About A Study in Crimson


A Study in Crimson, a prequel and the 5th installment in the critically acclaimed Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, shows a younger, devil-may-care Dakota at his charming, witty, and resourceful best.

Dakota  has just thrown off the shackles of the FBI and launched his own private detective agency. But it’s not going well. His so-called cases are limited to tawdry divorce work, and his personal life is a shambles.

In short, Dakota Stevens is a hot mess.

Back to School…
Enter the Director of the FBI, who compels Dakota to go undercover at an Ivy League university. His task? To rescue a college coed from the clutches of a Svengali-like sex researcher.

Dakota Meets Svetlana…
While working the case, Dakota meets sexy international chess grandmaster Svetlana Krüsh. Svetlana, bored with her chess career, is seeking a new challenge. Dakota desperately needs an associate of her caliber, but the two get off to a rocky start.

Learning the PI Trade…
Can Dakota navigate a minefield that includes flirtatious coeds, passionate professors, hired thugs, and former FBI colleagues? Can he repair his personal life? Can he learn to trust Svetlana? And, most importantly, can he rescue the girl in time?

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Excerpt from A Study in Crimson

While the other students turned back to Dr. Cantor, Sally continued to stare at me. With my fingers still laced cockily behind my head, I flexed my arms in the snug polo shirt. The swelled muscles strained the sleeve cuffs. Sally’s eyes widened. After she’d been staring at me for a few seconds, I winked at her, jolting her out of her trance. She spun around and whispered to her girlfriend. During the rest of the lecture, Sally and her friend kept stealing glances at me.

When class finished, I stayed in my seat and made sustained eye contact with Sally, smiling at her as she filed out with the other students. My first encounter with Miss Standish was an unmitigated success. I’d piqued her curiosity—step one in getting her away from Dr. Malone.

Eventually Dr. Cantor and I were alone in the amphitheater. He waved me down to the pit. Putting on my jacket and grabbing my messenger bag, I walked down and shook his hand.

“Interesting comment today, Mr. Stevens,” he said.

“Thank you, professor. Great lecture. I haven’t thought about Bundy since my training days.”

He stowed some papers in a briefcase and hoisted it off the lectern.

“I haven’t much time—appointment over at Grossman,” he said. “Perhaps you could walk with me?”


I followed him out a side door and down a hallway, and then we were outside, walking across campus.

“When Director Reeves called and asked for my help in this charade,” he said, “I must admit I was initially skeptical. But…I don’t care for Dr. Malone, so I’ll be happy to vouch for you.”

“I appreciate it, professor,” I said. “If you don’t mind my asking, sir, why don’t you care for Dr. Malone?”

“Because he’s a charlatan who gives those of us doing real psychology research a bad name,” he said. “ ‘Sexual Attractiveness Study,’ my eye. Honestly, I don’t understand why the administration allowed him here.”

“Maybe because he’s controversial and a minor celebrity,” I said. “Due respect, professor, this university does seem to enjoy controversy.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. Anything to keep that endowment growing.” He turned to me with a wry smile. “There’s a joke in academia, maybe you’ve heard it—that we’re actually a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund running a university on the side.”

I chuckled. “No, I’ve never heard that, but it sounds apt.”

When we reached Grossman Library, Professor Cantor said goodbye to me, walked up a couple steps, then stopped suddenly and considered me over his shoulder.

“Mr. Stevens?”


“I know Miss Standish is the reason you’re here.” He looked around to make sure no one was within earshot, and spoke softly. “But somebody needs to look into Malone’s background. I mean really look into it—not the pro forma box-checking our illustrious HR department does. You could start by contacting the long list of prestigious institutions that have hosted his ridiculous sideshow. My gut tells me there’s something off about the man. Frankly, I’ve never met anyone who reminded me more of Ted Bundy than Dr. Malone.” He swallowed and gave me a trepidatious look. “Fair warning, Mr. Stevens…I think you’re dealing with a psychopath.”

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Where I Got the Idea for A Study in Crimson

The story of how Dakota Stevens and Svetlana Krüsh met and became an investigative team is one that has haunted me for 15 years—ever since I opened a fresh notebook and began the “pre-production” that became the first novel in the series, A Real Piece of Work.

I knew I wanted Dakota and Svetlana’s introduction to mirror the first meeting of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel A Study in Scarlet. Like other aficionados of Sherlock Holmes, I have always loved Stamford’s introduction of them to each other in a chemistry lab, and Holmes’ famous first words to Watson: “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”

I began writing A Study in Crimson before I knew how and when Dakota and Svetlana would meet. At the outset all I knew was, I wanted the title of the story to have “crimson” in it as my homage to A Study in Scarlet. However, early on I decided the word “crimson” would refer to blood, as well as an incidental connection to Harvard University.

While living in Cambridge, Massachusetts after college, I spent many mornings writing at Au Bon Pain café in Harvard Square, and my afternoons playing chess there. “What if,” I said to myself, “Svetlana were the interim coach of the Harvard chess team, and she spent her free time crushing amateurs at the café?”

I have subtitled the novel “A Prequel to the Dakota Stevens Mystery Series,” but it would have been equally accurate to subtitle it “The Dakota and Svetlana Origin Story.”

I hope you enjoy it.


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Feature Locations in A Study in Crimson

The majority of the case in A Study in Crimson takes place in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, with a few sideline scenes in Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Walden Pond, Massachusetts. The following photos will give you an idea of the places this case inhabits (please see footnote regarding photo rights and credits):


The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington, D.C.


Fall, Central Park in Manhattan.


Aerial View of Harvard University across Cambridge, from Business School.


Widener Library, Harvard Yard, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


Acorn Street, Beacon Hill, Boston, MA.


Annenberg dining hall, Harvard University.


Cabot House, Radcliffe Quadrangle, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


Race Point Beach, Cape Cod, Provincetown, MA.


Harvard Square chess table.


Quote by Henry David Thoreau at entrance to Walden Pond.


Next up for Dakota and Svetlana…

Having admired Sir Arthur Conan Doyles stories since I was a young boy, I am slowly writing a collection of mystery short stories about Dakota and Svetlana in the vein of Holmes and Watson. Ive written two of the thirteen stories so far, but since I want every story in the collection to be a polished gem, it’s likely to take me quite some time to finish them.

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* Footnoote: The book cover image, “Inscription lipstick hugs and kisses,” (stock photo ID # 676186567) by Golubovystock, as well as the photos of the chess table in Harvard Square and the test tubes of blood, are used under license from Shutterstock, Inc. All other photos on this page were found on Google image search, listed under “labeled for reuse with modification.” If you believe a photo has been used in violation of copyright, please contact me with evidence that you hold the rights and I will remove the photo.