HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn

Knight and Devlin Thriller, Book 6

From the publisher:

History, myth, music, and murder—and Michael Knight is in the middle

An authentic Stradivarius violin turns up in Romania. A Stradivarius is rare enough, but this one is even more special. It is thought to hold the code disclosing the location of a treasure hidden in the fifteenth century. The violin is steeped in haunting mystique: it is believed to have been hidden by Vlad Dracula, whose historic tyranny led to the fabrication of the myth of vampirism. Russian, Chinese, and Romanian gangs centered in Boston want the code and all of them are hot on the trail. Violence is their language—brutality, their technique.

And who is hired to see that the treasure lands in the rightful place? None other than Michael Knight with a little help from his senior law partner Lex Devlin and his crony, Billy Coyne, Boston’s deputy district attorney.

Michael uses the thin leverage of his knowledge about the violin to keep each of the three gang leaders at bay, while he follows the chain of historic clues from a violin shop in the Carpathian Mountains to a gangster-infested nightclub in Bucharest, to a university in Istanbul, and back to the gang headquarters of the three competing criminal organizations. Secrets from the past and present collide along the perilous shuttle between Boston and Romania. In the end, what is the righteous solution?

Perfect for fans of Daniel Silva and Steve Berry

While all of the novels in the Knight and Devlin Thriller Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Neon Dragon
Frame-Up
Black Diamond
Deadly Diamonds
Fatal Odds
High Stakes


This is the 6th book featuring Michael Knight and Lex Devlin partners in a law firm practicing in Boston, Massachusetts. I haven’t read the previous five and based on this book that is something I’ve missed. That is due to the well-done scenario, the originality of the plot, and the care taken in fleshing out the characters in this novel. It is due to my finding that the author is undoubtedly at the top of his career and I missed what I have no doubt are mesmerizing novels and similar to “High Stakes” in being all-nighters.     

Michael Knight is offered a free trip to Romania by some friends. He can also take his wife of just a few months and treat the trip as another honeymoon. Just one favor asked by one of those offering the trip would be to pick up a Stradivarius violin held by a dealer that had been given it to sell. The violin is one of just a few hundred made by the master craftsman and his family in the late 17th century. The sound of the instrument has no equal and current rates to buy one can run well into a million or more dollars. Michael accepts the picking up of the violin as a small price to pay for a trip to a country that neither he nor his wife has ever visited.     

This particular violin was owned by King Vlad of Romania during the 15th century. Vlad was a cruel despot and had the horrible custom of impaling people that displeased him and/or were his enemies. Vlad was immortalized by the 19th-century writer Bram Stoker who created him as an undead vampire awakening at night to drink the blood of those around him.  He could only be killed by driving a stake through his heart.     

The violin owned by Vlad was thought to have a map hidden in it to get to his buried treasure. Legend had it that the treasure was immense since he took freely from his subjects as well as receiving tribute from foreign rulers as bribes not to invade them. Due to the legend of the map both the Russian mafia and Chinese tongs are out to get the violin at all costs.     

Michael’s travels and experiences in getting the violin and attempting to keep it out of the hands of the criminals are very well done. Dobbyn takes him easily from a night club in Bucharest, a visit to a noted historian teaching in Istanbul, and of course all around Boston. He is well described as a man of integrity, gifted with intuition and intelligence, and by no means a superman. In other words, a character fitting right into a plot such as outlined and finding his way through it like normal people who are not supermen would do.

1/2021 Paul Lane

HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (October 1, 2019). ISBN: 978-1608093557. 320 pages.

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