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Midnight Rambler: A Novel of Suspense Paperback – September 25, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Jack Carpenter Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Swain, author of the gambling crime series starring Tony Valentine (Grift Sense, etc.), avoids many of the clichés of the antisocial ex-cop novel in this chilling stand-alone. A specialist in finding missing children, former cop Jack Carpenter was fired from the force for assaulting a prisoner. Broke after a civil lawsuit and estranged from his wife and daughter, he's living in a seedy beachside apartment north of Miami, Fla., with his dog. Then Simon Skell (aka the Midnight Rambler), whom Carpenter helped convict for murdering prostitutes, is released from prison on a technicality. Determined to prove Skell guilty, Carpenter is frozen out by the cop on the case, but help comes from an FBI agent whose daughter vanished years earlier. The tension rises as the investigation widens far beyond Skell. Well-defined characters and intricately woven subplots, one involving a nail-biting scene at Disney World, make this a page-turner. 12-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for James Swain and Midnight Rambler

“Midnight Rambler is a heavy hitter, fast and spare. Travis McGee meets Philip Marlow.”
–Randy Wayne White, author of Hunter’s Moon

“Moves like a bullet train on overdrive . . . I tore through this one without putting on the brakes. I guarantee you will, too!”
–Michael Connelly

“Midnight Rambler kept me up all night long, and Jack Carpenter is as appealing a hero as I’ve ever met. The only problem with Swain’s riveting thrillers is they end.”
–Tess Gerritsen, author of The Bone Garden

“Swain is one terrific writer.”
–The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345475461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345475466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Jack Carpenter is a former cop, turned abduction specialist. His last case on the force involved the "Midnight Rambler" a.k.a. Simon Skell. He got him convicted, but his methods forced his resignation - and cost him his wife. Even Jack's college-age daughter doesn't know what to think.

But Carpenter is good at what he does - and ekes out a living as a consultant to police department that need his experience to recover lost children. And he does just that. Then Jack's life threatens to unravel further. The body of the Midnight Rambler's last victim is found in her prostitute sister's backyard, with her pimp's cross, clutched in her hand.

Now the local radio shock jock is up in arms. Skell's wife and attorney are trying Jack in the media with his help, and more people are going missing. While the local police try to distance themselves from Jack, an FBI agent believes Jack's story - and together they begin to unearth a much greater problem than the Midnight Rambler. But getting to the truth puts everything at risk - witnesses who have stepped forward in the past are being killed or threatened, Jack's few remaining relationships are drying up, and someone's doing a great job of setting Jack up as the real Midnight Rambler!

The action never stops and you'd better be prepared to keep reading once you start! Like Tony Valentine (another of Swain's great characters), you'll find yourself pulling for Jack every step of the way.

Armchair Interviews says: Great to have a main character you really want to root for.
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Format: Paperback
I first picked up a Swain novel revolving around his casino sleuth, Tony Valentine, several years ago and have read several since. I find the most interesting aspect of these Valentine novels to be the insights Swain provides into the underbelly of casino life. The rest of his work seems pedestrian and mundane to me and I began to wonder why I continued to read the series. When I read the slash page for "Midnight Rambler", I was quick to explore this new, "grittier" character and the promises of a new direction for Swain. Despite what you read in these reviews, Jack Carpenter is little more than recycled Tony Valentine in "Midnight Rambler".

In this first installment of an apparent new series, the promised grittier character that is more prone to violence and more explosive was apparently kept under wraps, or more accurately turned out to be Jack's dog, not Jack. The most exciting and interesting new character offered in this book is Jack's dog whose appearances I found myself anticipating more than Jack's. I did appreciate the insights into the realities of missing persons and lost children (statistical as well as anecdotal), and the harrowing scene in Disney World was a great case study in itself. But I felt the entire time that Tony Valentine had changed addresses and specialties.

There was a "softness" about the book and its characters in that as the mystery and conspiracy began to come into focus, the conspirators were too quick to "roll over" and take their medicine. I found a lot of character stereotyping from Jack's angry former police colleague, to Skell's groupie wife, to the fickle media, and to the child abusers themselves. There is a very readable mystery here, especially determining who the various conspirators are as things begin to unravel.
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Format: Paperback
Ex-cop Jack Carpenter's damaged reputation is on the line, but even worse, his conscience won't let him give up on the case that ruined his career and cost him his marriage. Although a number of women have fallen victim to murderer-pedophile Simon Skell, only one count comes before the court, along with the corroborating testimony of a young woman held captive and tortured by the wily predator. When the body that got Skell convicted shows up in a relative's back yard, indicating another may be the killer, Skell is on the verge of being released. If that happens, he will come after Carpenter and the lone witness against him, a stripper in Ft. Lauderdale. Jack scrambles to put together a viable case and keep Skell where he belongs, a nearly impossible task considering the damage done to the witness's testimony and Jack's already tattered reputation. Piece by piece, Jack assembles an intricate case that goes beyond the usual pedophile profile.

Ever since he left the force, Carpenter has dedicated himself to finding missing children, a commitment he unfailingly pursues. While dedicated to stopping Skell, Jack takes time out to help desperate couples, offering a chilling view of the world of child exploitation. All too often, Jack must face the parents with the worst possible news, so it is a relief when he successfully completes a few rescues while dealing with Skell's uncanny manipulation of public opinion, Skell's wife and lawyer holding frequent press conferences, setting the stage for Jack's ultimate denouement. A little worse for wear, living alone with hopes of reuniting with his wife of twenty years, Carpenter is a sympathetic protagonist, the underdog mercilessly taunted by the past and the very public exposure of his mistakes.
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