Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Dancing Boy by Michael Matson (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Dancing Boy by Author Michael Matson!

Author Guest Post

Some readers have asked where the idea for The Dancing Boy came from. I suppose the concept had its genesis in conversations I had many years ago with a few people in La Conner, Washington. I had been fascinated with the small, picturesque town for some time and was interviewing old-time residents there with the idea of writing a magazine article about the town’s history and role as a tulip-growing center. Several of the people I interviewed mentioned the smuggling that took place there during prohibition. The many large and small islands dotting the inland waters between the US and Canada, they claimed, had provided an ideal and complicated location for whiskey runners trying to evade the authorities. La Conner, with its secluded location on a north-south channel close to the islands, was a prime destination.

For one reason or another, the magazine article was never written but the conversations stayed alive, tucked in some dusty corner of my mind. When I was searching for ideas for my second mystery novel and doing research on the problem of human trafficking, I remembered the conversations and combined the two themes, smuggling from Canada to the US and human trafficking, to write The Dancing Boy.

Another question I’m asked is, once you have an idea for a story, how do you develop it? Unlike some writers who carefully plot their stories before writing (something I strongly recommend but constantly fail to do), my writing occasionally resembles a strange plant that grows in unpredictable ways. This often leads to the question: now what the hell do I do? One method I've found helpful for keeping the story moving is to write the beginning sentence of the next chapter before quitting for the day. Usually after sleeping on the problem I’m able to roll the story forward…although at times it rolls backward and I have to make a Sisyphian leap out of the way and search for other routes.

About The Author

Michael Matson was born in Helena, Montana, and was immediately issued a 10-gallon Stetson and a pair of snakeskin boots. After formative years spent in New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, California, Hawaii and Japan, Michael earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. Following a brief military stint in Oklahoma, where he first encountered red, sticky mud, heavy rain and tarantulas, he returned to Seattle and worked as an advertising agency copywriter, creative director and video producer.

In 2007 he (regretfully) left Seattle for Mexico to have time to write and has since published The Diamond Tree, a fairytale for all ages; Bareback Rider, an inspirational adventure for children; and Takeshi’s Choice, a mystery novel. His short story Gato was selected for inclusion in Short Story America’s 2014 anthology. His second mystery novel: The Dancing Boy, was released by Dark Oak Mysteries, a division of Oak Tree Press in April 2014 and is available at

He lives with his wife María Guadalupe (Tai), in Morelia, the colonial capital city of Michoacán, where, despite all the bad publicity given the area by U.S. news media, he has never seen a narcotraficante.

His website is:


Book Review

The Dancing Boy by Michael Matson
Publisher: Dark Oak Mysteries
Publication Date: April 6, 2014
Format: Paperback - 256 pages
ISBN: 978-1610091411
Genre: Mystery

BUY THE BOOK: The Dancing Boy

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Book Description: 

Treat Mikkelson is not exactly a burnt-out case but he’s grown tired of his life as a criminologist, weary of memories of a marriage gone wrong and of his time in Vietnam. Trying to burn the bridges to his past, he finds and remodels a cabin on a small Pacific Northwest Island, settles down to enjoy fishing, setting his crab pot, digging for clams and documenting the lives of his island neighbors.

When an elderly woman in the nearby tourist town of La Conner is found dead however, the victim of what appears to be an accidental fall, Mikkelson is persuaded to look into her death. The discovery that it was murder leads to something even more shocking: the human trafficking of young boys brought into the US and Canada.

Book Excerpt:

Sometimes people die simply because they’re in the way. Because they’re a problem and killing them looks like the solution to the problem.

In that case there’s usually little or no anger involved. Just an analytic decision to remove an obstacle. A business decision. You do it and move on. Shit happens.

If Margaret Neilssen hadn’t made a decision to sell the property after all these years, she could have died in bed at the age of 110 for all he cared. Selling made no sense. It wasn’t as if she needed the money. She already had everything she needed. Stocks, investments, a picture-post-card fully-restored, turn-of-the-century Victorian home on Second overlooking La Conner’s main street, the tourist shops and restaurants with their docks backed up against the slough and across that the sparsely-lit homes of the Swinomish Indian Reservation.

She could afford to keep the land. She’d held onto it for nearly half a century, hadn’t she? Paying taxes on it. Letting it just sit there growing weeds. Then she and her shiny-pantsed lawyer, Trousdale, had put this development thing together. Just like that. No warning. No discussion. Just live with it. There was no way he could accept that. Not now. Not ever. He had other uses for the land.

It was not yet eleven. Early for a city but not for a small town. Most of La Conner had already dug itself in for the night. Around it, the gravid, scentless, tulip-rich fields, dank with the earlier memory of daffodils and narcissus, lay black and sleeping, deep in dreams of tomorrow’s busloads of camera-laden tourists. Lights from a few businesses along First Street… the Salmon House Inn, the grocery, the La Conner Bar and Grill…still reflected across the thick, flowing, obsidian surface of the slough. A single car pulled away from the curb by the bank building and out onto the narrow street heading south. “Pull-and-Be-Damned Road” they’d called it back in the ‘30s before it was paved and farmers bringing their produce into town in horse or mule-drawn wagons for shipment south to Seattle by boat had cursed its muddy ruts.

Usually on a weekend, even in winter, the town was as deep in tourists as it had once been in mud. But it was mid-week and now only a handful of late diners leaving the Salmon House Inn were still on the street. A young couple, arm-in-arm strolled past the darkened windows of the shops selling brass fittings, blown glass, clothing, woodcarvings, antiques and jewelry. A few locals wandered blearily in and out of the La Conner Bar and Grill.

Chances are no one would notice or even remember if he decided to use First Street, he thought. That route would take him past the few open businesses to the left turn at the end of the street across from the Cranberry Cottage, then left again past the old Gaches Mansion. But people noticed motorcycles and being invisible was a lesson learned long ago. He turned two blocks before First, motored south for several more blocks before turning right onto Second. There were no shops here and no one to see him pull his Harley into the unlit, unpaved alley that ran between Calhoun and Benton. He parked in the hard packed dirt space behind the United Methodist Church and crossed Benton to the side away from the corner streetlight keeping as much in the shadows as possible.

Not that being seen was much of a problem now that he was away from the main business district. Few homes along Benson or Second were lit. And he was dressed for darkness: black jeans, black turtleneck sweater under a black windbreaker, thin black leather gloves, a black watch cap pulled low over his forehead, face blackened with burnt cork. Still, he took no chances.

Beside Second he paused briefly, then crossed the street quickly and entered the old woman’s backyard. Here he paused again, breathing in the faint scent of early dogwood, lilac and bitter cherry beginning to flower in the adjacent yards. A towering laurel hedge and a massive rhododendron, probably older than the house itself, blocked views from the street and left the house in near total darkness; a gothic gingerbread silhouette pasted against the deep gray overcast of the sky. There was no sign of movement inside. The lower floor was unlit. Only a lone flickering blue light from a TV set in one of the rooms upstairs indicated anyone was inside.

Quietly he padded across the well-kept lawn to the back porch and tried the door. Locked. But he’d expected that. He didn’t want to jimmy it although he would if he had to. It was an old lock and would only take an instant. But there was always a chance someone might check later and find marks. He’d prefer to find another way in.

He found what he was looking for on the south side of the house. A window carelessly left partially open not far from the flight of concrete steps that rose adjacent to the property and provided foot access between First and Second Street. The proximity of the steps bothered him. If any of the locals left the tavern and used them he might be seen. It was a chance he decided to take. He eased the window open, hoisted himself over the sill and lowered himself silently down onto the floor inside. There he crouched, forcing himself to hold completely still for a full five minutes until his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room and until he was sure no one upstairs had heard him enter. When he was ready to move he looked around, carefully noting the placement of furniture, the contents of the room. It appeared to be a parlor or library of some sort furnished with heavy oak tables, Morris chairs, standing Tiffany-style lamps, a thin, dark patterned oriental rug over the hardwood floor. One wall of the room was taken up with bookshelves. A door opposite the bookcases and standing slightly ajar opened onto what appeared to be the downstairs hallway.

The only sound, a low murmur from the television, came from upstairs. He closed the window and locked it using the metal catch at the top. Softly, he crossed the room and entered the hall, then moved along it to the stairs leading to the second floor, pleased to find they were heavily carpeted. Nonetheless, he moved slowly, placing his feet as close to the edge of the risers as possible to minimize any potential noise. At the top of the stairs a dark hallway led off to the right to what he guessed were bedrooms. Straight ahead of him across the short landing was a door slightly ajar. A band of light, alternately gold and blue spilled out from the open gap and across the surface of the landing. The sound of the television was still low but clear enough now for him to hear distinct words. A movie, probably. To the left was a bathroom. He checked his watch. Nearly eleven. Whatever was on the TV would probably end then but he was in no hurry. He slipped into the bathroom and pressed himself up against the wall by the sink.

My Book Review:

In The Dancing Boy, author Michael Matson easily draws the reader into this riveting mystery story as retired criminologist Treat Mikkelson is called out of retirement from his secluded cabin on Drake Island, a small Pacific Northwest Island off Pugent Sound, to conduct a murder investigation of a local elderly lady from La Conner. Treat's investigation becomes more complex and dangerous as he uncovers and exposes an even darker and seedier criminal activity, the exploitation and human trafficking of young boys into the US and Canada.

This is a fast-paced and intriguing multi-layered storyline that is gritty, raw, tension-filled, and riddled with a level of violence that is not for the faint of heart. It has enough suspenseful twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing what will happen next as they turn the pages. The author does a really great job of interweaving the murder and child exploitation investigations. The story flows smoothly and keeps the reader riveted with richly vivid descriptions and details that makes this story so hard to put down.

As a fan of noir mystery novels, I loved how the author provides the reader with a gripping mystery that slowly builds upon the tension and suspense throughout the story, he makes it exciting and enjoyable, especially since he delves into the difficult and hidden social issue of child exploitation and human trafficking.

With a large cast of characters; witty dialogue, dark humor, and dramatic interactions; and a riveting storyline that keeps the reader captivated until the surprising conclusion, The Dancing Boy is a must read for the hard-core noir mystery fans.


Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

Tuesday, July 1 My Life, Loves and Passion – Book Excerpt, Book Review 
Thursday, July 3 Room With Books – Book Spotlight, Book Excerpt 
Monday, July 7 The Writer’s Life – Author Interview 
Monday, July 14 Read My First Chapter – Book Spotlight, Book Excerpt 
Tuesday, July 15 Readalot – Book Review 
Thursday, July 17 Emeraldfire’s Bookmark – Book Spotlight, Book Review 
Friday, July 18 Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Author Guest Post, Book Spotlight, Book Excerpt, Book Review 
Monday, July 21 As The Page Turns – Author Interview 
Friday, July 25 Bound 2 Escape – Book Spotlight 
Monday, July 28 Deal Sharing Aunt – Book Review 
Thursday, July 31 The Top Shelf – Book Review


  1. Congrats on a great review! I really like the cover art, too.

    1. Hi Nancy! Thank you for stopping by and posting your kind comment. :)