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  • Writer's pictureD. P. Lyle

Reviews: SKIN IN THE GAME, Cain/Harper #1

Terrific—truly sinister, scary, and suspenseful. Lyle never lets you down.—Lee Child, NYT Bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series

SKIN IN THE GAME hums like a tuning fork in perfect thriller pitch. Heroes Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy are skilled with blade and mind, and the villain here sent chills up my spine from page one on. This is further proof that Doug Lyle is at the top of his game.--T. Jefferson Parker author of THE LAST GOOD GUY

D.P. Lyle’s novels are chillingly authentic. An expert technician just keeps getting better. Packed with edge of the seat tension, Skin in the Game takes hunting to an astonishing, and frightening, new level.—Robert Dugoni, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series

From the first line of Skin in the Game, D.P. Lyle grabs your attention and your imagination, and never lets up. This is a masterpiece of suspense that is built upon strong characters, solid plotting, and excellent scene setting. Lyle uses misdirection as expertly as did Raymond Chandler and builds tension that will cause the reader to turn on all the lights and lock the doors. Don’t miss this one.---Joseph Badal, Tony Hillerman Award Winning Author of Natural Causes

Skin in the Game is a bracing and blisteringly original thriller that challenges old genre rules while making up plenty of its own. D. P. Lyle has a fashioned a tale sharply edged enough to leave our fingers bleeding from turning the pages as fast as we can. His intrepid protagonists are among the best drawn and richly realized of any heroes seen in years with echoes of both David Baldacci and C. J. Box, making Skin in the Game is a winner from page one. A smooth and sultry tale that shoots for the moon and hits a literary bulls-eye.--Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of the Caitlin Strong series

Unputdownable. Bobby Cain wields both his knife and tongue with lethal expertise. Lyle’s seamless prose, gritty voice, and whiplash pacing culminate in an unforgettable climax, showcasing a heartwrenching exposé into the world of human trafficking. And what a wild ride along the way. Ray Donavan meets Deliverance!—K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK

SKIN IN THE GAME is “The Most Dangerous Game” on steroids. Fast, relentless, and cunning.—David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder As A Fine Art

DP Lyle writes wonderfully and with real insight. He’s a born storyteller.--Peter James, bestselling author of the Roy Grace thriller series

Publishers Weekly:

This formulaic series debut from Lyle (the Jake Longly series) introduces two maverick investigators. When Cindy Grant, a sophomore at Vanderbilt in Tennessee, goes missing, Cindy’s retired general grandfather, William Kessler, who raised her with his wife after the girl’s parents died in a plane crash, fears the worst. Kessler, who was involved during his military career in “some of the most secret missions in U.S. history,” reaches out to a former army operative of his, Bobby Cain, who now works as a troubleshooter with former CIA agent Harper McCoy. The pair, who were raised by a marginalized ethnic group as siblings, ascertain that Cindy did not go on a hiking trip in Colorado with a new beau, as her roommate claimed. The stakes rise when the reader learns that Cindy, through her work as an escort, has fallen into the hands of the wrong customer. Cain and McCoy’s efforts to find Cindy before it’s too late are strictly by the numbers, and there’s nothing to compensate for an overly familiar plot. Hopefully, Lyle will return to form next time. Agent: Kimberly Cameron, Kimberly Cameron & Assoc. (Oct.)

Book Review Crew

Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy, raised as “siblings” by a group of gypsy vagabonds, have a very particular skill set. Bobby, an expert with knives, was trained by the army as a lethal assassin, and Harper worked running black ops for the Navy and the CIA. Now in ‘retirement’, they have partnered up as investigators, running their own operation. One of their acquaintances, now-retired General William Kessler, asks the pair to find his missing granddaughter. Their search brings them to a small town where a depraved killer lurks, but the local folks emphatically tell them it can’t possibly be someone from their town. But it seems that it is. The question is, who could it be?

This is a very disturbing and intense story. The author delivers an action-packed, suspenseful tale that takes the reader on very scary ride, so fasten your seatbelt for this highly recommended, great page-turner.


Imagine a person sick enough to buy kidnapped women, tattoo them like animals and then release them as sporting prey. That’s the basis of D.P. Lyle’s aptly titled new thriller Skin in the Game (Suspense Publishing), and it’s a premise so horrific and disturbing you’ll have to stop at times to take a breath.

You’ll keep reading in large part because you can’t imagine an antagonist who’s more deserving of an unhappy ending, and you’ll want to know if the story turns out that way.

Ultimately, Skin in the Game is about hunting and pits those who hunt in the garden of good against those who choose the garden of evil. Like rubberneckers at a traffic accident, we follow the killer and his demented friends stalking women forced to run for their lives. However, the hunters become the hunted thanks to the private investigative team of Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy.

A veteran thriller writer and teacher on the art of writing crime fiction, Lyle uses Skin in the Game to introduce these two new heroes, and the Cain-McCoy pairing offers rich dynamics for future stories.

Raised by itinerant gypsies as siblings, Cain and McCoy are both seasoned veterans of dark operations who left government service to become private investigative “fixers” who don’t hesitate to use extra-normal procedures to get the results their clients want. Their sibling relationship provides an interesting departure from the usual special-ops buddy pairings or male-female partnerships that mainly focus on sexual tension. Bobby Cain also destroys the cliché about never bringing a knife to a gunfight. His knife-tossing superpower serves him well and sharpens the story (pun intended).

As the story opens, Cain is enlisted by retired Gen. William Kessler, a legendary figure in military and espionage circles who helped Cain launch his career, to locate his missing granddaughter. Cindy Grant is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, and Cain and McCoy soon discover alarming details: She was lured into joining several other attractive coeds who work as escorts to rich men. It seemed like a lark; a chance for some thrills and easy money. Instead, Cindy has become a victim of human trafficking, setting off a chain of events that’s far worse than Kessler could ever imagine.

Once the General learns the brutal details, it reinforces his determination that Cain and McCoy must find the perpetrators and deal with them using suffering at least equal to the pain inflicted. Going back and forth between Nashville and rural Tennessee, they identify possible suspects. Evidence is scant, so they take big risks to get closer to the human trafficking network recruiting the young women. Rural Tennessee settings are important parts of the story. Cain and McCoy find themselves operating on the killer’s home turf.

Fortunately for them, most of the bad actors in this story aren’t brilliant opponents. Although their actions are profoundly evil, they do things that more sophisticated or thoughtful criminals wouldn’t do. That makes some of the set pieces less plausible and a bit more predictable. But it won’t stop you from reading to the end.

Cain and McCoy are strong believers in the “ends justify the means” school of moral choices. Although the book is certainly not science fiction, its broad strokes reminded me of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a sci-fi series that came of age shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and often had its characters face dilemmas in which they had to decide if extreme measures were justified to combat extreme evil.

Watching Lyle’s main characters face such choices provides extra dimension and energy to the story. How far will the sibling team go to carry out the demands of Gen. Kessler and their own definitions of justice? In their future adventures, it won’t be surprising if Cain and McCoy again face the issue of whether “revenge” and “justice” can truly be synonyms, or at least live as neighbors on the same street. ---by Lee Pelletier

Cathy’s World Review

Excellent introduction to a new series by an author I have never read before but look forward to reading again in the future. This story grabbed my on the first page and kept me quickly turning pages till the very end. The book eventually reminded me of a movie I saw with my father decades ago. One that had Peter Fonda in it – a movie that I have never been able to forget. This book will no doubt linger like that movie did. It was dark and disturbing and I was definitely hoping that Cain and Harper would manage to do the job they set out to accomplish.

Bad things happen to people in big cities and small towns. Sometimes the expertise of people like Cain and Harper is needed to “fix things” and if I ever needed to have someone on my side I would hope to find someone as accomplished as these two. This book was dark and gritty and made me thankful that I have not run into situations like the ones presented in this story.

I loved Cain and Harper and look forward to reading more about them in future books in this series. They are strong, capable and willing to do what it takes. I am interested in learning more about both of them and wonder what the next book will be about. ---Cathy Geha

Looks At Books

“Skin in the Game” by D. P. Lyle entices readers with a skillful story set in a small town in Tennessee. It is filled with beautiful geography but also with terror, madness, and cunning. The account is firmly grounded with a “down-home storytelling” style; it is entertaining and focused but with colorful details that keep readers captivated. The action is conversation driven, so readers hear what people say to each other, say about each other and, and say about the events. Incidents are described from various points of view with all intertwined into a frightening and intricate plot line. The investigative process on all levels is detailed, specific, and at times almost clinical.

The characters provide the foundation of the story. This is not just the account of a terrible crime; it is the story of those who perpetrated it, suffered because of it, and most importantly, those who solved it. The main characters, Bobby Cain and his sister Harper McCoy, are flawed, but dedicated, focused, and well skilled. They have intricate back- stories that endear them to readers. Readers learn how they grew into their present day selves, and how they developed the skills needed for the task at hand. Additional characters, both good and not so good, are complex, true-to-life, and a supplement to the action.

Of course Lyle includes in a nice plug for books and authors when characters are cautioned to be careful what they say; “Mother’s a crime writer. You might end up in one of her books.” There is also a reminder for readers as well; “I expect you to go to Amazon and give it five stars.”

King’s River Life Review

Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy had a very unconventional upbringing. They were raised as siblings by an itinerant gypsy family where they learned hunting skills necessary for survival and Bobby Cain honed his knife expertise. Separated when the government raided and disbanded their family, Bobby Cain was trained by the U.S. Military in the art of covert eliminations, and Harper McCoy was trained by the U.S. Navy to run black ops and wage psychological warfare. They are now civilians who hire out their special skills when ordinary skills aren't enough. Each one is lethal and deadly, but together they make a formidable team when only the best is needed.

Case in point is Retired General William Kessler who hires the duo to find his missing granddaughter Cindy, a Vanderbilt co-ed. Bobby had served overseas with the general and would gladly do anything needed to bring the man's granddaughter home. As Bobby and Harper start their investigation, the clues lead them to a small lake side town in central Tennessee. Their investigation uncovers that Cindy isn't the only missing girl and the body of another one has come to light. Their search uncovers ties to high end prostitution, human trafficking, and a serial killer with unusual hunting tastes. Can Bobby and Harper find the killer in time to prevent another young woman's murder?

This was a compelling and riveting read. The story grabs you from the first page and never lets up. The writing is sharp and crisp which brings the characters to life. The mystery takes many twists and turns with many surprises thrown in but delivers on all counts, especially the ending. I highly recommend this suspenseful thriller for anyone who enjoys a roller coaster ride in the dark underbelly of society.

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