"The Safecracker’s Secret" By Sandra Bretting: Review/Giveaway

Review by Kathleen Costa

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book and a link to purchase it.

Right 22, Left 45, Open!

Seventy-year-old Gene Jacks honed his skills over those decades to crack just about any safe, earning him the moniker The King of Safecracking by those involved in the competitive community, so when the Houston police needed to open one of criminal ownership, they call on Jacks. The department doesn’t have the expensive high-tech tools and blowing up the safe could compromise evidence, besides it helps Jacks pad the income he managed from his Space City Lock Shoppe. A family tragedy twenty years ago left him alone, but recently he gained a four-legged roommate: the pit bull Fort Knox (aka Knox) who followed him home from one of those drug bust gigs and pretty much stayed. Lately, however, Jacks has been experiencing little tremors in his fingers and hands, not debilitating, but a concern that might need a medical opinion.

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Skye is a math wiz and not into designer clothes and expensive handbags which always caused emotional angst between her and her high school nemesis, and little has changed now that she’s a sophomore at The College of the Immaculate Word. Her high school BFF, a great source of gossip if you can keep her focused, is pushing Skye, who plays the flute, to audition for the Symphony Showcase. Skye doesn’t want to try out, so maybe saying yes to the part-time job offer at Gene’s shop will give her the perfect excuse. The job isn’t taxing at all, but her “I think safes are cool” and the fascinating appeal to crack them creates a mentor-apprentice relationship with Jacks.

Reef (aka Raynesh) Abdullah, only son of Gene’s neighbor, is the quid pro quo for allowing Gene to borrow his lawn mower. Reef, also a student at Immaculate Word, is not happy about this employment since his passion is skateboarding and his dream is a six-figure stint on the competition circuit. But, his father has an odd obsession with Jacks and his business, so the sooner he finds out if Jacks is in trouble the better. However, he is enamored with Skye who is unlike any girls he’s known before.

The Safecracker’s Secret Earns 5/5 Tumblers…Engaging, Clever With an Edge!

One and done, he thought. Jacks had opened the safe revealing typical evidence against a drug dealer, but after arriving back home, ready for a brew and cuddle with his pit, he gets a call back from Detective Rios. Investigative first responder Emile Boudreaux, pure Cajun and his only pal on the force, found a hidden door, kicked it in, and discovered a stash of designer bags, a second safe…and a dead body. The body, Skye learns, is Libby Sullivan, a student at Immaculate Word. Boudreaux peruses the drug dealers “real” books from the second safe and sees a name written on the front page. Jacks’s shop is near the college, and although the students don’t have much reason to come into his shop, Boudreaux thought he might have heard it in passing…”fireplug.” The investigation stalls until a second body is later discovered.

Eureka! Is that the response when you crack open a safe? Well, that’s my reaction to having cracked open Sandra Bretting new book. Clever. Compelling. The investigation into the dead college girl is reasonably determined as an “accidental overdose,” but the main question remains…who is providing the drugs? However key to motivations and the reader’s interest, this inquiry doesn’t take center stage in the drama. The details in the official reports are slowly revealed through a third-person narrative surrounding the three main characters. Several characters have suspicious connections, but the “Who” is revealed late in an “Oh, my!” moment. Additionally, teenage angst, health issues, and family disfunction serve to provide a deep understanding of the characters. There’s plenty of suspicious behavior to confuse one’s inner police detective from Skye’s dad’s duffel bag, Jacks’s tax returns, and the BFF’s change of attitude, but also budding friendships and dealing with one’s past make this quite a page-turner. Sandra’s writing style employs various perspectives often of the same incident. Each chapter is titled with the name of a character whose perspective will be prominent. The informative background and technical details about cracking and picking safes and locks add to the realism. The “Epilogue” nicely wraps up most loose ends, but some issues about Skye’s and Reef’s family along with some closure to legal liability are left to the reader. Highly enjoyable, though, big thumbs up!

Be a Big Sandra Bretting Fan!

Sandra Bretting is a National Bestselling author, and along with the premier book The Safecracker’s Secret, she penned the six-book Missy DuBois Mystery series, many reviewed at Kings River Life, set on the “Louisiana’s Great River Road, following Mellissa DuBois, owner of a delightful millinery shop, the Crowning Glory, catering to the most sophisticated of Southern brides. Fun cozy not to be missed.

 Facebook — Sandra Bretting Books

Website — Sandra Bretting

To enter to win an ebook copy of The Safecracker’s Secret, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "safecracker,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 25, 2021. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter.  If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode went up this week.

You can use this link to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Safecrackers used to be called yeggmen. Count me in!

    1. Interesting, Glen! I loved getting to study the whole field of safecracking. Especially when I found out Richard Fineman (the physicist) was so good at it.


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