By A.K. Price
eBookit, $3.99, 381 pages
The Death Bet has a little bit of everything for its lucky readers — mystery, murder, romance…oh, and insurance fraud, ghosts and pirates. That’s right, everything. The amazing thing is that, despite the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink storyline, it works.
A.K. Price weaves all of these elements together to tell the story of Blaine Stone, a government insurance examiner on the verge of retirement. Stone’s personal and professional lives get caught up in his final assignment, an investigation of First Granite Life Insurance Company, which deals in life settlements, a business where insurers purchase large life insurance policies, wait for the people to die and collect their death benefits.
When Stone is contacted by a police officer who suspects First Granite of killing off its clients so it can collect more quickly, his investigation quickly uncovers a twisted, complex plot that leads him to Hidden Rock. Unbeknownst to him, this quiet, coastal town is run by a secret society called the Red Skulls. And the First Granite executives are a part of it. It is also the place where the ghost of the ruthless, looting, female pirate, Captain Red, still runs the show after her demise hundreds of years ago.
A.K. Price develops interesting characters and creates an intriguing history for Hidden Rock and the Red Skulls. While the story suffers from too many characters and a few slow sections devoted to the tedious details of the life insurance business, these other elements more than make up for confusing and slow patches. Stone is a well-developed character with an interesting professional history and his relationship with Lindsay and her kids add to the strength of the book. The kids come across as authentic, current and necessary to the plot, which twists and turns toward the end, brining the story to a satisfying end.
The Death Bet is a stand-out read for anyone into fast-paced mysteries.
Reviewed by Rebecca Parsons