Book Review: Blackjack by Gail Meath #Cozymystery #Cozyanimalmystery #Historicalmystery

It’s release day for Blackjack, the fifth book in the Jax Diamond series! I’m celebrating with a review and a Q&A with Author Gail Meath. Buy links below.

* As always, I must disclose that I edit this series.


A lifetime game of solitaire turns into a vicious family feud.

New York City 1923

Back in the city after a nightmare vacation, PI Jax Diamond and his courageous canine partner, Ace, just can’t catch a break when three quick and easy cases explode into a massive mess of unrelated major crimes with victims, dead and alive, piling up.

Laura Graystone’s career soars as she rehearses for her new Broadway musical. Yet, she senses something’s amiss when Jax spends more time with a new buddy aboard a steamboat than solving crimes. With the help of their friends and a mysterious stranger, Laura and Ace set out to get to the bottom of it.

It’s a whirlwind of twists and turns as Jax discovers there is far more to a family than just blood relatives. And who knows? They might help solve the biggest case of his life.


This is the fifth book in the Jax Diamond series, and it might be my favorite one yet. We learn a lot about Jax’s childhood in this one, and new characters arrive on the scene. Laura is performing on Broadway but still finds time to investigate, especially when she feels that Jax is in trouble. And my favorite bad guy, Orin Marino, makes an appearance, using his cash and connections to help Jax.

The characters, established and new, just shine in this book. I won’t mention the name of my favorite new character as it’s sort of a spoiler, but she is clever, accomplished, and fun. That being said, I can see right now you don’t want to cross her, either! I hope we see a lot more of her in the future. There are, as usual, a lot of “bad guys” on the scene, and some of them will surprise you. Ace, Jax’s canine sidekick, is as smart as ever and is always available to save the day. The book is set partly on a high-class, luxury 1920s steamship, and the description of that setting portrays the decadence well. The mystery is complex, nuanced, and true to the previous books. The surprises keep coming, and the reader will be captivated to the end.

This series is entertaining and addictive, but the author also always shares intriguing tidbits of history from the 1920s. It is historical mystery writing at its best.


Gail Meath is a wonderful author and friend who also lets me edit her books! I love working with her. She not only graciously agreed to do a Q&A, but didn’t complain when I sent it to her at the last minute! I appreciate her so much! See her responses below.

Bonnie: I loved the 1920s casino/steamship that was a major setting in the story.  Was it based on a real ship?

Gail: I based The Cabaret on the luxurious Hudson River steamboats that used to travel between New York City and Albany (1860s-1940s), carrying the wealthiest passengers.  They were truly amazing, but there wasn’t any drinking or gambling on board.  Since I wanted a casino in the story, I decided to put the two concepts together.  

Bonnie: Was the practice of going out into international waters so they could drink alcohol a common practice during Prohibition?

Gail: I didn’t run across any ships that took passengers into the ocean to drink and gamble legally, although I imagine someone thought about it back then.  The common practice was for nightclub owners to send their own boats three miles out into the ocean across the city lines to meet up with bootlegger ships and bring the illegal alcohol back to their establishments on shore.    

Bonnie: A lot of secrets are revealed in this book.  Are there more secrets to come?

Gail: Funny you should ask.  I’m starting on book six now, and it will be revealing a little unknown secret about each of the main characters and their friends. 

Bonnie: Besides Ace, Jax, and Laura, my favorite character is Orin Marino, the criminal with a heart of gold.  Do you have a favorite supporting character?

Gail: I love Orin Marino, too, and he certainly comes in handy with his ‘underground’ connections.  I’ve been concentrating on the main characters’ pasts, but going forward, their other friends and a few new ones will be stepping into the limelight.

Bonnie: This is the fifth book in the Jax Diamond series.  Do you have a planned number of books, and have you decided on a project after this series?

Gail: Honestly, I didn’t expect the series to continue this far, but the readers seem to enjoy them, and they’ve been so much fun to write!  As for another project, I’m not sure.  I have four other books started, and I may get back to one of them.  Then again, I may write another cozy mystery series either going back to the 1800s about a female Pinkerton agent or leaping forward to the 1940s when Jax and Laura’s children are all grown up.

Bonnie: You have independently published at least 14 books on Amazon and have received many awards for your work. Can you think of one or two lessons learned as an Indie author that you’d like to share with our readers?


Lesson #1 – Find a good editor.  I couldn’t resist mentioning you, Bonnie, but it’s true.  A book could have great characters and a great plot, but if it’s poorly edited, you’re going to lose a ton of readers.   Comment from Bonnie: Awww, thank you! I appreciate you letting me be part of a great series!

Lesson #2: Something else I’m still working on is boosting my social media presence.   Usually, Indie Authors’ marketing funds are limited, which limits our ability to reach a wider range of readers.  Developing a strong social media presence can help tremendously, and there are a lot of great author/reader groups on Facebook.

Bonnie: What is your process when you begin writing?  Do you have a favorite writing spot?  Do you create an outline or just wing it? As the editor of this book, I see later drafts, but what does your beginning process look like?

Gail: My first step is thinking of a basic idea for the story, then I start researching, and I never know where that’ll take me since it opens up all kinds of other possibilities.   I don’t use an outline of the story, but I do create a spreadsheet to keep track of all the characters, clues, notes for the next chapter, etc.  My favorite place to write is outside on my deck, weather permitting.

Bonnie: You create your own book covers, and they are fantastic.  Can you give our Indie authors some tips on creating a great cover?

Gail: Thank you for the compliment!  For covers, I subscribe to a stock photo site where I can download licensed images, then I use Adobe Photoshop to play around with it, make changes, add text, etc.  The best way to start is by looking at other books in your genre on Amazon to get an idea of the style – styles are ever-changing!  I’m also in an Indie Cover Project group on Facebook where both authors and designers give you valuable input.

Thanks, as always, Gail for answering my questions! I think readers are going to love this next installment in the Jax Diamond series.



16 thoughts on “Book Review: Blackjack by Gail Meath #Cozymystery #Cozyanimalmystery #Historicalmystery”

  1. Thank you so much, Bonnie! I couldn’t wait to read your review. I also wanted another chance to tell you how grateful I am that you’re my editor…the ending wouldn’t be as good as it turned out if it weren’t for your valuable input!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The inside joke is: I noticed when I was editing Blackjack that Gail was using the word “yet” a lot. So I started counting. I stopped at 50, but I made sure and tell her about it. She actually counted them all, and she used “yet” over 90 times! Needless to say, she changed quite a few of them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank goodness you noticed!! I try very hard to avoid over-repeating words, but boy, that one shocked me!!! See?! Lesson #1 – A good editor:)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review and interview, Bonnie. I have the first two books in this series and I really need to start them. They sound wonderful and I’m sure I will enjoy them. Congratulations to Gail.

    Liked by 1 person

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