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At Their Own Game [Kindle Edition]

Frank Zafiro
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jake Stankovic has been flying below the radar for years, dealing safely in stolen property crime with his two-man crew. But times are tough, so he decides to step up to the big money with a drug deal. Everything that can go wrong, does. The deal goes bad, a vengeful detective sets his sights on Jake, one of his crew might be a turncoat, and a woman from a long past affair suddenly reappears. All of this would be complicated enough on its own, but for Jake, it's even worse.

The woman is the detective's ex-wife.

And Jake Stankovic used to be a cop.

Now Jake must face new problems and old vendettas in an all-in proposition with lives on the line. He has to find a way to get his money back, keep the girl, and beat everyone involved...At Their Own Game.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Frank became a police officer in 1993 and retired in 2013 as a captain. He has written and taught courses at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy, written several college courses in police subject matter and co-authored A Street Officer’s Guide to Report Writing. Many of his stories and novels take place in the fictional River City, a mid-sized city in Eastern Washington, with recurring characters. The River City series of crime novels begins with Under a Raging Moon. Frank has authored numerous books, including crime novels with Jim Wilsky (Blood on Blood, Queen of Diamonds) and Colin Conway (Some Degree of Murder). Over fifty of his short stories have been published in more than a dozen different anthologies, as well as print and online magazines. His story “Good Shepherd” was a finalist for the 2006 Derringer Award. In 2007, his story “The Worst Door” was a finalist for this same award. His story “Dead Even” was a finalist for the 2009 Derringer Award. These and other short stories are gathered together in three River City collections: Dead Even, No Good Deed and The Cleaner. In addition to writing, Frank is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist. His wife, Kristi, supports both. You can keep up with him at where he maintains his blog or the blog he shares with Jim Wilsky at He also writes under his given name and you can check that out at

Product Details

  • File Size: 1781 KB
  • Print Length: 246 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Frank Scalise (January 31, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00I6I7ALU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,761 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Settle in for a great read April 3, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jake used to be a stand up kind of guy- he was even a cop at one time.

Somewhere along the way Jake went down the wrong path and turned into a hustler- dealing with “hot” merchandise. That was bad enough but then he decides to get in even deeper and gets involved in a drug deal.

Things take a nosedive and when you think they can’t get any worse for Jake- toss in a detective from his past and make it double bad- a woman from his past to0.

When you read this fast paced crime thriller, you think this author has definitely done his research. Then you realize this is a bit more than research. If you are like me, you check his bio and see his police career background- perfect fit for crafting this story.

This story absolutely sizzles with intrigue, crime and maybe even a little of Jake’s own regret for taking the low road that he now has to somehow get off of to save himself. Can he outsmart the detective or is he kidding himself? The woman from his past- what is her connection and is she legit or is this a ruse?

There are many layers in this story and as you slowly peel the onion (known as Jake) you see things that were, at first, well hidden.

Excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant crime novel July 14, 2014
By Alex
Format:Kindle Edition
Honestly, this might be one of my favorite reads this year! I’m not always big into mystery or crime thrillers, but when I do venture into this genre, I manage to find hidden gems like this!

The voice of Jake, the main character, sounds like a classic noir detective, which I love. Only this time, the main character is an ex-cop turned petty criminal. So this book started good and just got better for me. I love morally grey characters, so I was totally onboard this story from the get go. All of the characters have their own personality, and the dialogue really shines in this aspect. Seriously, the dialogue might have been my favorite part. It sounds real, in that noir fashion, and it really made me love everyone, even characters we probably weren’t supposed to like. Jake, Matt, Brent, Helen, Faulkner, Ozzy, Damon. Everyone. Of course, in a story like this, who knows which character you’re supposed to like anyway.

I thought the plot was going to be pretty straightforward until close to the end, actually. Then the twists just kept coming, one after another, until I was desperately turning the pages, wanting to know how it all ended. And I devoured this book in only a few hours, loving every minute of Jake’s evolution from a cop and “not a bad guy” into, well, the type of complicated character I love.

I wasn’t surprised to find out the author has experience on the police force, as everything about the story rang very true to life, something I rarely find in books lately. And even though the characters are never described in terms of real physical attributes, I somehow still got the gist of everything, and the story moved fast enough that it didn’t matter in the end. Everything we needed to know about the characters is right there in the words, expertly written.
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4.0 out of 5 stars New Twists on the Thrill of the Chase September 13, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
When I read the description of this book at, it got my attention right away. The "hero," Jake Stankovic, is a relatively successful thief with a crew of two, but there's a big difference: Jake used to be a police officer. Then when I learned the author is a retired law enforcement officer with a number of writing awards under his belt, I started to think seriously. And when I was able to download it free as part of my trial membership in Kindle Unlimited, well, let's just say I got right to it.

As it turns out, it was a great decision. Jake, it seems, now has been a criminal longer than he was a cop. As the property-stealing business heads into a slump - meaning a big drop in income for the trio - Jake decides to make a move into the drug market with what he hopes is a quick deal. Not only is it not quick, it doesn't go as planned, leaving Jake to try to figure a way to salvage their financial investment. Then, something else unplanned happens: a woman he used to know (yes, in the biblical sense) back in his police days shows up on his doorstep.

As if that weren't enough, the woman is the ex-wife of a detective from Jake's old department - and the detective has never forgiven Jake for stealing "his" woman and causing his ugly divorce way back then. Ever since, in fact, he's had it in for Jake big-time, and now he's caught wind of the drug deal and doubled his efforts to get even by putting Jake behind bars (or worse). As the action heats up, Jake begins to smell another rat; quite possibly it's emanating from one of his partners in crime, who's spilling his guts to the detective.

More details would give away too much, but I WILL say that there are a number of twists and turns; while some headed down expected paths, the destinations were not. The result? An intriguing, well-written story that's definitely worth reading (and the 246 pages fly by in no time at all).
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Format:Kindle Edition
At Their Own Game is pretty much pure neo-noir, from the first page; from the grizzled prose to our "hero" (a former cop who's been bounced from the force and is now working as a petty criminal) to the plot (which finds our protagonist juggling a violent drug dealer, a possible informant in his crew, a cop with a vendetta, and a former lover who re-enters his life), there's so much of an old-school feel to At Their Own Game that I almost wanted to clap a little. Because even though he's clearly working in the tradition of everyone from Hammett to Lehane, Frank Zafiro still makes the story his own, finding some intriguing moral complexities as his characters try to decide which lines they will and won't cross and how far they're willing to go to protect themselves and make a life that's all their own. There's a lot of disparate plot threads going on in At Their Own Game, and it's to Zafiro's credit that the book never feels like it's going to spin out of control; there's undoubtedly a chaotic feel to the proceedings, but he uses it beautifully to undermine his character's confidence and leave them just as overwhelmed as we are. And watching him string the threads back together is a treat; it all comes together in a great climax that left me both deeply satisfied and wanting a little more - always a good place to leave your reader. If you're a fan of neo-noir, particularly people like Lehane, you owe it to yourself to check out Zafiro's book. This is the only book of his that I've read, but seeing that he's got a lot more out there, I'm very eager to check out more of this guy's tough, morally complicated world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Another solid Zafiro book.......starts off a bit slow but picks up.
Published 9 days ago by scott
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Reasonably well-written, but turned implausibly "extreme" towards the end of the book.
Published 24 days ago by David
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't play this game.
I must have missed the point of this book, because I thought that Jake and the rest of the characters were pathetic, weak and unlovable. They are definitely NOT the 'good guys. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Rosemary Tennis
4.0 out of 5 stars Good solid book
This book is written from a different and unusual perspective, a sort of good, bad guy. I enjoyed this book immensely as both the plot and characters have twists at every turn. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bill Swann
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Za Firo is great!
I was reading a ebook with likable characters but the story was slow and I had to ask myself why I was wasting my time so flipped to the end to rate it then started a Frank Za Firo... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Thea Childs
5.0 out of 5 stars I like books like this where I can go to town ...
I like books like this where I can go to town and actually see where the action in the story takes place. Way better than a travelers guide to whatever city. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Thomas J Sullivant
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty crime fiction
I like crime fiction that propels forward, drawing you in deeper to the story, and Zafiro has nailed it again. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Noirguy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Crime Thriller
At Their Own Game is a thrilling crime novel that reads like a police procedural. Only Jake Stankovic is not a cop, at least not anymore. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J.E. Seymour
4.0 out of 5 stars Spokane Noire
Very noire, great tension. Complicated characters struggling against themselves as much as each other. I felt the ending cut off a little too abruptly, though.
Published 5 months ago by Deborah Fredericks
5.0 out of 5 stars good story
Frank zafiro has put together a thriller that is beautifully told, and intertwined to create a marvelous mystery. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Tali
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More About the Author

Frank served in the U.S. Army from 1986-91 in Military Intelligence as a Czechoslovak linguist. In 1993, he became a police officer. During his career, he worked as a patrol officer, corporal, and detective. In 2002, he became a sergeant and entered into leadership roles. He was fortunate enough to command patrol officers, investigators, K-9 officers (and their dogs!), and the SWAT team. Frank retired from law enforcement in 2013 as a captain. Since then, he has taught law enforcement subject matter at community college, university, and as an independent consultant. He also teaches a series of writing workshops.

Frank began writing seriously at about thirteen. In 1995, he started the first draft of "Under A Raging Moon," which would become the first book in the River City series of crime fiction.

Since then, Frank has completed a number of novels set in River City, a fictional version of Spokane, Washington. The River City series is published in paperback by Gray Dog Press and currently sits at four volumes. Other Frank Zafiro books are also set in River City, including mysteries such as "Waist Deep" and "Lovely, Dark, and Deep", starring Stefan Kopriva, and "Some Degree of Murder", written with Colin Conway. Other novels are set in Spokane proper, such as "The Last Horseman" and "At Their Own Game", or elsewhere, such as the Chicago setting for "Blood on Blood", written with Jim Wilsky.

Frank has been rated the #1 author for police procedurals on Amazon, and remains one of the top ranked authors in that Amazon category. Frank's books are available in all formats -- paperback, ebook, and audio book.

In addition to novels, dozens of Franks' short stories have been published in magazines (print or online) and numerous anthologies.

Frank also write mainstream fiction under his real name, Frank Scalise, including his hockey novel "All That Counts" (Gray Dog Press,February 2010) and a children's series about Sam the Hockey Player, which began with the middle grade title "The Hardest Hit."

Frank resides near Spokane, Washington, with his wife and son. He is an avid hockey fan, reader, movie lover, and a tortured guitarist.

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