Odd uses for funny money in St. Louis author’s ‘Counterfeit’

A novel by Scott L. Miller

by Harry Levins

Published by Layla Dog Press, 248 pages, $14.95 (paperback)
Scott L. Miller
When • 6 p.m. Thursday
Where  •  Subterranean Books, 6275 Delmar Boulevard
How much • Free
More info • 314-862-6100

In his day job, Scott L. Miller of Chesterfield labors as a psychiatric and medical social worker in St. Louis and St. Louis County. So it’s hardly a surprise that the hero of Miller’s first two novels — that would be Mitch Adams — labors as a psychiatric and medical social worker in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Readers first met Adams in “The Interrogation Chair,” soon to be republished.

Now, in “Counterfeit,” Adams gets called in to interview a young man arrested as part of a counterfeiting ring behind millions in well-done $100 bills. Yes, the suspect is guilty. But no, he’s not an evil lawbreaker. His share of the counterfeit cash goes to fellow St. Louisans who are down and out — down on their luck and out of money.

The interesting part concerns the rest of the counterfeit bills — who has the money and what it will be used for. Although no reviewer should give away too much of a writer’s plot, it’s fair to say that those counterfeit bills are passing through some odd hands for an unusual purpose.

Readers may find themselves scrambling to keep up with Miller’s plot, the course of which zigs and zags like traffic on Highway 40. But the local color will appeal to local readers, as will a character named JoJo Baker, a soft-spoken black man who carries a gun and a badge as a St. Louis police homicide detective. From time to time, he beckons Adams to join him in a Cadillac Fleetwood that Adams describes this way:

“The shabby interior smelled of stale sweat, fast food, and pork rinds. Juice and soda cans and Power bar wrappers littered the front mat and back seat. Fuzzy yellow dice hung from the rear-view mirror and the barrel of a shotgun protruded from under the bench seat.”

Welcome to St. Louis — and if you like what you read, you can look ahead to a third Mitch Adams novel, “The Virtual Suicide,” which will be published early next year.

Harry Levins of Manchester retired in 2007 as senior writer of the Post-Dispatch.

Plot Twists, Local Flavor & Suspense In “Counterfeit”

by Jennifer Alexander

Local author Scott L. Miller’s new book, “Counterfeit,” is a fast-paced suspense novel set in St. Louis featuring an appealing hero.

Miller is a licensed psychiatric and medical social worker who has worked in the St. Louis area for decades. His experience adds realistic detail to his novels.

Miller first introduced readers to world-weary social worker Mitchell Adams in his debut novel, “The Interrogation Chair.” In “Counterfeit,” Adams gets involved in a dangerous investigation of a counterfeiting ring.

As the case unfolds, Adams finds the apparent facts of the case misleading. The mastermind behind the counterfeiting scheme may have altruistic motives. The politically ambitious prosecutor seems to be hiding something. And the reason a St. Louis homicide detective is interested in the case remains a mystery.

Adams is living a quiet life, grieving the loss of his murdered girlfriend and recovering from the trauma of being framed for the crime. He has limited his practice to safe, non-challenging patients and is not pleased when the homicide detective who investigated him a year ago calls asking for a favor.

Detective JoJo Baker asks Adams to meet with Lonnie Washington, who has been arrested for producing counterfeit $100 bills. Baker senses something is awry with the arrest and hopes Adams can figure it out. A reluctant Adams is soon eager to unravel the puzzle.

Adams recognizes a woman’s repetitive movements as symptoms of a neurological disorder caused by long-term use of antipsychotic medications. As he approaches a house to question his client’s neighbor, he considers the fact that mental health workers making home visits are at a greater risk for violent crimes.

The St. Louis area is featured throughout the novel. Adams goes to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House and meets a banking expert at Fast Eddie’s BonAir in Alton. A suspect is chased into the St. Louis Zoo, and Adams and Baker track a missing man to a cabin on the Black River near Lesterville. When Adams feels particularly low, he spends time in the Missouri Botanical Garden where he feels closer to his deceased girlfriend.

“Counterfeit” offers plot twists, local flavor, and a likable protagonist. Readers can look forward to the third novel in the series, which Miller is working on now.


Posted July 5, 2010

I will do little else when I find a good book. Besides cooking for my family, eating, and sleeping I read The Interrogation Chair straight through from front to back.

Scott Miller lays out a good story, but doesn’t take too many words to hook the reader. The central character, Mitchell Adams, is well developed and likeable. Miller inserts Mitchell’s thoughts throughout the story, which sounds cheeky, but serves to endear the man to the reader. On the outside he’s cocky and competitive, but the inner thoughts reveal a much more typical guy.
The St. Louis reader will enjoy the references to local streets, customs and buildings. The out of towner will immediately recognize the societal issues of the day that a Ph. D. Social Worker would deal with. Throw in a tightly crafted psychological and thrilling plot, and this book is sure to entertain all readers of the genre. I hope Scott Miller writes another book around this character!

This story grabs you at the beginning and doesn’t let go. Subplots contribute to the main plot and keep you guessing and wanting answers until the very end. Mental illness is treated bluntly but with understanding.

I found this novel to be a great read. The title was intriguing and appropriate for the plot of the story. The author’s development of the main characters was well done. The story itself begins with a forboding image on page one. We move quickly away from that image, but it is there, waiting. We are skillfully taken into the world of mental illness by a clinical social worker. He is a sometimes cocky but always a compassionate participant in a not-so-perfect world. Becoming a murder suspect changes his life dramatically. We follow him through a maze of events both unimaginable and terrible. His tenacity in solving the murder takes him into other areas of crime involving some of St. Louis’s finest families. His story keeps one on the edge of one’s seat. We are both appalled and sympathetic with some of the characters. The story is riveting and we are held spellbound until the very end. I highly recommend this book.

Posted February 6, 2011

Great Read!

Keeps you on edge and guessing from start to finish! Can’t wait to read the next book!