the abrupt demise of her husband Boris. Soon Jake gets a visit from Jascha Solofsky, who has his thug Pyotr whack Jake upside the head as he demands the eggs. But Cynthia's already given them to Roby Welch, the socialite Rosalind's bunked with since leaving Jake. At Toby's house, Jake and Cynthia find their host, Rosalind, and antiques dealer Cormac Blather duct-taped to chairs and FBI agent Mackelworth dead upstairs. The NYPD's Bill Catalano insists that Mackelworth isn't FBI but an agent of Misha Bialkin, a Russian mobster out of Brighton Beach. To sidestep the American branch of the Russian mob, Jake flies to Moscow for a meeting with Cormac's contact, ex-spy Nikolai Pankov, but ends up in the hands of an ex-KGB agent Putlezhev with only a beautiful girl named Anna to save him.
Riskin's debut is less Brighton than Coney Island, with thrills, spills and double-crosses beyond number."
Armchair Interviews on
by Boris Riskin
Review by Kathy Perschmann, Chanhassen (MN) Librarian
Beautiful women, seven Faberge eggs worth millions, car chases, spies, the KGB, the Russian Mafia, an antique dealer being blackmailed, a famous lifestyle guru, and shootings--these are the ingredients in this tasty mystery set in Sag Harbor, Brighton Beach and Moscow.
Retired middle-aged English teacher Jake Wanderman quotes Shakespeare as he tries to help delectable widow Cynthia Organ deal with her big problem. Cynthia is a neighbor of his good friend Morty, who gets them together to try and cheer up Jake after his wife leaves him. Jake is trying to get his wife Rosalind back, but she refuses to talk about why she left, telling him, "You should know why."
Cynthia’s problem is she found a cache of Faberge eggs in her husband's walk-in safe, and she is afraid of some of her husband's associates who are making threatening calls. Jake takes on the project of trying to protect the eggs, and help with a sale.
Rosalind is living and working with Toby Welch, a famous lifestyle maven, whose father, Cormac Blather, is an antique dealer with connections in Russia. They are enlisted to help with this problem. The eggs change hands every few pages, and Jake's plans to deliver them to the proper hands keep being highjacked. Will they end up in the hands of the Russian mafia, sold to the highest bidder, or back in Russia where they belong? Will Rosalind return to Jake?
This would make a perfect movie--full of fights, fast forays, and fierce, fearless good guys. There are plot twists galore, and a hint that Jake may leave his life of indolence and become a detective.
Armchair Interviews says: Hopefully there will be more great stories in this series.
BY LOIS UNDERHILL
Bob Riskin's Way
He had always loved to read who-done-
its, so he,married his enter-tainments
to the mystery genre,
called on his Russian heritage
and Brooklyn roots...
Scrambled Eggs, published this year by FiveStar, is Sag Harbor resident Boris Robert Riskin's newest novel. It is fast, funny, smart and sexy, a must read for all aficionados of who-done-its. Our hero, Jake Wanderman, a Shakespeare quoting retired teacher, gets caught in a scramble of eggs, the Faberge not chicken variety, and for reasons only Riskin's convoluted plot can adequately unravel,embarks on a quest to return the eggs to their rightful place,wherever that is. As the story moves along, that place becomesa moving target. Wanderman races from the Hamptons to Brooklyn to Moscow and back to the Hamptons,with stops in Sag Harbor, as he backs into a hilarious mix of danger, big money, Russian Mafia and crafty illicit trades in
Riskin, now 77, has been writing all his life. His career as a successful businessman, selling women's clothing at The Sweater Joint in partnership with his wife Kiki, was a vocational interlude. The original seedbed of his storytelling was the extended
and encompassing family he grew up with' in Brooklyn. His father had immigrated from Russia, and after his first wife died he returned to Russia to marry her sister, Riskin's mother, and bring her to Brooklyn. Riskin's early world was a chorus of voices in English, Russian and Yiddish that included his grandmother, aunts, uncles, older sisters and 30
cousins. The voices were accompanied by his father's mandolin,as well as his father's jazz, which was regularly countered by the operas his uncles loved. Big, happy meals, which followed Orthodox Jewish tradition while his grandmother was alive, scented the air with the aroma of roasting chicken,garlic drenched poucha, long simmering cholent- always with potato pancakes that Riskin could sneak right off the
frying pan. If times were hard and money was in short supply,Riskin doesn't remember it. He remembers unending stories, jokes and laughter. His story telling skills emerged from this fertile soil, though it took some time for him to recognize them.
Riskin came to his vocation in the army, of all places, courtesy of a commanding officer with a literary bent who recognized his talents and encouraged him to write. The GI Bill took him to the University of Michigan, where he wrote his first published story for a Cornell literary magazine called
Epoch.Ayear in France at the Sorbonne followed. Writing short stories became a way of life for him, pieces that were published in small literary magazines.
In 1951,back in the embrace of his Brooklyn family, he
met Kiki on a blind date. Instantly and mutually smitten, they married the next year. Kiki was a painter (who later became a sculptor) and they shared a love of the arts. They spent a year traveling in Europe. Riskin added French and Spanish to the medley oflanguages he had grown up with.
Words, words, words. His short stories continued and life seemed perfect. The Riskins' happiness reached an apogee in 1958 when Faith, their adopted daughter, joined their family, and Riskin in the same year had a story published in the New Yorker. Titled "Lucienne," it drew on Riskin's Paris years and told of an affair between an American man and a Frenchwoman, their
fleeting attachment made achingly poignant by the effervescent air of the city of light.
By 1961, when the Riskins adopted their son Harold,
Riskin's stories, never a financial bonanza, had to take second place to more lucrative pursuits. He had been working for a furniture manufacturer, when Kiki's father came up with a women's sportswear concept and the Sweater Joint partnership was born. It was a happy but demanding avocation that left limited time for writing.
When the Riskins retired to Sag Harbor in 1990, they resumed their interrupted 1ife in the arts. Riskin had written three serious novels and was working on a fourth. He dealt with family relationships through the generations, relation-ships weighted with pain and anguish as well as love and laughter. Riskin says he wasn't trying to write tbe Great American Novel. but one suspects these books were four cousins of the Great One. However, no publisher was interested in the Great One or its cousins. Finally, Riskin decided to get away from the serious stuff for a while and turn to more lighthearted fare, books which he calls entertainments, borrowing the term from Graham
Greene. He had always loved to read who-done-its, so he
married his entertainments to the mystery genre, called on his Russian heritage and Brooklyn roots, and ScrambledEggs was born. In developing his hero, Jake Wanderman, he paid homage to a dear friend Bernie Beckerman, a renowned Shakespeare scholar now deceased, and made his hero a retired teacher of Shakespeare. Quotesfrom the bard comment ironically on Wanderman's quest. Riskin tried out his new creation on his colleagues at the Ashawagh Hall Writers'
Workshop which is led by the redoubtable Marijane Meaker, and credits the comments and criticisms he received there for the development of the work in its final form. Scrambled Eggs promptly found a publisher and now has also found a host of enchanted readers.
As Riskin says about his alter ego Wanderman, he tried to "come across like a NewYork guy in the know." It's an apt description of Riskin's voice in Scrambled Eggs.
Another Wanderman quest is in the works, but only Riskin and his computer know where the Shakespeare quoting sleuth will wander next.
LOISBEACHYUNDERHILL is the authorof "The Woman Who Ran
for President,the Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull."
"Turning sixty and retiring as a Shakespearean professor, Jake Wanderman looks forward to spending his golden years with his beloved wife of twenty-five years, Rosalind. However, to his shock, Rosalind walks out on Jake without an explanation insisting he should know why.
Not long afterward, Jake attends his childhood friend Morty Adler’s party in the Hamptons where he meets Cynthia Organ. She tells him that Morty said that Jake would help. She explains further that her spouse Boris just died and in his secret closet in their home, she found gold bars and six Faberge eggs. Apparently the Russian mafia claims they belong to them and law enforcement from both countries wants the stolen gems. Unwittingly, Jake is involved in an international incident with murder as a calling card when all he wants is his wife back.
SCRAMBLED EGGS is a delightful amateur sleuth tale starring a bewildered hero, who spouts Shakespeare at any given moment especially when he is nervous. The story line is fast-paced, but held together by the likable professor who wonders what happened to his anticipated idyllic lifestyle that has gone out of control. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale told by a bard filled with fun and fury." Harriet Klausner