#BookReview “Pay or Play (A Charlie Waldo Novel, 3)” by Howard Michael Gould

January 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Pay or Play book cover


5/5 Stars!

Charlie Waldo is a man torn between his minimalist beliefs and finding the truth. Once a star detective with LAPD, his world crashed around him when he helped send a man to prison, only to later find out the man was innocent. His campaign to win the man his freedom made him a pariah in the department. Life bottomed out for Charlie when he found out the innocent man is killed in a prison fight.

Disillusioned, Charlie walks away, buying twelve acres in the mountains to embark on a lifestyle that would make Thoreau smile. He’s determined to do no more damage. To hurt no one else. So, he lessens his carbon footprint by growing his own food, drinking only tap water, and using only transportation that is either public or self-propelled.

He also owns only One Hundred Things.

While I found Charlie’s commitment to the survival of humankind and the planet laudable, to me, it was simply guilt he couldn’t… or didn’t want to get past.

But once a good cop, always a good cop.

During one of his infrequent trips down the mountain to visit on-again, off-again girlfriend, Lorena Nascimento, the private investigator tries to pull him into one of her cases. Again. This time, it’s easy for her when Charlie finds out the prospective client is the star of his guilty pleasure television show, Judge Ida Mudge.

The thirty-five-year-old hazing death of a student from the Judge’s college days may not be the accident it’s believed to be, but the investigation not only keeps Charlie in conflict with widening his carbon footprint, it also conflicts with his other case – finding out why a homeless man died in a strip mall fountain. Charlie would shake the case off but he is hired by a drug trafficker with little patience and who doesn’t accept no for an answer.

Though he wishes he could deny it and return to his mountain, both cases get Charlie’s detective hackles up when finding the truth could also mean finding a murderer.

But how much of himself is he willing to give? Can he hold fast to his beliefs? Does he want to?

Though I found him to be too tightly wound, I liked Charlie Waldo. He tries to stand on his principles, but he’s flawed six ways from Sunday and he knows it. Lorena is also a strong, likable character who wants more from life… and Charlie, but knows she may have to settle for life.

I haven’t read the previous books in the series, but Pay or Play contains just enough back story to key readers in and stands on its own. However, good writing and original story lines have me curious enough to want to start at the beginning!





Blackmail, sexual harassment, murder . . . and a missing dog: eccentric, eco-obsessed LA private eye Charlie Waldo is on the case in this quirky, fast-paced mystery.

Paying a harsh self-imposed penance for a terrible misstep on a case, former LAPD superstar detective Charlie Waldo lives a life of punishing minimalism deep within the woods, making a near religion of his commitment to owning no more than One Hundred Things.

At least, he’s trying to. His PI girlfriend Lorena keeps drawing him back to civilization – even though every time he compromises on his principles, something goes wrong.

And unfortunately for Waldo, all roads lead straight back to LA. When old adversary Don Q strongarms him into investigating the seemingly mundane death of a vagrant, Lorena agrees he can work under her PI license on one condition: he help with a high-maintenance celebrity client, wildly popular courtroom TV star Judge Ida Mudge, whose new mega-deal makes her a perfect target for blackmail.

Reopening the coldest of cases, a decades-old fraternity death, Waldo begins to wonder if the judge is, in fact, a murderer – and if he’ll stay alive long enough to find out.

Pay or Play is the third in the Charlie Waldo series, following Last Looks and Below the Line. Last Looks was turned into a major motion picture, starring Charlie Hunnam as the offbeat private investigator.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Private Detective

Published by: Severn House Publishers Limited

Publication Date: December 7th 2021

Number of Pages: 224

ISBN: 0727850857 (ISBN13: 9780727850850)

Series: Charlie Waldo, #3

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


Join In:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Howard Michael Gould. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours


PICT Button


What say you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.