The Ghost Of A Flea

Rated 4.38/5 based on 13 reviews
The novel is a romantic, suspenseful action thriller that tests the endurance and love of a man and a woman, and threatens the security of a great city. It is a tale of greed, passion and death centered on a painting of haunting beauty and mystifying significance. “The Ghost Of A Flea,” painted by William Blake 200 years ago. More

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About John Brinling

Author Bio: John Brinling

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. on June 8, 1936. I grew up in Pittsburgh and didn’t leave home until I was 21 and heading off to graduate school at the University of Illinois in Chicago. I’ve attended multiple universities: Duquesne, U. of Illinois, U. of Pittsburgh, Columbia. And I have a B.S. in Pharmacy and an M.S. in Pharmacology. I was married in 1975 and have one daughter.

I have been writing all of my life. I wrote my first novel when I was sixteen. “Black Dawn.” It dealt with segregation and the KKK. Whatever happened to it I don’t know.
Since then, earning a living has preempted long periods of my life when I wrote very little. My wife and I are both in data processing (IT nowadays) and we usually work long hours when we are on a contract, which meant I spent little time writing fiction when gainfully employed. The birth of my daughter offered me another excuse for not writing, but that’s what it was: an excuse. Writing is hard. But it’s in my DNA and I keep returning to it, despite some part of me that prefers the lazy life. However, not writing is unthinkable, and I am constantly exploring ideas even when I’m not committing them to paper.
I lived and worked in Europe for seven years. I met my wife In Italy where we both worked for the same company, and were married in 1975. The contract we were working on ended that year and we took two years off to live in England, in a 300 year old farmhouse in Wiltshire. It was in that farmhouse that I wrote “The Ghost Of A Flea,” as well as another book titled “Quarantine,” which is a science fiction thriller.
“The Ghost” has a strong autobiographical component. I was a programmer/analyst. The office ambience in the novel is similar to life in my New York office, although the intrigues were of an entirely different nature. I had a good friend who lived in Sparta. I lived for a time near the George Washington Bridge. The building manager was an Irishman, who became a good friend, and an integral character in the book.
“Quarantine” is set in East Africa, where my wife and I vacationed, and I drew liberally on what we read, saw, and experienced.
I had an agent back then who marketed both books, and came very close to selling them to both Doubleday and St. Martins. Unfortunately he died before completing the sale and I put the books on a shelf and forgot about them for 35 years. Only this year did I resurrect them and publish them on Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords.
In 1977, my wife and I returned to the states and founded our IT consulting firm, Brinling Associates. For the next fifteen years we worked hard building our business. I wrote one novel during that time, a book titled “Alone,” which dealt with a man in an irreversible coma who is aware of what is happening around him, but is unable to communicate with the real world. I thought the book was lost, but have just recently found a hardcopy of the book and have begun reworking it..
In 1990, during a down period in our business activities, I wrote several other novels which I am attempting to bring out of retirement. These novels were also put on the shelf when circumstances re-ignited our business opportunities. One book – “The Watcher,” an occult horror thriller – is already self-published. The other is a much larger work, a rural mystery series tentatively titled “The Valley Mysteries” set in Vermont, that I’m still working on.
As you can see, writing books is one thing, marketing quite another. I am perhaps the world’s worst marketer, which helps explain why my writings have spent most of their lives on a shelf in my home in Vermont staring out at me asking “Why am I here?”
For the past few years I have been writing screenplays, which are more bite-sized writing efforts. I have done fairly well in some contests, but am still waiting to be discovered. The small royalty checks I earned from Amazon this year are the only money I’ve ever earned from my fiction writing.
My writing is pure escapism. When I sit down to write, I embark on an adventure. I let things happen and I let the characters be who they are. Since I strongly avoid outlines, I am as surprised by events as I hope the reader is. Pulling together loose ends is a subject for revision, which I do endlessly. This undoubtedly makes for more work and takes me longer to “finish” something, but it seems to be the best, the only, way for me. It is the candy bar just out of reach that keeps me at the keyboard.
My background illustrates my chaotic approach to life. I have been at different stages a pharmacist, a pharmacologist, a tech writer, a programmer/analyst, a business consultant, a business owner, a teacher, a novelist and a screenwriter. At one time I thought it perfectly acceptable, if not desirable, to change jobs/professions every year or so. I didn’t worry about the future, assuming I would always find a way to muddle through.
I’m still muddling through.

Learn more about John Brinling


Carol reviewed on on Oct. 31, 2011

A fast paced thriller with many twists as it runs. It does start a bit slow but accelerates as the groundwork is laid.
(reviewed 8 months after purchase)
Donna Jaske reviewed on on Sep. 21, 2011

At first he is going crazy, imagining things, remembering it wrong from the morning encounter with his wife to when he comes home that night. But is Roger really losing it, or is he the object of a cruel and sadistic plot? And why would they want to destroy him? The mystery deepens as we follow numerous characters in a complicated story. At times there is more telling than showing, and I don't always "see" what's happening or really feel the emotion that should be there. It does seem slow at the beginning because too many words are spent describing looks and mannerisms. Weaving these descriptions into the story over many pages would help the reader to see and know the character, rather than having to study and memorize all these details from one page. For example, instead of "Gideon was not a physically attractive man. Forty-one and thirty pounds overweight (. . . too many more descriptions), it might read "Gideon dripped sweat as he moved his very obese—even fat, one might say—body the short distance across the room to his chair." Then, have more conversation before the next description. This is an interesting book for readers who like mysteries, murder and lots of clues to sort through. I would give this a 3.7 star rating.
(reviewed 77 days after purchase)
v vb reviewed on on Aug. 20, 2011

Good thriller with lots of characters, lots of red herrings, lots of wondering "what the..."

Although this one did not keep me guessing "who" until the end, it kept me wondering "why"?
(review of free book)
aimee lavalle reviewed on on June 23, 2011

When I first read the description of the book on Smashwords I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. It's a murder/mystery novel, not usually my first choice of genre, but not my last, so I decided to give it a fair shot. At first it was a bit slow going, and it took me until about the 3rd or 4th chapter to really get into it. But then the story started getting interesting. Every time I thought I had an idea about what was going on there was another twist. No one is quite who they seem, with every page their true self seems to come out, only to change again. The story itself drew me in, I found myself not wanting to put it down because I wanted to finally find out what the truth really was. Plus there were tons of action scenes and even a little romance thrown in.
I only had to real problems with this book. The first problem is that after a certain point the plot twists and red herrings began to get in the way of the story. I understand they were part of the story, and the story itself was excellent, but after a while I just wanted to know the truth and find out what was really going on. And it went from "Oh My what a twist", to "oh, what now". Even up until the very end I was still kind of waiting for another shoe to drop and change everything. Again. Fortunately the shoes finally stopped falling. The second problem, was that I had a hard time connecting/caring for the main character. Roger is you average everyday guy, who just happens to walk straight into a seedy drug cartels world. I get he's an average guy, he's not, to quote the book, a "comic book hero". I get that, really, but sometimes he just came
across as being so annoying. He just lets things happen to him and then does nothing about them. Especially in the beginning of the book. He obviously has problems with his wife, but instead of going home to here he goes out to get high with his buddies and then wonders why she is angry. (I know this is common male behavior, so maybe that's why I got annoyed by it, but still) But at the same time he seems to let people just manipulate him. He's not so bad by the end of the story, and maybe that's what the author intended, but by the end of the book I just wanted to find out the end of the story and have all the puzzle pieces fit together. I really didn't care what happened to the characters themselves.
Overall I'd give this story 4 outta 5 stars. Its a good story. If you like intrigue and mysteries. If you like action and adventure. The Ghost of a Flea has all that. It will definitely keep you interested, and in the end the questions are answered and the end itself is satisfying. I give it four stars because while I didn't connect with the character that doesn't mean that someone else wouldn't. If I had been able to maybe I wouldn't have gotten so frustrated with all the plot twists.That being said, I reiterate I did like the story itself and if I came across another one of Mr. Brinling's books I would read it. So if you are looking for a good mystery with a lot of intrigue and some surprising twists, to take to the beach or pool this summer, go check out The Ghost of a Flea.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
dag64 reviewed on on June 10, 2011

Reading "The Ghost Of A Flea" was like riding a roller coaster! There were so many twists and turns and ups and downs! Who do you trust, when the people closest to you, your wife, best friend, boss, work colleague all are telling you something different. Who do you believe? Roger at first wonders if he's losing it, he then realizes someone is lying, but who and why. That is the dilemma that Roger is facing. This book was a real page turner from the very start! You never knew what twist was coming next. "The Ghost Of A Flea" is one of the best mysteries I have read in a long time. At times I was so drawn into the story, it was like I was watching a movie. If you like mysteries that really keep you guessing from the first page to the last page, you will really enjoy this book.
(reviewed 9 days after purchase)
Jaidis Shaw reviewed on on March 15, 2011

The Ghost of a Flea by John Brinling is an intricate web of mystery, intertwined with even more deceit and lies. Just when the reader feels as though they have a solid lead in the right direction, more suspicion is added and the reader, along with the characters, are reverted back to square one. Roger is just your average man. He spends way to much time working at a boring job that he could care less about. All of the people in his life that are closest to him, people who he should be able to turn to for support, leave him with nothing but more unanswered questions. Just when Roger is starting to put some of the puzzle pieces in the correct order, new events occur and he must start over. But who can he trust when everyone keeps telling opposing stories? His wife Natalie is constantly having arguments with him and then claiming she doesn't know what he is talking about. His best friend Ted is filling his head with falsities and making Rogers sanity slip further with each word. Top it off with Roger being accused of murdering the musician Gideon, the mysteriously attractive Peggy, and everyone in the city chasing him for various reasons and the reader is left with a twisted roller coaster of intrigue and betrayal. If you enjoy puzzles and trying to piece together fact from fiction, then I suggest you give The Ghost of a Flea a whirl.
(reviewed 64 days after purchase)
Wendy Hines reviewed on on Feb. 24, 2011

Roger Davis is just your average, everyday man. He spends his days at his boring job, and comes home to his wife, who doesn't really do it for him anymore. He spends one night a week with his best friend Gideon. Gideon and he usually talk philosophy or Roger spends time defending himself and his wife, but Roger enjoys that one night away from his contorted marriage.

On this particular evening, Gideon thinks that Roger needs to relax and pulls out the "medicine". Roger has never smoked the weed before, so isn't sure what to expect, but he accepts and looks at the painting Gideon wants to show him, one that is replicaed in a London Gallery.

Then something quirky happens. Roger begins to hear voices, see things that aren't there, and loses things, but when he questions his wife, she doesn't know what he is talking about. Then Gideon is murdered, and Roger is the last person to see him. He is now a person of interest.

He teams up with an attractive friend of Gideon's, Peggy, to begin their own investigation on who really killed Gideon. At this time, Roger's wife has moved out, but he is too busy chasing down clues to really give it another thought. He doesn't trust Peggy, he doesn't trust the police, and he doesn't trust his wife. Confusion is a major propeller in this tightly coiled and velocious thriller. Confusion for Roger or the reader is for you to determine. But will Roger get the clues in order before his life is forfeit?

John Brinling brings us an exemplary whodunit set in 1975. It was refreshing to read a novel without computers and cellphones at every turn to get them out of trouble. Real footwork is involved in the investigation and the twists and turns of who is telling the truth and are whom they say they are will leave your head spinning but if you can slide your logic into appropriate slots, you will be extremely satisfied with the conclusion.

This book will appeal to many mystery and thriller fans. The plot is authentic, the characters realistic and well developed and the writing is seamless. A fantastic read!
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)
Alice Yeh reviewed on on Jan. 25, 2011

Though initially unenthusiastic about what appeared to be a story of bitter men attempting to be philosophers, the The Ghost of A Flea quickly morphed into an intriguing tale of drug deals and the inability to know whom to trust. Red herrings abounded, and for the longest time, I was uncertain whether the main character, Roger, was hallucinating, confused, or caught up in some grandiose form of hypnosis. The manipulation around him was subtle and maintained that delicious sense of suspense that drives any good thriller.

The language in this book was as hard and driven as the plot, allowing for important details without belaboring the point by being overly descriptive. Necessary items were introduced with the same straightforwardness as ones that were later revealed to be unimportant, and through it all, that sense of dread and fascination was maintained. There were multiple instances where "passed" was used instead of "past," and more than one instance of the you're/your and who's/whose confusion. All three are generally unforgivable faux pas in my book, and had the rest of the novel not been written so well, the whole work may very well have been written off.

Characterizations here were absolutely flawless. Each person involved was distinctive, their traits consistent even with all of the acting and subterfuge woven in. Betrayals were believable, and revelations were informative without being excessively explanatory. Like any good villain, the "bad guys" had that self-defeating, hubris-driven tendency to monologue, which were like a lifeline when I, like Roger, was caught up in grasping at thin air for understanding. By far the most enigmatic character was Peggy, a woman whose loyalties were constantly called into question either to be bolstered or decimated by the contents of the following scene. The ending of the novel was satisfactory and tied up all loose ends without resorting to deus ex machina, for which I was quite thankful.

As intricate as it was enthralling, The Ghost of a Flea is one of the most surprising books that I've come across. Nothing was as expected, and I was frequently left hankering for the next great reveal. If suspense and mind games are your cup of tea, then imbibe with pleasure as you work your way through this well-written work.

Stimulated Outlet Book Reviews
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)
Murphy's Library reviewed on on Nov. 29, 2010

(from Murphy's Library -

At first, I didn’t know in what territory I was stepping into with this book. It took me some pages to really start to get this story, but once it got my attention, I read it really fast.

It is a thriller in its best. The book has action, makes you uptight, gets your attention and makes you want to discover its misteries fast! I was curious from the moment I started to understand what was, really, the plot of this story. Roger could be your neighboor. He is common, plain, a person who lives a trivial life, with marriage problems, his friends, his good and bad days. But things start to change when Roger accepts to have a “smoke” with his friend, Gideon.

From this point till the end, everything happens and the book is a roller coaster ride. It has a good dose of mistery, suspense, action and put a good point about relationships. I like this book, even if sometimes I wished I could change some things in the narrative—it got really confusing sometimes, maybe intentionally, as some mistery books are, I don’t know. Things make sense in the end, but some passages could be a little clearer and still have the mistery feeling.

Brinling really knows how to write characters, and I loved how his characters have well written personalities without being stereotyped. It’s good to see their flaws and qualities!

It was a good action thriller, and I would recommend to everyone who loves this genre and wants to have a really good time reading!
(reviewed 31 days after purchase)
Mandy Shemery reviewed on on Nov. 24, 2010
(no rating)
When I saw the first chapter was set in 1975, I thought it was going to be one of those novels that illustrates an important clue that happened in the past and then jump forward to present day for the remainder of the novel. Not so. When I realized the entire novel was going to be set in 1975, I was surprised, but pleasantly so. To have a novel published in 2010, but be entirely set in 1975 is a form of bravery in my opinion. The same bravery that was evident of authors who published novels in the early 20th century, but wrote about the future.

It was refreshing to read a novel without modern day electronic capabilities. To write in such a way, makes me believe the author actually thought about the details of the book: how a character would get out of a certain predicament, how a scene would play out without the use of cell phones, etc. The author was actually able to focus on and perfect the plot of the story rather than take the easy way out. It was wonderful.

The two main characters, Roger and Peggy, were a nice contradiction to each other. Roger was a little wimpy and naive, whereas Peggy was cunning and strong-willed. It took Roger a little longer than I liked to stop being so naive. I was grateful when he finally started acting with some authority and backbone.

There was a part of Peggy that reminded me of myself ... flitting from relationship to relationship until finally meeting that one nice guy that changes the way I see men. Despite Peggy's independence, there was an underlying vulnerability to her that I recognized and understood. I did wonder about her honesty for most of the book and was hoping that she wouldn't betray Roger in the end.

Overall, this novel was rather enjoyable. It was a classically written mystery without the overshadowing of modern conveniences. It kept you turning the page wanting to know more. It is definitely one that I will remember and enjoy reading again.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)
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