The first big story I wrote as a newspaper reporter was about a cold murder case. I was fascinated by how the case that had gone cold for 23 years had eventually been solved by two detectives. They let me look through all of the investigation files once the court case was closed and a woman had been sentenced to 9 years in prison for killing her husband. She shot him in the back with a 12-guage shotgun early one morning in the shoe repair shop they owned. She put their six-month-old daughter down to sleep in the back office, picked up the shotgun and loaded it, and went into the store to kill her husband.

Then she called the police. Crying, sobbing, and barely understandable, she said her husband had been shot during a robbery. A strange man shot him and fled out the back door into an alley. There was a manhunt and over the ensuing months several suspects were lined up for her to identify, but she never claimed any of them was the guy. The case went cold.

But the key to its solution lay right in the heart of the police department. When the two detectives went back over the files 23 years after the murder, they noticed something missing: an interview with the widow where the detectives confronted her about the disastrous state of the family finances for which her husband held her responsible, and the improbability of anyone choosing to rob a small shoe repair store with a shotgun early on a weekday morning, and then vanishing into thin air. Why hadn’t they grilled her about her story?

Because the lead detective on the case, a star in the department, was having an affair with her. Oops.

Cold cases, whether murder or otherwise, are fascinating partly because they have already defeated the people whose job it was to solve them. Maybe the detective had a giant blind spot, or there just wasn’t any evidence. The colder the case, the tougher to solve. But also, when a case has gone unsolved for a long time, the people involved go on about their lives, sometimes they change, sometimes they reinvent themselves, sometimes they bury secrets so deep even they can’t remember them.

This week WMG is having a special promotion of one of our most popular series: Dean Wesley Smith’s Cold Poker Gang. A small group of retired Las Vegas detectives get together to play poker once a week, eat Kentucky Fried chicken, drink iced tea, and solve cold cases. Oh and indulge in a little romance.

The reader reviews of these novels have been very entertaining, partly because people are so clearly enjoying the books. Here’s a typical review from a reader:

“5 stars: Retirees to the rescue!

Who says retirees have to sit on the porch in a rocking chair? These retired detectives sure do not. Mr. Smith created a great mystery and an underlying story as well. I really liked that cuss words were unnecessary as were gory details. It just goes to show that when you are a great writer, you don’t have to use these. Can’t wait to read more of the adventures of these retirees!”

The series starts with Kill Game, and it is free! The rest of the series (eight novels so far) are lining themselves up for anyone who is ready to get a start on their summer reading.

Dean says he often starts a book by choosing a title. He was a professional poker player so all of the Cold Poker Gang novels have titles that relate to poker: Cold Call, Calling Dead, Bad Beat, Dead Hand, Freezeout, Ace High, and Burn Card. The next novel, Side Pot, has had me wondering what it’s about since he announced it…

I’ll have to wait to find out. In the meantime, play big to win big and get the whole series. You could end up with a royal flush!