Caught in a Web – A Limited-Time Sale and a Snippet!

I am pleased and excited to announce that Caught in a Web, a PenCraft Literary Award Winner and named, “One of the best crime fiction novels of the year!” by is on sale for only $.99 10-19 through 10-25! If you are a Kindle user, and if you like #thriller #crime #detective and #mystery stories, this sale is for you!

The Book Description is as follows:

They found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area. They sent Ricardo Fuentes from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down, and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor, and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family.

There have been several reviews from reputable outlets:

From Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Reviews and California Book Watch:

Having multiple subplots proffers a level of complexity not usually seen in detective stories. Characters often question if they are doing the right thing, are often caught between cops and bad guys, and teens explore their emotions and relationships against the backdrop of threats and murders.

As the investigators review relationships, affairs, and threats, they find themselves unraveling an ever-increasing web of deception as readers are carried into a thrilling underworld of gang violence and teen involvements which gradually lead to a resolution that fudges on honesty, but ties up loose ends.

Characters are many, but are well-drawn; the action offers just the right blend of tension and intrigue; and detective story enthusiasts will especially relish the level of emotional inquiry, which makes the characters both human and believable.

The result is an involving detective piece that probes the worlds of teens and gang members with an equal attention to precise, staccato details that flow smoothly into an involving story that creates a satisfying conclusion to all conundrums.


The Bottom Line: This important, nail-biting crime thriller about MS-13 sets the bar very high. One of the year’s best thrillers. 

Author Joseph Lewis has crafted an exceptionally timely crime novel about MS-13, aka Mara Salvatrucha, the international criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s. The White House has a stated goal of eradicating MS-13, and more recently, reports surfaced that MS-13 groups were encouraging its recruits, largely teenagers, to kill policemen. That threat is palpable in Caught in a Web, as Graff, effectively drawn as a world-weary local crime-fighter, is joined in his effort to dismantle the gang threat by intrepid undercover sheriff Detective Pat O’Connor and his control, Paul Eiselmann. 

Meanwhile, Ricardo Fuentes, an MS-13 member known as “The Blade,” is sent from Chicago to find out who is cutting in on their business. That’s only the beginning, however, as he is intent on finding and killing the 15-year-old that murdered his cousin. Using the incomprehensibly cruel and morally bankrupt Fuentes as a vehicle, Lewis holds little back as he demonstrates the extent of cultural decay at the hands of MS-13. The results are grisly – one scene with a 13-year-old is especially difficult to read – but extremely effective. Simultaneously, at Butler Middle School, Lewis creates a believable sense of how MS-13 threatens to destroy what is, in many ways, a normal educational existence. The result is a truly important novel in which readers will truly care about characters’ lives. 

Here is a snippet. It is a bit long, but worth it. It is an intimate conversation between Brian and Vicky, and the contrast and similarity between the two points of view bring the struggle both feel into focus.


They had been on the phone with the bank and the lawyer Jeremy had used when Billy was adopted. Jamie Graff hadn’t shown up yet and neither had his aunts and uncles, though they had called to check on Brian. Currently, Jeremy and Vicki were in the kitchen talking to the life insurance guy. Brian was introduced to him, who expressed his condolences and Brian left the kitchen to go back to his room to finish packing. He didn’t want sympathy eyes, as he called them.

He stood in the middle of the room, his eyes wandering over the walls that held his soccer posters, his dresser that held photos of him and Brad and one of his parents with him and his brother. He sighed.

Brad’s room had been packed up by his parents, though some of the boxes weren’t sealed shut. Ellie Hemauer and Sarah Bailey had cleaned the carpet in the hallway and the mess in the office. They were still in Brad’s room cleaning what was left of Nancy Kazmarick’s head off the wall and headboard.

He opened up the top drawer that held some of his treasures. He ran his fingers over some medals from tourneys his travel team had won. He picked up a couple of lucky coins, two of which were an Indian head penny and a buffalo nickel. He gently touched a couple of the sea shells he had collected on their family trip to the gulf coast. He picked up the four-leaf clover sealed in a small plastic covering. He found it while deer hunting.

Two navy suitcases were on his bed, but only one was partially filled. Brian had emptied the contents of two drawers, but he still had two to go, plus some things in his closet.

He walked away from his dresser and went to the closet. He reached up and took down the two photo albums his mom had put together for him. He pushed the two suitcases over to give him room to sit down and he opened up the most recent album. He sighed again.

“It doesn’t look like you’ve done much packing,” Vicki said with a smile.

He shrugged and said, “I don’t have much to go.”

She sat down on the bed next to him and he shared the photo album with her. She would ask about this one or that one and ooo and aww about a couple of others.

He liked the way she smelled. Like soap and her perfume was something light. He could see both Brett and Bobby in her face, especially around the eyes. She smiled like Bobby. Probably like Brett, too, though Brett didn’t smile much.

Vicki said, “Are you going to have a bedroom by yourself or with Brett or George?”

Brian shook his head and said, “Bobby.”

“Really? I’m surprised.”

“I like Bobby.”

“I do, too,” Vicki said with a nudge to his ribs. “I just thought you’d be with Brett or George or Billy.”

“Nah, Bobby. George and Billy will stay together and Brett wants to try having a bedroom by himself.”

The shock registered on her face and she didn’t bother to hide it.

That would be a first. Ever since he had been freed from captivity, Brett had never slept in a room by himself. He either slept with Bobby when they were home in their own house or with Billy or George when they were with Jeremy.

“As long as he has the door open, he’ll be okay.” Brian shrugged and said, “There will be times he’ll end up with one of us.”

He set the photo albums on the bed and went back to his dresser.

“Do you want any help?” Vicki asked.

Brian said, “No . . . thanks, I got it.”

She watched him unload a drawer of t-shirts into a suitcase and begin on a drawer of socks. She picked up the two coins from his keepsake drawer and the sea shells.

“These are pretty.”

“I haven’t decided if I’m keeping them.”


He shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”

“Brian, you need to take these with you. These are important.”

He looked at her and said, “Why?”

“Because these are good memories. You need to hang onto them. They will remind you of all the good times you’ve had. And, even though you might not want to hear this right now, you need to hang onto the tough memories too.”


“Because if you remember the tough ones, you’ll remember that you beat them and that’s always a good thing to remember.”

“That’s something Bobby or Randy or Jeremy would say.”

“It’s true though, don’t you think?”

He shrugged and nodded.

“As tough as this is right now, Bri, you will look back on this and in time, you will remember that you beat it.”

“I’d like to forget all this crap.”

She nodded and said, “When Tom and I divorced it was tough. I was scared. I doubted myself. I didn’t think I was good enough. I had two boys I had to raise by myself. Brett had just come back to us and I had to get to know him all over again. It was a tough, ugly time in our lives.”

“Brett and Bobby don’t talk about it much.”

Vicki nodded and said, “I can understand that.”

They packed together in silence, Vicki handing Brian clothes or things from the dresser and she sat down on the bed and said, “Sit with me a minute.”

He sat down next to her.

“You asked if Jeremy and I are going to get married.”

Afraid that she was going to tell him they weren’t, he remained silent and sort of held his breath a little.

“We will. In time.”

Relieved, he exhaled and said, “What are you waiting for?”

“I love Jeremy very much, Brian. Don’t doubt that. I know he loves me. He’s a good man. He’s a terrific father and he’ll be a wonderful husband.”

Brian said nothing.

“Tom and I had our problems. I knew he was cheating on me, but I had the boys to think of. And even though he cheated, I knew he loved me. I know that sounds . . . wrong.”

She smiled sadly.

“But I doubted myself. Was I good enough? Was there something wrong with me?”

Brian’s eyes grew large.

She smiled again and said, “Some of the same questions you’ve been asking yourself, right?”

Brian nodded.

They sat side by side in silence for a beat or two and she said, “Like Jeremy said, if we’re going to have a relationship, we have to trust one another and if we’re going to trust one another, we have to be honest with each other.”

Brian nodded again. This was the longest conversation he had had with Vicki. But at the same time, he wasn’t uncomfortable with her.

“I guess what I’m trying to say and not very well, is that there will always be good memories and there will always be crappy memories. Hopefully, there will be more good ones than bad ones. But remember both. The good memories will make you smile, while the bad memories will remind you that you’ve survived, that you’re tough.”

Brian smiled.

She hugged him and kissed his cheek.

“I love you, Bri. I’m happy you’re going to live with us and be a part of our family.”

He smiled even wider and said, “Me, too.”


I hope you enjoyed the chapter enough to make you want to spend the $.99 for the Kindle version of Caught in a Web. For your convenience, here is the link:

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