Tour: The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2) by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

February 6, 2015 Review 8

Tour: The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2) by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

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.

Title: The Merchant of Death
Author: J.A. Rock, Lisa Henry
Other books by this author that we've reviewed: When All the World Sleeps, Mark Cooper versus America, Brandon Mills versus the V-Card, The Two Gentlemen of Altona, Bliss, Sweetwater
Series: Playing the Fool
Other books in this series that we've reviewed: The Two Gentlemen of Altona, Tempest
Published by Riptide Publishing
Source: Publisher
Published: February 2, 2015
Genres: Crime Drama, Male Male Romance, Suspense
Pages: 205
See the title at Goodreads
Purchase your copy: Amazon
Visit the Author's Website

Stars: four-stars
Flames: three-flames
Riptide Publishing

I am so glad I continued to read this series.  The Characters have been introduced.  Some of the drama and conflict has been set up.  Now we can get down to the nitty gritty action adventure crime drama mystery that is so fun to read.  Although it is helpful to have read the first book, The Two Gentlemen of Altona, I think enough background is provided that you could read this one as a stand-alone, but not near as much fun.

When the Two Gentlemen of Altona ended, Henry and Mac were just about to finally get together when Henry receives a phone call that has him running out the door.  Rather a Grr! Arg! moment.  The Merchant of Death opens with Henry on a bus heading to Zionsville.  Once he gets there, we learn that Henry has a twin sister who has been in a long term care facility and has just walked out of it.  Okay, I guess that would be a good cause to run out on a hot date.

Something has upset Viola to the point she no longer feels safe.  Henry isn’t sure what he can believe, but this is his sister.  He will check it out as only Henry can.

Meanwhile, back at the FBI, Mac finds himself being investigated.  Not for the shooting that he is still recovering from, but for things that happened years ago.  Weird stuff is happening.

Yes, dear reader, this story has lots of action.  It moved along quite fast.  The conflicts between Mac and Henry still exist, but are becoming so much less important.  Mac actually starts to feel like he is getting to know Henry, or is it Sebastian?  I found it interesting that even Henry thought of Sebastian as a separate person.  A split personality thing going on here.  Added an interesting dynamic.

The relationship between Viola and Sebastian/Henry was fascinating.  Viola has the mental capacity of an eight year due to an accident that Sebastian/Henry blames himself for.  But as I read this, I was left wondering, is Viola as damaged as everyone thinks?  She is very bright.  Understands much more than she is given credit for.  It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Yes, there is still more to go.  *sigh* As cliff hangers go, this one wasn’t too bad.  At least this time Henry and Mac, along with Viola, are running off together.  But OMG!  The reasons.  I can only wait, read the next book and hope everything turns out well.  See you next time.

Romance Review


Hi! We’re Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock, the authors of THE MERCHANT OF DEATH. We’re touring the web taking about our influences, our processes, anything we can think about actually, and even giving you guys a sneak peak or two! And what would a blog tour be without a contest? Check out the details at the bottom of the post to see what you can win!



In THE MERCHANT OF DEATH, one of our main characters, Henry Page, is a con man. So it seemed like this might be a good time to talk about some of the classic cons of all time. And here is Lisa’s absolute all time favorite literary fraud that probably nobody outside Australia has ever heard of:



Ern Malley and The Angry Penguins


This hoax may not be as internationally famous as the Hitler Diaries or the Howard Hughes Autobiography but it’s much more fun, and ridiculous, and wonderful, because for once it wasn’t about the money. Here goes:


In 1944, Max Harris, poet and editor of the modernist magazine Angry Penguins, published the complete poems of Ern Malley. The poems had been sent to him by Ern’s sister, who had unearthed them among her brother’s possessions after his death at age 25. She knew nothing about poetry herself, she claimed, but a friend suggested she send them to Harris.


Ernest Lalor Malley was a part-time insurance salesman and mechanic. He was born in Liverpool in the UK but emigrated to Australia as a child. He left school at fourteen.  He lived — and died — in poverty and obscurity, ignoring his own health while he scribbled out his fierce, passionate poetry in a rented room in Sydney.

Harris believed that Ern Malley was a poet with a “cool, strong, sinuous feeling for language”. He believed that Malley was one of the best poets Australia had ever produced. This is an extract from “Durer: Innsbruck, 1495”


I had read in books that art is not easy

But no one warned that the mind repeats

In its ignorance the vision of others. I am still

the black swan on trespass on alien waters.


The police were less enthusiastic. They believed the poems were smut, and Max Harris was prosecuted for publishing indecent material. Detective Vogelesang stated that “Night Piece” was obscene because “…someone is shining a torch in the dark, visiting though the park gates…I have found that people who go into parks at night go there for immoral purposes.” He also objected to the word “incestuous” although he admitted he didn’t understand what it meant in the context of Malley’s work. It didn’t matter. Max Harris was found guilty, and fined five pounds.


In a very short time, Ern Malley had become Australia’s most famous, scandalous poet. He was the poster boy for the intellectual battle between the traditionalists and the modernists, between conservative and liberal. He was reviled, and he was championed. The media couldn’t get enough.


Small problem: Ern Malley didn’t exist.


Ern Malley was the creation of James McAuley and Harold Stewart, two conservative poets who wanted to discredit Max Harris, modernism and the avant-garde movement. The poems, the hoaxers believed, were nonsense. They had deliberately created them to have no coherent theme, no technique, no consistency and no meaning.


It worked. When the truth came out, Max Harris was a laughing stock. So were the police and the courts.


Except it also didn’t work. Because even though they hadn’t intended to do it, McAuley and Stewart had created real poetry that resonates.


The poetry of Ern Malley is a reminder that meaning is something for the reader to discover, and that any work is more than the sum of its parts. It is a reminder that the intent of an author might not count for anything, and that the value of a work lies in its interpretation not its execution. It’s a reminder that the law is an ass, and it’s a reminder that there is a very fine line between parody and accidental genius.

The scandal is over sixty years old, and nobody is still quite sure who won. Not Max Harris, who spent the rest of his life defending himself for having fallen for the hoax, and not McAuley and Stewart, whose “serious” work was never as successful as Malley’s poetry. Maybe the real winner is Ern, the little battler who overcame non-existence itself to become one of Australia’s most famous poets.


As Ern wrote (or didn’t):


I have split the infinite. Beyond is anything.

You can check out THE MERCHANT OF DEATH at Riptide.

The Giveaway: Thanks for following our tour! To celebrate our release, we’re giving away an awesome prize – an ebook copy of a novel of your choice from either of our back catalogs. We’re also giving away a $20 Riptide gift voucher, and Mac’s favorite coffee mug. What? It’s not like he’s supposed to be drinking coffee.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for us to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because we won’t be able to see it otherwise! On February 12, 2015, we’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win the prize!

8 Responses to “Tour: The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2) by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock”

  1. Allison

    There’s not much better than people trying to be snotty about something and failing in that intent rather spectacularily. I want to check out Ern’s poetry now too! aahickmanathotmaildotcom

  2. Waxapplelover

    Crazy the lengths some people would go to try and discredit another. I’m disguspressed?

    Waxapplelover (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. jenf27

    What a fantastic story! Thanks for sharing it.

    Just finished Merchant of Death last night. Loved it! Looking forward to Tempest.

    jen.f {at} mac {dot} com