Robert Paul Blumenstein


Book Reviews

Blood in the Ground

I’m very pleased to announce that the October 2012 issue of our online book review magazine “Small Press Bookwatch” features “Blood in the Ground”.  This review has been posted with the Cengage Learning, Gale interactive CD-ROM series “Book Review Index” which is published four times yearly for academic, corporate, and public library systems.  A copy of the review is enclosed for your files:

The world of spirits lurks to overwhelm the world of humanity.  “Blood in the Ground” is a modern fantasy and third book in Robert Paul Blumenstein’s Ascension Trilogy following the success of Peyton Costello apprehending Opossum.  But Opossum does not take a loss gracefully, and his plots will continue to lurk, as Peyton must act fast or face his wrath.  “Blood in the Ground” is a riveting read that should prove hard to put down.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief for the Small Press Bookwatch:  October, 2012, Midwest Book Review from the "Fiction Shelf"

Blood in the Ground the third installment in the Ascension Trilogy by author Robert Paul Blumenstein and like his two predecessors, Flirtin' with Jesus and Snapping the String, doesn’t disappoint.

Peyton Costello's journey continues in Blood in the Ground to battle evil in the name of Opossum. Peyton is also reacquainted with a nemesis from his past and calls on an old friend for help when the unthinkable happens.

Blood in the Ground is intriguing with the author's vivid imagination and storytelling; captivates your attention daring you to ask questions and provoking you to find answers.
Although at times Blood in the Ground can be bone chilling graphic and very dark, nevertheless, you simply can’t put it down anticipating what is going to happen next.

In the end, the battle of good vs. evil comes full circle leaving you wondering what this author has up his sleeve for his next book.

This book is not for the faint at heart.

Reviewed by EK Ellis, December 15, 2012, for EK Ellis Literary Works

The story starts out with Peyton being woken from his sleep by a dream, which to him, can only mean one thing.  So without a doubt in his mind he rings Mahoney, an aging cop who had dealt with the case which saw the killer of Peyton’s parents, called Opossum put onto death row:  A case which perhaps would not have been successful without the special spiritual gifts which Peyton happens to command.  But now Peyton asks the old detective a strange question, is Opossum still in prison?  Mahoney squanders his way down to the prison where Opossum is spending his last few hours before his death sentence is carried out, but the impossible happens, Opossum escapes.  Whilst suspicion hangs over the heads of a couple of bystanders, a priest and Opossum’s female psychiatrist, Mahoney only cares about catching Opossum and jumps straight onto the trail...

Robert Paul Blumenstein has written a very well put together piece of literature; it has been very well researched and flows very smoothly throughout.  The story itself visits to many locations such as Frankfurt, San Francisco, and Jerusalem, it moves quiet intensively from one drama to the next which keeps the story fresh, fast moving and very interesting.  The book also delves deep into spiritual topics of good versus evil, and how much can evil tempt or corrupt the good of mankind, and even to the topic of how sexuality can be corrupted.  This is all played out within the scenes of the story as it develops; one particularly strange moment was when the psychiatrist Doctor Kirkpatrick seems to get twisted into one of Opossum’s rituals by wearing very little clothing.  But the story centres on Opossum and his ability to corrupt people and his ability to get them to ‘make deals’ which seem to come at a cost.

This was the first book that I have read by Robert Paul Blumenstein and I must admit that I liked it, mainly because he was not afraid to throw in topics which other people tend to glance over at times, the dialogue that is used is very modern with realistic exchanges between the characters, and I especially liked how he added in the odd verse from the bible, which tended to give the book a more dramatic feel.  Overall, I would recommend this book to those who like to read detective suspense novels, or to those who have an interest in the paranormal.  This book is packed with both!

Reviewed by Mike Cesar for Cesar Book Reviews, Dublin, Ireland

Fantastic Next Chapter in the Peyton Costello/Opossum Series! Loved It!

I received a copy of Blood in the Ground from the author for review purposes. Having not read the first two books in the series, I was a bit unsure what to expect. From the very beginning I was drawn into the story and was very impressed with the storyline. Opossum has managed to escape from Virginia’s death row, and Captain Mahoney is fast on his trail. He meets up with Peyton Costello near Frankfurt, Germany, and together they travel across many different countries trying to bring Opossum down. Peyton comes face to face with Dr. Kirkpatrick, who according to the book was one of the main people who tortured Peyton during his time in the mental hospital [Snapping the String]. Considering that I haven’t read any of the other books in the trilogy, I did not feel TOO behind in the story and found it thoroughly enjoyable. Anyone who has already begun the journey with Peyton will love this installment of the story, and for those that have not yet met any of the characters in this book, it is a fantastic book that will keep you reading well into the night, because you just will not want to put it down!  Five stars on this effort from Mr. Blumenstein.

Reviewed by Laurie Franco, November 11, 2012, Stafford Springs, Connecticut, for

Snapping the String

There is a string I believe we hold onto in our lives and there are times when that string becomes frayed near the point of breaking. In the second book of the Ascension Trilogy from author Robert Paul Blumenstein, Snapping the String, introduces us to Peyton Costello a young man accused of a heinous crime.

It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a young man’s plight against the criminal system. His fight for freedom at times seems impossible after being maltreated and manipulated by immorally self-indulgent doctors. Getting caught up in an imperfect system where his voice is virtually silenced; Peyton finds a way to cope with his ordeal.

Holding onto that fragile string, fortifying it with his faith, helps Peyton to fight back. The mind is a complex organ with many dimensions. Peyton opens up to these new dimensions, which enables him to escape from the torment he’s going through. Peyton Costello finds his way and discovers answers about himself and his family. Out of tragedy he finds true love as his spiritual insight grows. He becomes stronger, strengthening his resolve to find answers about his father, which hold important clues to why certain events in his life happened.

The author has a way with his ability to create scenes so vividly you feel you are a part of the story. You can almost feel the pain the character endures and the torture of his mind.
Snapping the String is intense and volatile and a book you’ll be discussing for a long time to come.

Reviewed by EK Ellis, December 10, 2012, EK Ellis Literary Works

The thought of ones parents both dying is enough to put some people in the crazy house— but being accused of their murders is just too much. "Snapping the String" is the story of Peyton Costello being committed after his accusation of his parents murder— the string of horrific events leaves his sanity dangling by a thread.  He tries to use that thread to pull himself back into reality, lest his mind breaks and stays broken forever.  "Snapping the String" is a deftly written psychological thriller leaving readers glued to the page wondering what will happen next— highly recommended for community library collections dedicated to them.

REVIEWER'S CHOICE off "The Fiction Shelf" from the Wisconsin Bookwatch (Vol. 3, no. 6, June, 2008).  This review also appears in The Midwest Book Review by James A. Cox

Robert Paul Blumenstein has, during the 1970s, worked with Virginia's deinstitutionalization program freeing inmates from a regional mental hospital. Robert is said to have once commented: “I've travelled halfway around the world, yet never have I travelled so far as into the depths of the mind.” These words are so fitting to his second book of The Ascension Trilogy. He now lives in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia.  

Snapping The String - a book which has more twists and turns than a helter skelter….. It is compelling, entertaining and yet quite dark too. It is based on the 70s drug scene - featuring a teenager who is always up for experimenting.

The beginning of this was really interesting and makes you think. Peyton Costello has just been taken into a secure forensic unit of a mental institution after being accused of murdering his parents. There follows a horrible chain of events, some very gruesome indeed! 

Peyton has to really consider what he wants and clear his mind of the horrible thoughts that consume him. Was he really the one responsible for the murder of his Mum and Dad?

Because drugs are very much involved, it leads me to believe that this poor man was quite innocent. A victim of himself if anything.  

Imagine being trapped in such a place and knowing what he does?  I really found myself enjoying this. There is a rather sad part later on towards the end of this book where Peyton visits the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Costello - Robert describes how he sits there and even the noise from passing cars are diminished in his moment. He is visited by the ghost of his mother who embraces him in a hug and whispers that she loves him. Peyton wipes the tears from his eyes and turns to maybe repay the gesture but sees nobody in the cemetery.  And later: “Finally she raised her arm and acknowledged him (Peyton) with a wave before she vanished, forever.”  How poignant I thought and I'm sure you will too.

The cover of this book is quite eye-catching, I thought. It does portray the story inside so well. A story of drugs, adolescence and one man who tries to find his way and pull himself back into reality.  

Vividly portrayed and quite addictive reading.

Reviewed by Jessica Roberts, Bookpleasures, June 7, 2008

[Jessica Roberts is a book reviewer for a local newspaper in West Yorkshire, England.  She has also written reviews for a national women's magazine and published articles in various magazines.]

Riveting…  WOW! I could not lay this book down. There are twists and turns that kept me turning the pages. This book is an action-packed thriller.  I had to keep reminding myself that Snapping the String is fiction. This is the second book in the Ascension Trilogy. I have not read the first. Snapping the String stands well alone, but I do want to read the other two. This book stays with you long after you have read the last word.

Peyton was accused of murdering his parents. Then, he was admitted to a state mental hospital. The treatments resembled torture. Without benefit of a trial, he spent over twenty years in a living hell. The only thing keeping him sane was the hope of freedom.

This review appeared in July 25, 2008. The review is authored by Debra Gaynor of Hawesville, Kentucky.

Highly Recommended

Robert Paul Blumenstein lived in both Carolinas before finding his way to Virginia where he completed his graduate studies in theatre and now resides. He worked in the mental health care system assisting the state in deinstitutionalizing long-term mental health patients. Therefore, his experience served as an inspiration for writing “Snapping the String” which is the second book in “The Ascension Trilogy”. Some of his other works include “Flirtin’ with Jesus” and “Storied Crossings".

Snapping the String” is about Peyton Costello, an eighteen-year-old teenager whose father is a research chemist and works for a pharmaceutical company. Peyton, after experimenting with drugs, returns home just to find his parents brutally murdered. The police discover him blood-soaked and hidden in the fireplace and from then on he is considered the prime suspect. Due to his mental condition he is wrongly diagnosed as mentally ill and therefore he is admitted to Mid-Virginia Mental Hospital where he has to face various kinds of treatment such as electroconvulsive shocks, hypnosis and tranquilizers. However, he has to be declared mentally competent to stand trial! His only hope appears to be Sonja Day an advocate who, in cooperation with a criminal defense lawyer, tries to give Peyton a chance to establish his innocence of his parents’ deaths. Will they achieve their goal? After almost two decades in the Mental Hospital how will Peyton cope with freedom and with the truth behind his parents’ murders? Is he able to face reality? Will he ever find peace or will the medical and legal system work against him?

The novel is divided into sixteen chapters and being written in a simple style it is easy to read by everyone but it especially caters to readers who love mysteries and psychological thrillers. There is action in every incident and this is what keeps readers glued to the page. It’s a book full of twists and turns and certainly with the most unexpected ending. Its plot is very well constructed and stimulates the reader’s interest. Finally, I would definitely recommend it to those who look for an opportunity to “broaden” their mind.

Reviewed by Maria Gouna in Maria’s Book Reviews, July 30, 2008.  Ms. Gouna resides in Corfu, Greece, where she is a respected book reviewer and teaches ESL and other languages.

Graphic, Revealing Dialogue- Alternate Reality Imagery

Subject:  An emotional, mind awakening, fictional adventure— Blumenstein's second novel of "The Ascension Trilogy." Peyton Costello is sent to a forensic unit of a mental institution. He must not lose the string of hope that one day he will be found innocent of his parents’ deaths. The plot and theme mirror real life events the author experienced while working with Virginia's program for freeing qualified inmates from a regional mental hospital.

Noteworthy:  The start: "In a gadda da vida— Bump, bump. Zip! Balls of light had crashed on the ground..." Blumenstein’s graphic, alternate reality imagery and revealing dialogue will keep readers glued to the pages. The author’s uplifting theme and the karmic redress and retribution plot is interwoven with chilling, mind-boggling, polarized action. The work is timely, reflecting today's corporate manipulation of individuals. A great movie prospect.

Bernie P. Nelson, Senior Editor for The Mindquest Review of Books, Fall Edition, 2008


In Snapping the String, Robert Paul Blumenstein has written a brilliant book.  He tells the story of Peyton Costello, an unlucky soul who found himself at the wrong time and wrong place becoming the fall guy for the murderers of his parents.

Young Peyton was a high school druggie from Richmond, Virginia, who was stoned on LSD when he came upon the murder scene and due to his erratic behavior the police sent him to the mental hospital where he languished for twenty-two years before getting the chance to clear his name.  To sort his life out Peyton Costello has to travel a bit to the US West Coast, Belize and Egypt chasing not just the missing clues of the crime but also discovering his father’s past.

If there was a weakness in the story I felt it was the surprise ending.  The real culprit was introduced to us pretty much when Peyton found out who this person was.  I feel that had this person been introduced a bit earlier in the story the ending would have been even more powerful.  But overall this book is fast paced and definitely holds the reader’s interest.  By reading the cover I found that Snapping the String is part of a trilogy, which is called “The Ascension Trilogy.”  To me it did not matter that I had not read the first book of this trilogy, which was titled Flirtin' with Jesus.  Blumenstein’s Snapping the String stands alone on its own merits.  In fact, simply knowing that there are more volumes makes me willing to keep reading more of Robert Paul Blumenstein’s work.

I recommend if you like thrillers that you read this book and look out for Flirtin' with Jesus as well.

Reviewed by Gary Dale Cearley, Bookpleasures, August 15, 2008.

[Gary Dale Cearley is an expatriate American who chooses to write about controversial material. His subject matter tends to run the gamut from historical subjects to biography and even humor. Originally from Arkansas, he has spent several years in Korea as well as Vietnam and is now living in Thailand.]

This was a very interesting read. I thought that the book was going to take me one way, and then halfway through it took a whole different turn. Peyton Costello is a young man who is experimenting with drugs. He goes on a pretty bad trip and tumbles back to his parents’ house. He goes inside and finds a horrific site. Both his parents have been brutally murdered. As anyone would, he started to freak out and ran outside. His neighbors heard him screaming and saw him with blood all over him and that was that. He was taken into custody and everyone assumed that because he dabbled in drugs that he killed his parents.

He is sent to a mental institution until he is deemed able to be competent enough for trial. Around this time the world basically forgets about him. He undergoes terrible experiments, drugs that cause him to become so doped up he drools finding himself slipping in and out of reality, and he undergoes lots and lots of electroshock therapy. For reasons I won’t give away, he gets out, but it has been a long time since he has seen the light of day.

Towards the middle and end of the story Peyton starts to explore who his father really was, what he is into, and who it was that really killed his parents. He meets some very interesting characters along the way and finds himself out in the jungle and in a tomb. I was not expecting the story to take this turn. I cannot go into more detail without giving it away, but it started to feel like an adventure book as you got more into it.

I think that Robert Paul Blumenstein did a great job at introducing us to Peyton and to making us fall in love with him and root for him. He did a great job at making the doctors seem evil. I did not particularly think the book flowed that well, but it was still filled with enough excitement that I found it to be a pretty good read.

I would recommend this to anyone. I would highly recommend reading the first half of the book to anyone who is interested in therapy or who is in college for some sort of psychology degree. You really get a lot of information about what the mental institutions used to put their patients through and how unethical they were. You really learn a lot.

This review appeared in Front Street Reviews, October, 2008. The review is authored by Ashley Merrill, a recent graduate from the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  When she’s not writing, she works in an adult crisis house in Augusta, Maine.

There’s literary fiction and there's genre fiction, and then there’s Robert Paul Blumenstein’s new novel, Snapping the String, which draws from nearly every genre out there. The publishers blurb, “a chilling psycho-thriller,” will definitely draw the attention of psycho-thriller fans, but what about fans of outright horror, Southern-gothic grotesquerie, magical realism, romance, religious fiction, Bildungsroman (albeit a uniquely belated Bildungsroman), mystery, hardboiled detective noir, adventure, or social commentary a la One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Girl, Interrupted? Snapping the String definitely deserves an audience beyond that of the thriller aficionado.

I like Blumenstein’s concise, uncomplicated descriptions. Detailing Peyton Costello’s hallucination from an acid trip (which is how we’re introduced to our, at first impression, dubious hero), Blumenstein writes, “the walls inflated, then deflated,” which gave me a perfect visual, like something surreal out of Alice In Wonderland. When Peyton releases his distraught embrace from his dead father propped up in bed, we get a macabre snippet any vintage King or Lovecraft lover would enjoy, “Then his dad’s head rolled forward and fell from his neck….His father’s head tumbled to the floor, bounced once, twice, and then rolled to a rest.”

As bad as witnessing the gruesome aftermath of decapitation, imagine how bad it would be being falsely accused of murdering your parents and spending the next twenty-two years of your life unjustly jailed at the Mid-Virginia Mental Hospital, undergoing regular electroconvulsive “therapy” and taking so many unnecessary drug cocktails that your average junkie’s habit might look like aspirin-therapy in comparison. Welcome to Peyton Costello’s wasted world. And never mind that Peyton does not have a mental disorder (that’s beside the point to the vindictive psychiaquacks at Mid-Virginia); Peyton just better be sure he doesn’t tick off the wrong mental health professional or she’s bound to recommend, besides a frontal l lobotomy, a “Second Surgical Procedure”: castration, because, “‘I don’t see what further use Mr. Costello has for his gonads.’” Does Blumenstein grind his axe too sharply in his commentary of the evils perpetrated inside psych-hospitals against mental health patients as late as the mid-1980s? I’d say yes at first glance, but since I’ve read so many non-fictional accounts concerning the abuses, how could I justifiably say no? Perhaps I could say yes to, at times, the narrative feels mildly didactic, preachy, but it’s mostly preaching to the choir.

Peyton’s surprising release from Mid-Virginia portrayed enough drama that it could have served a viable climax to Snapping the String, but then we’d always wonder who killed Peyton’s parents. Blumenstein compellingly keeps us in suspense, whizzing us first into the jungles of Belize, beloved by his father (and where Peyton grabs a native wife, Oriana), on to Egypt and inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, where Peyton and his long-lost friend, Ishmael, discover the first real clues – mysterious apparitions – directing them to a holy man, and to the terrible secret he’s been hiding behind a bookshelf for years.

This review appeared in Book Room Reviews and in Library Thing, September 30, 2008.  The review was authored by Brent Higgins, who resides in Chino, California.

Flirtin' with Jesus

Flirtin’ with Jesus is the first book in the Ascension Trilogy from author, Robert Paul Blumenstein. It is written with humor and insight into the carnal nature of a man wanting real love but ends up reaping the greed of his lust. Letting his yearnings rule his head causes more grief than pleasure. On a spiritual level it’s a man’s journey to reconnect himself to his faith.

With a new career on the horizon that looked to be harmless, Conrad LaGrone thought he’d receive the answers to his financial prayers. Instead it turns out his new job has its own lethal enigmas. A new love expectantly enters his life but she has her own complications to contend with leaving Conrad once again searching for fulfillment in unlikely places. Some of the characters he encounter and interact with have dubious past and questionable ethics.

Getting caught up in a fraudulent church with so many secrets only confounds his ability to truly understand his own religious interpretations. Conrad LaGrone, hard as he might attempt, always ends up being misunderstood in religious endeavors being labeled the “devil”, by those who are truly wolves in sheep clothing.

His sincerity goes on deaf ears as he tries so valiantly to help those in need. By means of great effort he tries to undo the damage he partly helps to create. This only gets him deeper into trouble although his intentions are innocent; all his good intents go for naught.

Flirtin’ with Jesus takes you on a ride and doesn’t let you off. The story line evokes so many emotions of both a religious level and a human one. This book is written for mature audience; some scenes are a bit explicit. It’s an adrenaline rush that will have you wanting to seek more from Mr. Blumenstein.

Reviewed by EK Ellis, November 30, 2012, EK Ellis Literary Works

Have you ever wondered why present-day man finds it a challenge to relate to the life of Jesus? The action-packed novel, Flirtin' with Jesus, has the answer. Though far from a "religious" presentation, this book does offer spiritual food-for-thought. It is an exciting read and offers many hours of entertainment. Yet, John Williamson of Throttle Magazine does issue this caveat: "It's [Flirtin' with Jesus] not for the faint-hearted. Loaded with graphic and colorful scenes, chock-full of bizarre characters with strange, and possibly dangerous obsessions, this novel is a roller-coaster ride of the imagination. Think David Lynch crossed with P.T. Barnum-- it's wild!"

Dan Poynter's Para Publishing

Often surreal, often sexy, and always full of surprises, Flirtin' with Jesus takes a reader on a rocky and revealing journey of discovery.  Nobody's perfect, and Lord knows, Conrad LaGrone makes his share of mistakes.  But it's precisely his choices and the ensuing havoc that makes this read a page-turner.  With a full deck of plot twists and seedy characters living under a curse of Old Testament revenge, Flirtin' with Jesus grabs a reader's attention with its intensity.— Ames Arnold

 Ames Arnold is a freelance writer from Richmond, Virginia.  Some of his more notable writing credits include The Tampa Tribune, Style Magazine, Richmond News-Leader, and Virginia Living

 Flirtin' with Jesus traces one man's journey to self-knowledge through the often seamy underside of Richmond and environs.  It's not for the faint-hearted.  Loaded with graphic and colorful scenes, chock-full of bizarre characters with strange, and possibly dangerous obsessions, this novel is a roller-coaster ride of the imagination.  Think David Lynch crossed with P.T. Barnum-- it's wild!

John Williamson, Throttle Magazine.  John Williamson is an educator for special needs students.  He has written numerous articles for "alternative rags."  He is author of the critically acclaimed book of verse entitled Night.


Novel Offers Shocking Ending!!!

Dan Morris, A reviewer, 09/20/2001

This was a great book. When I reached the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading. That's how much I liked the story. Can't wait for the next book.


eric, A reviewer, 09/12/2001

The writing style is very clean— clear. It was a real page turner. Kept me there the whole time I was reading it.


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