Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “You Bet Your Life” as Want to Read:
You Bet Your Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

You Bet Your Life (Toby Peters #3)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  254 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Toby Peters goes to Chicago to clear up a famous comic’s gambling debtsThere’s nothing funny about the package that comes for Chico Marx. It’s a severed ear, a simple message from a Chicago bookie who wants $120,000 from the world-renown Marx brother. The strange thing is that, though Chico likes to gamble, he hasn’t been making bets in Chicago. Terrified, he goes to the s ...more
ebook, 218 pages
Published December 13th 2011 by Road (first published 1978)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about You Bet Your Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about You Bet Your Life

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Rob Smith
May 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
A real fun book of the constantly depressed Toby Peters out to calm the anger of mob guys after Chico Marx, of the Marx Brothers. Much like the rest of the series, Toby encounters others known of the era of the '40s.

Pretty well written, as always. However, there are a few loose ends that, I believe, may have been part of an effort to throw the reader as to who-done-it. Though, to me, it was pretty obvious from near the beginning. This was the first of the Toby Peters series I have read where the
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third in the Toby Peters mystery series, following on from "Bullet for a star" and "Murder on the Yellow Brick Road". This novel finds Peters hired by Louis B. Mayer to help the Marx Brothers. Chico has been threatened for a gambling debt of $120,000 he claims he doesn't owe, but if he doesn't pay his fingers will be sent to his brothers in a box. So Peters swops the Hollywood Sunshine and heads for Chicago, where almost immediately he catches flu and finds a body in his closet. As a ...more
1978, #3 Toby Peters, “PI to the Stars”, 1941 Chicago; PI, satirical, historical. Toby takes on “da Mob” as he tries to free Chico Marx from a mysterious gambling debt that Chico says he didn’t incur but which might cost him his life.

Swift-moving, softly satirical time-capsule, filled with wry humor and nice “asides”. The “famous bits” are, thankfully, quite mild and just right - the Marx Brothers come across as people, not caricatures, and the plot hinges on the well-known fact of Chico’s gamb
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
What do Al Capone, the Marx Brothers, Ian Fleming, and Richard Daley have in common? Well, they’re all in this book for one. The action leads Toby Peters from Florida to Chicago in #3 of Kaminsky’s “Hollywood” series. This one may be my favorite to date, and although I love the Hollywood history and ‘40s nostalgia, they all end the same way: about 10-15 pages from the end, Peters figures out who the killer is, doesn’t tell the reader, arranges a confrontation and solves the crime. In a first per ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The historical guest stars are fun and all feel in character.
The mystery was interesting and suitably twisty-turny. Love who it was that gives our PI hero the crucial clue.

My only problem is the book spends so much time beating on Toby and telling us he's a bit of a loser who is in over his head. It's so overdone it sucks some of the fun out of these books.

Shame as this is a good serious that could be great.
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook for gym motivation--I can only listen on the treadmill or ellipitical machine and this 1940s gumshoe with a dry sense of humor and a wet cold is the best motivation ever--cameos by Chico Marx, Ian Fleming, etc. all read in voices that match them. I want to listen to a lot more Toby Peters books! Had heard of Stuart Kaminsky over the years but never read him; now seeing what I've been missing!
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this one of eaudiobook. It was a short,quick one. It has been a while since I listened to a Toby Peters mystery by Stuart Kaminsky and I had forgotten how much fun they are. The narrator is fabulous at doing a huge variety of voices. I love how the author incorporates movie stars and celebrities of the 1940's into the storylines. I will have to find more to download soon.
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After several non-fiction books, I needed something lighter and fictional to distract me, and this book delivered. The portrayals of the Marx Brothers are excellent, and Ian Fleming's appearances add just the right touch.
Kristine (A Cozy Booknook)
So far this has been my least favorite of this series. The story didn't move as quickly as some of the others. The story is well researched and written. The mystery will keep you guessing until the very unexpected end.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast, fun pseudo-noir with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor toward all things of the era. Guest stars, name dropping, topical Chicago references, make for an entertaining read. A breezy series that pays off, especially if you can relate to all the decades-old references.

As an aside, my copy of this book from Mysterious Press had more typos in it than a tommygun has bullets.
dOnnabud lewis
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hollywood private eye, Toby Peters, returns with more movie industry intrigue. As you can guess from the title, three famous comedians are central to this plot. Peters is witty, cynical, practical and funny as hell. This is a fun, quick read.

favorite passages (nice and musty 1990 paperback edition):
"Through a second door I found a creature who looked something like a juke box - short, solid, and wearing a maroon jacket and tie. The dim light danced on glasses so thick they looked bulletproof." (
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Run of the mill and a lighthearted take on the hard boiled detective novel.
I read Kaminsky's Toby Peters books years ago and remember thoroughly enjoying them, as the intersected with my other great passion, movies. I remember that his portraits of the actual people were fairly accurate and he didn't always paint them in flattering lights. Re-reading the book now (having it read to me on tape actually) I found this one in particular a little flat. He seems to be trying too hard to cross a hard-boiled story with an amusing comic tone. And with the Chicago setting, it re ...more
James Joyce
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of PI's, pulp adventure, Hollywood and American pre-WWII history.
Re-reading the series.
Toby Peters has to deal with a brain-addled Al Capone, the Marx Brothers, a bad cold and being wanted by both the Chicago Mob and the Chicago PD. Brief appearances by other historical luminaries, including a Brit by the name of Ian Fleming and a certain Doctor Hackenbush.

Fun, exciting adventure and mystery.

I always find that Kaminsky manages to bring me right in to the time. I've noticed at least one reviewer complain about references to products and places and such, but I
Robert Scott
++Peters starts with a visit to Al Capone at a prison in the south, but ends up in Chicago in the winter. The weather isn't all that is cold as he is rousted by the police, chased by gangsters and finds a body in his hotel room. All he is doing is trying to prove that a supposed gambling debt by Chico Marx is bogus. There are more big names dropped in this entertaining detective novel of the 1940s.++
R. Douglas
This book isn't going to change your life, but it's a truly fun read. I really liked the Fleming scenes. He's portrayed pretty much like I always imagined him, and future Mayor Daley is an interesting addition. I do wish the Marx bros. had a bit more to do, but it was still a satisfying story, well told.
Sergio Donato
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Che bel romanzo. Non conoscevo Kaminsky. È finito sul comodino solo perché l'editor Franco Forte mi ha fatto felice mettendo un mio racconto in appendice al libro.
Tridimensionalità composta da giallo, noir e ironia. Alcune parti davvero pregevoli, grandi capacità narrative e personaggi secondari tratteggiati con la potenza di un solo predicato. Davvero bello.
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite Toby Peters. Marx Brothers, Al Capone after Alcatraz, and Ian Fleming - What more could you ask! I love the old Hollywood trivia and the regular cast of characters. If you like old movies and mysteries this one is for you.
Laura Gabbard
This book is a old fashioned hard-boiled detective mystery in the style of Raymond Chandler. It isn't really my style but my husband picked it as one of our commute read-alouds. It takes place in the early 20th century and the Marx Brothers make an appearance in it. Kind of fun.
Jeffrey Westhoff
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-influences
Probably my favorite Toby Peters mystery, and not just because Ian Fleming makes an appearance (though that is a strong inducement). Groucho addressing a psychiatrists' convention is a hilarious scene that would fit in any Marx Brother movie.
Jan 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This series was a nice discovery. I won't run right out and get another, but if I run into one I'll read it with enjoyment. It's a 40's gumshoe mystery, but it's not noir. The protagonist is appealing. The celebrities who appear are well-done. I particularly enjoyed a cameo of Ian Fleming.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Stuart Kaminsky's Rockford novelizations. This wasn't quite as good. The Marx brothers seemed liked caricatures of themselves, but still a pretty decent read.
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Final book for me in the Toby Peters series. The author has passed on so no more. I enjoyed all of these
Joe O'Connor
Very Good; Continuing character: Toby Peters; detective travels to Chicago to help the Marx Brothers, one of whom is being threatened over a gambling debt run up by an impostor.
Still fun but not as good as the last one.
Rose Dernoncourt
rated it liked it
Mar 08, 2014
rated it liked it
Sep 10, 2017
Floyd Wallace
rated it it was amazing
Oct 16, 2013
rated it liked it
Dec 08, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Jan 17, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Blackheath Poisonings: A Victorian Murder Mystery
  • The Dead Man's Knock (Dr. Gideon Fell, #19)
  • The Murderer is a Fox (Ellery Queen Detective, #18)
  • The Shoal of Time (Micky Knight, #8)
  • The Moon in the Gutter
  • Liberty Square (Kate Delafield, #5)
  • Shock Treatment
  • The Right Madness
  • The Angel of Terror
  • Blood Ties
  • The Allingham Case-Book
  • The Blood Books, Volume III (Omnibus: Blood Debt / Blood Bank)
  • The Dog Who Knew Too Much (Rachel Alexander & Dash, #2)
  • Red, White, and Blue Murder (Hilda Johansson #2)
  • Lock No. 1 (Maigret, #18)
  • Il cerchio celtico
  • Zwischen neun und neun
  • The Prisoner of Second Avenue
Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2007.

Stuart M. Kaminsky is author of 50 published novels, 5 biographies, 4 textbooks and 35 short stories. He also has screenwriting credits on four produced films including ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, ENEMY TERRITORY, A WOMAN IN THE WIND and HIDDEN FEARS. He is a past president of the Mystery Writers of America and has been nomi
More about Stuart M. Kaminsky...

Other Books in the Series

Toby Peters (1 - 10 of 24 books)
  • Bullet for a Star (Toby Peters, #1)
  • Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (Toby Peters, #2)
  • The Howard Hughes Affair (Toby Peters, #4)
  • Never Cross a Vampire (Toby Peters, #5)
  • High Midnight (Toby Peters, #6)
  • Catch a Falling Clown (Toby Peters, #7)
  • He Done Her Wrong (Toby Peters, #8)
  • The Fala Factor (Toby Peters, #9)
  • Down for the Count (Toby Peters, #10)
  • The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance (Toby Peters, #11)