Excerpt from “It Takes Two to Strangle: A Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective Mystery” by Stephen Kaminski

When the owner of a traveling carnival is strangled—not once but twice—on opening night of the summer fair in Hollydale, the police surmise he was not well liked. As the head of Hollydale’s citizens association and local liaison with the carnival, Damon Lassard feels obligated to help his dear friend, Detective Gerry Sloman, solve the crime. Damon is determined to bring the killer to justice, to the fascination of his mother, best gal pal Rebecca, and lovely local weather girl, Bethany Krims. To unravel the threads underpinning this peculiar murder, Damon will travel far from Hollydale as his quest to find a murderer leads to the discovery of long hidden and horrific crimes.

It Takes Two to Strangle introduces Hollydale’s lovable neighborhood leader, Damon Lassard, and twists the dabbling detective through an intricate maze of greed, deception, and murder.


Damon steered his car through the downtown streets in search of a friendly place where he could gather information. He stopped at a diner on a busy street half a mile from the Uniontown mall. A short line of people smoking dotted the sidewalk to the left of the entrance. The interior of the restaurant was so brightly lit Damon had to narrow his eyes upon entering. Sitting at the breakfast bar, he ordered a lemonade and asked the waitress if she knew the baseball coach at Battle Park High School. She responded politely that the school was “a ways out of town,” and she didn’t know any of the coaches. But when she returned with his drink, she brought one of the hostesses and introduced her as a rising high school senior.

“You’re looking for the baseball coach at Battle Park?” the girl asked, knotting shoulder-length kinked black hair with her index finger. Acne and light freckles were blanketed by heavy pancake make-up, usually reserved for women three times her age.

“I am,” Damon replied. “Do you go there?”

“No, but I have friends who do. I can find out in about ten seconds.” Which she did. The hostess reached into the front pocket of her apron and removed a smart phone. She pressed a speed dial code, spoke quickly and gave him a thumbs-up in ten seconds flat. But she kept talking for another five minutes, and, without failing to remove the phone from her ear, seated a young family who had just approached the hostess stand. Damon sipped his lemonade patiently. It was terrible—made from straight powder and without enough sugar. But by the time he choked down half of it, the teen returned and gave him the name of David Johnson, who taught biology when he wasn’t coaching the team.

Great, Damon thought sarcastically, could there be a more common name? The phone book could be littered with David Johnsons and D. Johnsons. And he didn’t even know whether this particular one lived in Uniontown.

But the hostess had even more information for him—a diamond in the diner. She didn’t know whether the coach would be there, but there was a baseball complex five miles northwest of town that hosted high school summer league games almost every Sunday night during June and July.

Damon wrote down directions to the park and slipped the hostess a twenty dollar bill but left the remainder of the lemonade on the counter.


STEPHEN KAMINSKI is the author of It Takes Two to Strangle, the first book in the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School. Stephen has practiced law for over a decade and currently serves as General Counsel to a national non-profit organization. He is a lifelong lover of all types of mysteries and lives with his wife and daughter in Arlington, Virginia. The second book in the Damon Lassard series is expected to be published in September 2013.




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