Book Review, Comedy, Science Fiction, Tiny Fox Press

The Great American Deception by Scott Stein


A damsel in distress. A dangerous dame. A metric-ton of coffee…

Private Investigator Frank Harken’s worldwide fame has only made him more cynical. And living in a giant mall covering the entire USA only serves to drive him nuts on a daily basis. So when a femme fatale barges in asking Harken to track down her sister, he knows when he’s heard an offer too good to be true.

Puzzled by the sudden arrival of Arjay, a sentient coffee-making robot he never ordered, Frank shrugs and rolls with the caffeinated punches. But as the intrepid duo dig deeper into the missing dame’s disappearance, they uncover a deadly plot that could take down the best part of a society gone bananas…

Can the world-weary PI and his barista-bot foil the dastardly scheme to rob Americans of their entertainment?


I chose to read this book because of the scifi comedy aspect. It had me laughing out loud at Detective Harken’s sarcasm and Arjay’s literal musings.

“Frank Harken, how dare you! Diluted? Me, of all appliances? I’m outraged! I’m completely out of rage! My beans are pure, my coffee brewed strong and perfectly calibrated. To suggest any watering down…it’s downright scandalous! I am not diluted!” Harken stopped, was shaking his head even more than usual. “I didn’t say diluted. I said deluded. As in out of touch with reality, incapable of rational thought.”

Told by Arjay, “the latest advancement in coffee technology” (a walking/talking coffeemaker), the story is set in The Great American, a dystopian-like mall filled with food courts where one can have a meal and be the jury for whatever court case is in progress. Arjay is delivered to Detective Frank Harken the day he is asked to find a missing woman. Though Harken is not thrilled with the coffeemaker’s talking tangents and literal musings, the coffee is excellent and Arjay appears to have some other useful skills as well. The mystery takes Harken and Arjay through a wild and wacky investigation into the missing Winsome Smiles and meeting Tommy Ten-Toes and his rather large and sensitive enforcer, Iceberg.

Mr. Stein’s imagination is incredibly creative and he gives us excellent detail of the setting and well-developed colorful characters. Arjay is a delight and Harken is a cranky, smart-ass counterpart which gives the team a fun dynamic. If you enjoy science fiction satire, I recommend this hilarious and clever mystery.

Thank you to Mr. Stein for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


The Great American Deception

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Scott SteinScott Stein’s novels are The Great American DeceptionMean Martin Manning, and Lost. He has published short satire and fiction in The Oxford University Press Humor ReaderMcSweeney’sNational ReviewArt TimesLibertyThe G.W. Review, and Shale. His essays and reviews have appeared in Reason, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Liberty. His MFA and BA are from the University of Miami and his MA is from New York University. Scott grew up in Bayside, Queens and now lives outside Philadelphia. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the Drexel Publishing Group and is the founding editor of Write Now Philly

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