Review: The Outsiders by Anthony Franze

The Outsiders
by Anthony Franze

The Outsider

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 320

Read: March 1-6, 2017

Rating: 4/5

Source: Partners in Crime book tour

Blurb: A young law clerk finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a serial killer in this breathtaking thriller set in the high-pressure world of the Supreme Court, from renowned lawyer Anthony Franze.

Things aren’t going well for Grayson Hernandez. He just graduated from a fourth-tier law school, he’s drowning in student debt, and the only job he can find is as a messenger. The position stings the most because it’s at the Supreme Court, where Gray is forced to watch the best and the brightest―the elite group of lawyers who serve as the justices’ law clerks—from the outside.

When Gray intervenes in a violent mugging, he lands in the good graces of the victim: the Chief Justice of the United States. Gray soon finds himself the newest—and unlikeliest—law clerk at the Supreme Court. It’s another world: highbrow debates over justice and the law in the inner sanctum of the nation’s highest court; upscale dinners with his new friends; attention from Lauren Hart, the brilliant and beautiful co-clerk he can’t stop thinking about.

But just as Gray begins to adapt to his new life, the FBI approaches him with unsettling news. The Feds think there’s a killer connected to the Supreme Court. And they want Gray to be their eyes and ears inside One First Street. Little does Gray know that the FBI will soon set its sights on him.

Racing against the clock in a world cloaked in secrecy, Gray must uncover the truth before the murderer strikes again in this thrilling high-stakes story of power and revenge by Washington, D.C. lawyer-turned-author Anthony Franze.


Review: I was immediately intrigued by the description of this book when I was pitched it. I don’t accept a lot of review books anymore, so a book has to really draw me in immediately for me to accept it for review. For some reason this book really caught my eye. And I thoroughly enjoyed it!!

I enjoy legal thrillers in general. But this one was different – coming from the perspective of a law clerk for the Supreme Court. It gave a really interesting insight into the Supreme Court, something that seems to be somewhat shrouded in mystery and intrigue in my opinion. I took to the characters immediately. They were well-developed and each provided meaningful substance to the storyline.

I’m glad that I read this book and introduced myself to Mr. Franze. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for any future books because he’s a very talented writer. I highly recommend this book. It would probably help to enjoy legal thrillers, but I still think the target audience would be any suspense fans. Very good book that left me wanting more!!

I was provided a copy of this book for free in conjunction with Partners in Crime Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts expressed are my own.


Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thriller
Published by: St. Martin’s Press | Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250071666 (ISBN13: 9781250071668)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗


Anthony Franze.jpgAuthor Bio:

ANTHONY FRANZE is a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, and a critically acclaimed thriller writer with novels set in the nation’s highest court. Franze has been a commentator on legal and Supreme Court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, National Law Journal, and other major media outlets. He is a board member and a Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Franze lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family.

Catch Up with Anthony on his Website 🔗 &  Facebook 🔗.


Giveaway

There is a giveaway in conjunction with this tour! Please click HERE to enter for your chance to win a $20.00 Amazon.com gift card.


Excerpt

PROLOGUE

When her computer pinged, Amanda Hill ignored it. This late at night, she shouldn’t have, but she did.

All her energy was focused on tomorrow’s closing argument. Her office was dark, save the sharp cone of light from the desk lamp. She’d waited for everyone to leave so she could run through her final words to the jury. So she could practice as she’d done a thousand times, pacing her office in front of imaginary jurors, explaining away the evidence against the latest criminal mastermind she’d been appointed to represent. This one had left prints and DNA, and vivid images of the robbery had been captured by surveillance cameras.

She glanced out her window into the night. Normal people were home tucking in their children, watching a little TV before hitting the sack. Her little girl deserved better. She should call to check in, but she needed to get the closing done. Amanda’s mother was watching Isabelle, and her mom would call if she needed anything.

There was another ping. Then another. Irritated, Amanda reached for the mouse and clicked to her email. The subject line grabbed her attention:

URGENT MESSAGE ABOUT YOUR MOTHER AND ISABELLE!

Amanda opened the email. Strange, there was no name in the sender field. And the message had only a link. Was this one of those phishing scams?

She almost deleted it, but the subject line caught her eye again. Her seven year old’s name.

Her cursor hovered over the link— then she clicked. A video appeared on the screen. The footage was shaky, filmed on a smartphone. The scene was dark, but for a flashlight beam hitting a dirty floor. Then a whisper: “You have thirty minutes to get here or they die.”

A chill slithered down Amanda’s back. This was a joke, right? A sick joke? She moved the mouse to shut down the video, but the flashlight ray crawled up a grimy wall and stopped on two figures. Amanda’s heart jumped into her throat. It was her mother and Isabelle. Bound, gagged, weeping.

“Dupont Underground,” the voice hissed. “Thirty minutes. If you call the police, we’ll know. And they’ll die.”

The camera zoomed in on Isabelle’s tear-streaked face. Amanda’s computer began buzzing and flashing, consumed by a tornado virus.

Amanda drove erratically from her downtown office to Dupont Circle. She kept one eye on the road, the other on her smartphone that guided her to the only address she could find for “Dupont Underground,” the abandoned street trolley line that ran under Washington, D.C.

Her mind raced. Why was this happening? It didn’t make sense. It couldn’t be a kidnapping for ransom. She had no money— she was a public defender, for Christ’s sake. A disgruntled client? No, this was too well organized. Too sophisticated. Common criminals, Amanda knew from her years representing them, were uneducated bumblers, not the type to plan out anything in their lives, much less something like this.

She checked the phone. She had only fifteen minutes. The GPS said she’d be there in five. She tried to calm herself, control her breathing. She should call the police. But the warning played in her head: We’ll know. And they’ll die.

She pulled over on New Hampshire Avenue. The GPS said this was the place, but she saw no entrance to any underground. It was a business district. Law firms and lobby shops locked up for the night. She looked around, panicked and confused. There was nothing but a patch of construction across the street. Work on a manhole or sewer line. Or trolley entrance. Amanda leapt from her car and ran to the construction area. A four-foot-tall rectangular plywood structure jutted up from the sidewalk. It had a door on top, like a storm cellar. The padlock latch had been pried open, the wood splintered. Amanda swung open the door and peered down into the gloom.

She shouldn’t go down there. But she heard a noise. A muffled scream? Amanda pointed her phone’s flashlight into the chasm. A metal ladder disappeared into the darkness. She steeled herself, then climbed into the opening, the only light the weak bulb on her phone. When she reached the bottom, she stood quietly, looking down the long tunnel, listening. She heard the noise again and began running toward it.

That’s when she heard the footsteps behind her. She ran faster, her breaths coming in rasps, the footfalls from behind keeping pace. She wanted to turn and fight. She was a god-damned fighter. “Amanda Hill, The Bitch of Fifth Street,” she’d heard the defendants call her around the courthouse. But the image of Isabelle and her mother’s faces, their desperation, drew her on.

The footsteps grew closer. She needed to suppress the fear, to find her family.

The blow to the head came without warning and slammed her to the ground. There was the sound of a boot stomping on plastic and the flashlight on her phone went out. The figure grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her to a small room off the tunnel. She was gasping for air now.

A lantern clicked on. Amanda heard the scurrying of tiny feet. She saw the two masses in the shadows and felt violently ill: her mother and Isabelle. Soiled rags stuffed in their mouths, hands and feet bound. Next to them the silhouette of someone spray-painting on the wall.

Amanda sat up quickly, and a piercing pain shot through her skull. She averted her eyes, hoping it was all a nightmare. But a voice cut through the whimpering of her family.

“Look at them!” Amanda lifted her gaze. She forced a smile, feigned a look of optimism, then mouthed a message to her daughter: It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.

It was a lie, of course. A godforsaken lie.

CHAPTER 1

Grayson Hernandez walked up to the lectern in the well of the U.S. Supreme Court. He wasn’t intimidated by the marble columns that encased the room or the elevated mahogany bench where The Nine had been known to skewer even the most experienced advocates. He calmly pulled the lever on the side of the lectern to adjust its height, a move he’d learned watching the assistant solicitor generals showing off. He stood up straight and didn’t look down at any notes; the best lawyers didn’t use notes. And he began his oral argument.

“Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court—” He was immediately interrupted, not uncommon since the justices on average asked more than one hundred questions in the half hour of oral argument allotted to each side. But the voice, which rang though the chamber, wasn’t from a justice of the highest court in the land.

“I’ve told you before, Gray, you can’t be in here.” The beam of a flashlight cut across the empty courtroom. Gray held up a hand to shield his eyes. He smiled at the Supreme Court Police officer making his nightly rounds.

“Someday, counselor,” the officer said. “But for now you might wanna focus on getting the nightlies delivered.” The officer swung the ray of light to Gray’s messenger cart filled with the evening’s mail.

Gray waved at the officer, and returned to his cart. The wheel squeaked as he rolled it out of the courtroom and into the marble hallway.

In Chief Justice Douglas’s chambers, two law clerks were sitting in the reception area, fifteen feet apart, tossing a football between them. They seemed punchy, wired after a long day at the office, talking about one of the court’s cases.

“A high school has no right to punish a kid for things he says off school grounds. The court needs to finally say so,” one of the clerks said. He was a stocky blond guy. Gray thought his name was Mike. Mike spiraled the ball to the other clerk who looked kind of like a young JFK.

“You’re high if you think the chief is going to side with the student,” JFK said, catching the ball with a loud snap. “You upload a violent rap song on YouTube saying your math teacher is sexually harassing students, you’re gonna get suspended.”

“Even if it’s true?” Mike said. The Supreme Court had thirty-six law clerks, four per justice. It was an internship like no other, promising young lawyers not only a ticket to any legal job in the country, but also the chance to leave their fingerprints on the most important legal questions of the day. The current clerks were all in their late twenties, the same age as Gray, but that’s where the similarities ended. Like the two throwing the ball, almost all were white, from affluent backgrounds. Gray didn’t think there were any Mexican Americans in the clerk pool, and certainly none who grew up in gritty Hamilton Heights, D.C. They’d all gone to Harvard or Yale or institutions that, unlike Gray’s law school, had ivy instead of graffiti on their walls. And they certainly weren’t delivering mail.

Gray nodded hello as he lifted the stacks of certiorari petitions out of his cart and dropped them in the metal in-boxes for the chief ’s clerks.

Mike looked at Gray. “No, not more petitions, I’m begging you.” Gray smiled, but didn’t engage. His boss in the marshal’s office had a rule when it came to the justices and their law clerks: Speak only when necessary.

The ball whizzed across the reception area again. “Is it printed yet?” JFK asked. “I wanna get out of here.” He looked over to the printer, which was humming and spitting out paper. Gray worked tw night shifts a week, and there usually were no less than a dozen clerks still in the office. Theirs was a one-year gig, but they worked as if the justices wanted to squeeze five years out of them.

“It won’t take long,” Mike said. “It’s a short memo, and I just want someone who’s a disagreeable ass to point out any soft spots before I turn it into the chief.”

“You’re wasting your time. He’s never gonna side with the student, he—”

“This case is no different than Tinker v. Des Moines Schools,” Mike countered. “The court said disruptive speech at school could be punished, but not speech made off school grounds. Off-campus speech, including posting something on YouTube, should be covered by the First Amendment just like everything else. It’s none of the school’s business.”

JFK gave a dismissive grunt. “A rap expert from Greenwich, Connecticut, I love it.”

Mike threw the ball hard at his co-clerk. “Hey,” JFK said, shaking off the sting after reeling in the throw. “I’m just saying, the Tinker case was decided in the late sixties. You can’t apply it in the digital world. You’re in an ivory tower if you think the chief will blindly follow Tinker.”

Gray pretended not to listen, but he lingered, enjoying the intellectual banter.

The ball flew by again. “Ivory tower?” Mike said. “Fine, let’s ask an everyman.” He pointed the football at Gray. “Hey, Greg, can we ask you something?”

Mike had once asked Gray his name, a regular man of the people.

“It’s Gray.”

“Sorry. Gray. We have a question: Do you think if a high school student is off campus and posts something offensive on social media a school can punish him for it?”

JFK chimed in: “It’s not just posting something offensive. It’s a profanity-laden rap that accuses a teacher of sexually harassing students and threatens to ‘put a cap’ in the guy.”

Gray pondered the question as he retrieved mail from the outboxes. “I agree with what Murderous Malcolm said about the case.” The clerks shot each other a look. That morning the New York Times ran a story about the case, in which a famous rapper was interviewed and defended the student’s right to free speech. Every morning the Supreme Court’s library sent around an email aggregating news stories relating to the court. Gray was probably the only person at One First Street who read them all.

Gray continued. “I think the First Amendment allows a kid who saw a wrong happening to write a poem about it over a beat.” Gray wheeled the cart toward the door. “And if the chief justice disagrees, you might mention all the violence in those operas he loves so much.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Mike said, spiking the ball, then doing a ridiculous touchdown dance. He strutted over to Gray and gave him a high five.

For a moment, it felt like Gray was a clerk himself, an equal weighing in on the most important school-speech case in decades.

“Hey, Gray,” JFK said. Gray turned, ready to continue his defense of the First Amendment.

“I’ve got some books that need to be delivered to the library.”

When Gray arrived at the gym two hours later, his dad already had his hands wrapped and was hitting the heavy bag. There was a large sweat stain on his shirt. “You’re late,” he called out.

“I told you, I have the night shift on Sundays,” Gray said. His dad didn’t respond, just pounded the bag. He wasn’t going to get any sympathy from Manny Hernandez about the night shift. This was his father’s one night off from the pizza shop. Since his dad’s cancer went into remission, they’d been meeting every Sunday night at the old boxing club in Adams Morgan. Gray would have preferred that they spent these times together somewhere other than a smelly gym, but it made his father happy to see him back in the gloves. It was these moments that Gray was reminded that he probably wasn’t the man his father had dreamed he’d become. With his books and big dreams, Gray was his mother’s boy.
Gray punched the bag, the hits vibrating through him, his thoughts venturing to his earlier encounter with the law clerks. He threw his weight into his right.

Let’s ask an everyman.

Then his left.

I’ve got some books that need to be delivered to the library.

Gray continued to pummel the bag, his heart pounding, sweat dripping from his brow.

“Somethin’ wrong?” His father came and stood behind the bag, holding it in place as Gray kept going at it. “Talk to me.”

“It’s nothing,” Gray finally said, catching his breath, wiping his forehead with his arm. “Just work stuff.”

“I thought it was going well. You’ve loved that building since you were a little kid. And now you’re working there, helping the justices.”

“I don’t think delivering the mail is exactly helping the justices, Dad.”

“It’s a foot in the door. Once they get to know you, see how smart you are . . .”

Things didn’t work that way, but Gray wasn’t in the mood to argue.

“It’ll happen, son,” his father added. “You just gotta pay your dues, Grayson.”

“I know, Dad, I know.”

CHAPTER 2

At seven the next morning, Gray sat at his cubicle, tired and his muscles aching from the workout the night before. He started his day, as always, slugging down a large coffee while reading SCOTUSblog, a website that covered the court. It was the first day of the new term, and the pundits predicted it would be an exciting year with several landmark cases.

Gray turned when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Shelby, one of the marshal’s aides. A mistake he’d made after a night of drinking with the other aides. She made a point of saying she’d never been with “a guy like him,” which he assumed meant a poor kid from a sketchy side of D.C. She worked part-time while finishing her senior year at Georgetown.

“Martin wants to see you,” she said. Gray looked across the expansive cube farm. He could see Martin Melnick, their supervisor, through the glass walls of his small interior office in the back. He was eating something wrapped in foil. A breakfast burrito, maybe. Shelby’s expression summed up her assessment of Martin: Ick. Martin was in his late thirties, ancient by aide-pool standards. Overweight with bad teeth, he was the antithesis of the bright young things who worked at the high court, the butt of many jokes. He was never particularly nice to Gray; the opposite, actually. But Martin was good at his job and didn’t deserve the ridicule, so Gray kind of rooted for him in all of his slobbiness. Before Gray made his way over to Martin, Shelby said, “Who’s that?” She pointed to a photo pinned to Gray’s cubicle. It was of a boxer in the ring, bruised and battered, arms in the air, standing over his opponent who was out cold.

“My dad, back in the day. He was a fighter in Mexico.” Gray had pinned it up his first day on the job. His own Facebook motivational meme.

Shelby squeezed Gray’s bicep. “I see where you get—”

“I’ve gotta get over to Martin,” Gray said, politely extracting himself.

Martin’s office didn’t help his image. Stacks of papers everywhere. Post-it notes all over the place. He glanced up at Gray and handed him an envelope.

“We got a rush delivery for E.R.D.’s chambers.” E.R.D. were the initials for Edgar R. Douglas, the chief justice. In his month on the job, Gray had learned that the Supreme Court was obsessed with abbreviations and acronyms.

“Oral arguments start at ten, so get this to his clerk ASAP. His name’s on the envelope.”

Gray fast-walked up to the main floor, shuttling through the impressive Great Hall that was lined with marble columns and busts of past chief justices. He nodded at the officer manning the bronze latticework door and made his way to the chief justice’s chambers. The chief ’s secretary, a tough old bird named Olga Romanov, flicked him a glance.

“I have a delivery for Keir Landon.” “The clerks are getting breakfast,” she said in her clipped Eastern European accent.

“Do you know where?”

“Breakfast. Where do you think?” Gray forced a smile, then headed back downstairs to the court’s cafeteria. He marched past the assembly line of trays and the public seating area and into the private room reserved for the law clerks. A group of four were sitting at the long table.

Gray cleared his throat when they didn’t look up. When that didn’t work: “Excuse me. I have a delivery for Keir Landon.”

The guy from last night who looked like JFK popped his head up. He walked over to Gray and plucked the envelope from his hand.

“What’s up, Greg?” Mike said from the group. Before Gray could correct him again on the name, Gray’s phone pinged. A text from Martin, another rush delivery.

Gray hurried out, tapping a text to Martin as he paced quickly through the cafeteria. He didn’t look up until he bumped into someone. A tiny woman in her seventies. It was only when the elderly woman’s food tray hit the floor that Gray recognized her: Justice Rose Fitzgerald Yorke. She looked different without the black robe. Always weird seeing the teacher out of school. Yorke was one of the most beloved members of the court. Gray had read that when Yorke graduated from Harvard in the fifties, the only woman and number one in her class, none of the white-shoe law firms would hire a woman as a lawyer. A few had offered to make her a secretary. Maybe that explained why she ate in the public cafeteria rather than the justices’ private dining room, or why she organized the office birthday celebrations for every single employee at the court. She knew what it was like to be an outsider. She brought what some would derisively call empathy to her jurisprudence.

Justice Yorke bent over to pick up her spilled plate and silverware.

“Justice Yorke, I’m so sorry. Please, let me clean this up.” Gray lightly put a hand on the elderly justice’s arm.

“It’s no problem, young man, I can clean up after myself.”

“No, really, it’s my fault. Please.”

The manager of the cafeteria was standing there now looking annoyed. He gestured for Justice Yorke to come with him to get a new plate. The manager shot Gray a hard look as he spirited the justice away.

So there he was on the first Monday in October— the opening day of the term—on hands and knees wiping up the floor, the clerks passing by on their way back to chambers.

You just gotta pay your dues, Grayson.

CHAPTER 3

At the end of his shift, Gray headed down to the court’s garage to get his bike. In the elevator down, he contemplated his dinner options. He wasn’t sure if he could take another night of ramen or SpaghettiOs. Maybe he’d go to the pizza shop. Or to his parents’ apartment. Mom could always be counted on for a good meal, and he could bring some laundry. The elevator doors spread open to a field of gray concrete. The bike rack was empty but for his beat-up Schwinn. As he unlocked the chain, he heard a commotion. In the back, behind one of the support beams.

Gray stepped toward the sound. Next to an SUV parked in a reserved spot he saw two men, one had fallen on the ground, the other standing over him. The guy must have slipped. Was he hurt? There was something about how he didn’t try to get up and the stance of the other man that didn’t seem quite right.

“Everything okay?” Gray said. The man who was standing whirled his head around. That’s when Gray noticed the ski mask.

Before Gray could process the situation, the assailant had kicked the man on the ground and charged Gray.

Gray’s father had taught him that when someone is coming at you, in the boxing ring or on the street, time slows. Nature’s way to give you a chance to evade the predator. And that was how Gray dodged the blade that lashed in a wide arc, grazing his abdomen. A panic washed over Gray. And when the attacker came at him again, it wasn’t one of Dad’s bob-and-weaves that saved him, but a crude kick— more Jason Statham than Cassius Clay— that connected to Ski Mask’s chest. The guy slammed into a car, but he didn’t go down. He roared forward at Gray again. Gray did a bull-fighter’s move and pushed the attacker past him, but felt a bite in his side. Ski Mask then jammed something into the small of Gray’s back. He felt a jolt of electricity burning into him— a shockwave up his spine— causing him to spasm and gasp for air. Gray went black for a moment, and then was flat on the cold concrete.

Gray watched as Ski Mask turned his attention to the other man who was on his feet now. It was only then that Gray got a good look at the victim: Chief Justice Douglas. The chief had scurried behind a car and was frantically thumbing a key fob, his panic button. The elevator dinged and Gray heard the slap of dress shoes on concrete, the court’s police.

Still on the ground, Gray shifted his eyes toward the man in the ski mask, but he was gone. Gray’s vision blurred. He heard yelling. Then things went dark.

CHAPTER 4

Gray awoke to the scent of disinfectant and the presence of a crowd in the small hospital room. He must’ve been given painkillers because it was like watching a sitcom, one of those Latino family comedies written by white guys from Harvard. There was Mom, hovering over him, wiping his brow, pushing the giant plastic jug of hospital water at him. Dad, looking tired and too thin, wearing a flour-stained apron, staring at the old box television mounted from the ceiling. And big sis, Miranda, wrangling Gray’s seven-year-old nephew, Emilio.

When they noticed his eyes open, they called for a doctor, and soon an intern was checking Gray’s pupils with a penlight.

Gray never got into drugs, but as he sat back in the relaxed haze, he was starting to understand the fascination. And for the next hour, or maybe it was longer, his family kept talking to him— asking about the garage attack— and he gave woozy responses. God knows what he said.

Sometime later, Gray’s attention turned to a familiar voice at the doorway.

“Always gotta be the hero.” One of his oldest friends, Samantha. When they were in elementary school, Gray had intervened to save Sam from a schoolyard bully, only to have the kid then pummel Gray until Sam put an end to it by giving the kid the worst wedgie Gray had ever seen. Sam still gave him shit for it.

As Sam hugged everyone hello, Gray’s father shadowboxed and said, “He used the moves I taught him.”

Gray didn’t have the heart to tell him that most of the credit went to Jason Statham.

Sam came to his bedside and punched him in the arm.

“What was that for?”

“For being so stupid. You’re lucky to be alive.”

“That’s what I said to him,” Mom said. The room grew loud again with his family talking over one another. Gray watched as his nephew reenacted Gray’s confrontation with the mugger. He was feeling the pull of sleep, more drugs they’d put in the IV, and closed his eyes. He was just about to drift off when the room went suddenly quiet, a rarity at any Hernandez gathering.

His eyes popped open at another voice. “I owe you a thank you.”

There was a tall man standing at his bedside. He wore a sports jacket, shirt open at the collar. It took Gray a moment to realize it wasn’t the drugs, it was really him. Chief Justice Douglas. “It was nothing,” was all Gray managed in response. “No, if you hadn’t arrived when you did, then . . .” the chief’s voice trailed off.

Gray introduced the chief justice to his family. He noticed the chief hold Sam’s gaze a beat longer than comfortable when they shook hands. Sam had that effect on men, and Gray supposed Supreme Court justices were not immune to her beauty. To Gray, she was still the flat-chested tomboy he used to play dodgeball and video games with.

After the introductions, the chief pulled up a chair next to Gray’s bed. It was awkward to talk because the room was compact and his family wasn’t too subtle about the gawking.

“Someone at the court told me you’re a lawyer?” the chief said.

“Top of his class,” Gray’s mother said.

“Mom, please.” Gray felt his face flush.

The chief justice smiled. “The doctors said you’ll be out of commission for a few days.”

“That’s what they said, but I don’t think it’ll be more than a day. I’m already feeling—” He stopped when he saw the hard look his mother was giving him.

“It’s always wise to listen to your mother,” the chief said with a dry chuckle.

His mom nodded, giving a satisfied smile.

“But do me a favor, would you?” the chief continued.

“Of course.”

“When you get back to work, come by my chambers.” Before Gray could respond, the chief added, “You’re not gonna be a messenger boy anymore.”

CHAPTER 5

“Nothing? They found nothing?”

Special Agent Emma Milstein asked. Her partner, Scott Cartwright, stood in front of Milstein’s desk in the FBI field office, staring into an open file. Cartwright wore his usual navy suit, white shirt, plain tie clamped around his thick neck.

Cartwright shook his head. “A guy with a knife strolls into the Supreme Court, attacks a justice, and not one camera catches him, no one knows how he got in or out, nothing?”

“Nada,” Cartwright said.

“What about the kid? What’s his name again?” Cartwright flipped a page in the file.

“Hernandez. Grayson Hernandez. The Supreme Court’s squad interviewed him. Been on the job there for about a month, well liked. They’re confident it was just wrong place, wrong time.”

“Criminal record?”

“No, he’s a lawyer, actually.”

“A lawyer? I thought he was a messenger?”

“Yeah, works in the marshal’s office. Times are tough in the law business, I guess,” Cartwright said.

“I guess so. Our guys agree with the Supreme Court’s police? We’re sure Hernandez is clean?”

Cartwright walked over and put the open file in front of Milstein. “We don’t think he was involved in the attack. He got into some trouble as a kid— joyriding in a stolen car with some friends. But that’s like jaywalking in Hamilton Heights.”

“He grew up in Hamilton Heights? Don’t they call that area ‘Afghanistan’?” Milstein looked down at the file, studying the photo of Grayson Hernandez. He was a good-looking kid. Late-twenties. Striking blue eyes, unusual for a Hispanic. He had a scar that ran from the corner of his left eye to his ear. Jagged, no plastic surgery. “Yeah, he’s a regular local boy makes good,” Cartwright said, heavy on the sarcasm.

“Any criminal associates?”

“He was childhood friends with a real charmer, Arturo Alvarez, who’s just out of prison and already at war with a rival sect. But it appears that Hernandez left the Heights and never looked back. The report says no contact with Alvarez in years.”

Milstein read through the rest of the file. “Does the press know he was there when the chief was attacked? I don’t need reporters sniffing around. If they find out there’s a connection to Dupont Underground they’ll—”

“They don’t know anything,” Cartwright interrupted. “The court released a statement about the mugging, but no details. They’re pretty tight-lipped up there.”

“What’s the Supreme Court’s police chief saying?”

“Aaron Dowell? He’s saying we should mind our own fucking business. They’re in charge of protecting the chief.”

“Yeah, they’re doing a great job.” Cartwright said nothing. “When can we talk to the chief justice?” Milstein asked. “They’re still stonewalling. I don’t think they’re taking the connection to Dupont seriously.”

“You told them we think it’s the same perp?”

“Of course I did. I’m working on it, Em.”

“Work harder.” Milstein let out a loud, frustrated breath.

“You want me to get you a snack or something?” Cartwright said. “When my kids get a little cranky, I bring them some Goldfish crackers and it—”

“Any luck on getting the wires?” Milstein said, ignoring him. Cartwright made a sound of disbelief. “Neal says you’re crazy if you think you’ll get a bug anywhere near that building.” As usual, Neal Wyatt, the assistant director in charge of the field office, was being too cautious, playing politics.

“Cowards.”

“You need to tread lightly. This is the Supreme Court.”

“The Franklin Theater fire was on July fifth. The Dupont Underground murders on August fifth. Now the attack on the chief October fifth. And we now know it’s the same perp. What’s it gonna take to get the Supreme Court’s squad to take this seriously?”

Cartwright shook his head. “Hopefully not another victim on November fifth.”

2015.30 REVIEW – Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne

Everything She Forgot
by Lisa Ballantyne

Copyright: 2015
Pages: 409
Rating: 4/5
Read: Sept. 2-7, 2015
Challenge: No Challenge
Yearly count: 30
Format: Print
Source: PICT Book Tour
Series: N/A

Synopsis:

cover

Driving home, Margaret Holloway is rear-ended and trapped in the wreckage of her car. Just as she begins to panic, a stranger pulls her free and disappears. Though she escapes with minor injuries, Margaret feels that something’s wrong. Flashbacks to the crash are dredging up lost associations from her childhood. And somehow, Margaret knows that it’s got something to do with the man who saved her life. As Margaret uncovers a mystery with chilling implications for her family and her very identity, Everything She Forgot winds through a riveting dual narrative and asks the question: How far would you go to hide the truth-from yourself?

Review:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a Partners in Crime Book Tour. The thoughts below are my own.

Once, her mother had taken her hand and smoothed it, saying, ‘Some things are best forgotten,’ and so she had forgotten almost everything. (p. 115)

That quote that I included above, “Some things are best forgotten,” is really the heart and soul of this book. As I was reading and watching everything unfold in front of my eyes, it really got me thinking about just how impressive the human mind truly is. What our minds can do with memories is shockingly unreal to be honest.

This was my first time reading a book by Ms. Ballantyne; but it certainly won’t be my last. I took this one on my recent vacation and I loved every page of it. It was easy to read in bits and pieces without getting lost. It kept my interest – in fact, at one point I wanted to just sit in the room and finish the book … not enjoy vacation! Oops!!

This isn’t a fast-paced thriller. Instead it’s a very intricate tale where the story is laid bare little by little. I loved getting to know Maggie, Big George, and even Angus (who was not my favorite character … I had a lot of issues with him after what he let happen to his poor cow). And as I said earlier, it really is interesting to see what the human mind is capable of.

This was a really enjoyable read, I loved watching Maggie’s memories come back to her bit by bit. And the way it all came full circle at the end was nice. Overall, a book that I would definitely recommend!


 

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Number of Pages: 432
ISBN: 0062391488 (13: 978-0062391483)
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Critical Praise:

“Ballantyne’s effortless prose took me across the Atlantic and didn’t let me return until its surprising and satisfying conclusion. A tight story that comes full circle and keeps you reading.” — Bryan Reardon, author of Finding Jake

Author Bio:

authorLisa Ballantyne was born in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland and studied English Literature at University of St Andrews.

She lived and worked in China for many years and started writing seriously while she was there. Before being published, Lisa was short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize.

Her debut novel, The Guilty One was translated into over 25 languages, long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe Award. The Guilty One was also the Autumn 2012 Richard and Judy Book-club Winner. She lives in Glasgow.

Catch Up:
author's website author's twitter author's facebook

As always, I hope you take the time to visit the other stops on the tour:

09/14/2015 Showcase w/excerpt @ Books Chatter
09/15/2015 review @ A Fold in the Spine
09/16/2015 review @ Wall-to-wall books
09/17/2015 Review @ Deal Sharing Aunt
09/18/2015 review @ 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too!
09/19/2015 review @ The Book Divas Reads
09/21/2015 review @ Tales of a Book Addict
09/22/2015 review @ JulzReads
09/24/2015 review @ VicsMedia Room
09/25/2015 review @ Deco My Heart
09/28/2015 review @ Kritters Ramblings
09/30/2015 review @ Booked on a Feeling
10/01/2015 review @ From the TBR Pile
10/03/2015 review @ Marys Cup of Tea
10/04/2015 shawcase @ Writers and Authors
10/07/2015 review @ Books Direct
0/08/2015 review @ Lazy Day Books
10/09/2015 review @ Book Babble
10/10/2015 review @ Rockin Book Reviews
10/11/2015 review @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
10/12/2015 review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
10/14/2015 review @ Book Club Librarian
10/15/2015 review @ Curling up by the Fire
10/16/2015 review @ b00k r3vi3ws

2015.26 REVIEW – Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood
by Patricia Cornwell

Copyright: 2014
Pages: 494
Rating: 4/5
Read: Aug. 3-15, 2015
Challenge: No Challenge
Yearly count: 26
Format: Print
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours
Series: Kay Scarpetta #22

Flesh and BloodBlurb:
 Dr. Kay Scarpetta is about to head to Miami for a vacation when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their home. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Then she learns there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school teacher was shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. Yet no one heard or saw a thing.

Soon more victims surface. The shots seem impossible to achieve, yet they are so perfect they cause death in an instant. There is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First it was New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then the murky depths off the coast. There she comes face to face with shocking news that implicates her niece, Lucy – Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood.


Review:I received a copy of this for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions below are my own.

So those of you who follow me regularly will remember that my last experience with Ms. Cornwell did not end well. I was more than a little disappointed. And I even said I was “breaking up” with Kay Scarpetta. So what was it that made me want to read this book for the PICT book tour? I have no idea!

I definitely liked this book a million times more than the last one I read, Port Mortuary. I didn’t read the three books between that one and this one. And honestly, I didn’t really find that it mattered that I had skipped those three books.

Overall, I enjoyed this installment. I found it fast paced and exciting at times. However, there were a few moments where it lagged for me. Mainly, this was when there was a lengthy discussion regarding some ballistic testing. I found it a little too technical for my tastes and found myself skimming those few pages. Other than that, the book was highly entertaining to me.

And the ending. Wow. Talk about a cliff hanger that has me dying to know what happens next.

So while I’m still torn on this series as a whole, I have to say that this was a fun book to read and I would definitely recommend it.


About the Author:

patriciacornwellPatricia Cornwell is recognized as one of the world’s top bestselling crime authors with novels translated into thirty-six languages in more than 120 countries. Her novels have won numerous prestigious awards including the Edgar, the Creasey, the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Prix du Roman d’Aventure. Beyond the Scarpetta series, she has written a definitive book about Jack the Ripper, a biography, and two more fiction series. Cornwell, a licensed helicopter pilot and scuba diver, actively researches the cutting-edge forensic technologies that inform her work. She was born in Miami, grew up in Montreat, North Carolina, and now lives and works in Boston.

Connect with Patricia Cornwell:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Purchase Links 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

As always, I hope you will take the time to visit the other stops on the blog tour:

unnamed-2

 

 

Book Spotlight: Remains of Innocence by J.A. Jance


Remains of Innocence

by J.A. Jance

on Tour August 2014

 

Tour Info:

Book Formats: Print Only

Hosting Options: Review or Showcase

Giveaway: 1 Physical Book for each Reviewing Host

Series: Joanna Brady #16 (Stand Alone)

Additional Info:

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Detective

Published by: William Morrow

Publication Date: July 22nd 2014

Number of Pages: 400

ISBN: 0062134701 (ISBN13: 9780062134707)

Purchase Links:

 

Synopsis:

Sheriff Joanna Brady must solve two perplexing cases that may be tied together in New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance’s thrilling tale of suspense that brings to life Arizona’s Cochise County and the desert Southwest in all its beauty and mystery.

An old woman, a hoarder, is dying of emphysema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In cleaning out her house, her daughter, Liza Machett, discovers a fortune in hundred dollar bills hidden in the tall stacks of books and magazines that crowd every corner.

Tracing the money’s origins will take Liza on a journey that will end in Cochise County, where Sheriff Joanna Brady is embroiled in a personal mystery of her own. A man she considers a family friend is found dead at the bottom of a hole in a limestone cavern near Bisbee. And now there is the mystery of Liza and the money. Are the two disparate cases connected? It’s up to Joanna to find out.

 

Author Bio:

A voracious reader, J. A. Jance knew she wanted to be a writer from the moment she read her first Wizard of Oz book in second grade. Always drawn to mysteries, from Nancy Drew right through John D. McDonald’s Travis Magee series, it was only natural that when she tried her hand at writing her first book, it would be a mystery as well.

J. A. Jance went on to become the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family, and Edge of Evil. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.

Catch Up With the Author:

 

Tour Participants:

Please go here to see the list of tour participants!

2014.12 REVIEW: The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

The Sound of Broken Glass

by Deborah Crombie

on Tour Feb 24th – March 31st, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: William Morrow

Publication Date: February 25, 2014

Number of Pages: 384

ISBN: 9780061990649

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

In the past. . .home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition, a solitary thirteen-year-old boy meets his next-door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by loneliness, the unlikely pair forms a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal.

In the present. . .On a cold January morning in London, Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job while her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home caring for their three-year-old foster daughter. Assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London, she’s assisted by her trusted colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case: a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim: a well-respected barrister, found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma’s team must find his companion—a search that takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. Ultimately, they will question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.


REVIEW: I received a copy of this book for free as part of a blog tour with Partners in Crime Tours, all opinions expressed below are my own.

Once again, I accepted to review this book knowing full well that it’s a recent installment in a long-running series (book #15, to be exact). And once again I am pleased to let you know that it really didn’t impact my overall feelings on this book. There were a few spots where it would have been nice to have a little bit of background information (especially regarding Charlotte and how she came to Gemma and Duncan). So while I think it reads relatively well as a standalone, there were a few questions in my mind that reading the previous books would have definitely been helpful.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Having no knowledge of previous books, I don’t know who is normally the main protagonist. In this particular one its Gemma and Melody doing most of the work on the cases. With the rather large list of characters that appear to be regulars in this series, I think it would be interesting to see who takes the “lead” next. At one point in this book Gemma has to explain to Duncan that the mother that she has met during playdates with Charlotte is actually extremely important, wealthy and famous, and he has absolutely no clue that she is anything other than your typical stay-at-home mom. It definitely made me laugh out loud at how clueless he was! Just little things like that definitely add to the characters’ personalities that make them really appealing to me.

This particular installment has a “past” and “present” storyline going on. The past is interspersed with the present day storyline. I really enjoyed seeing how they eventually began to weave together and in the end came out in a surprising manner. I was scratching my head more than once trying to figure out where they connected, but once they did it was really interesting to see how Gemma and Melody would piece everything together.

Overall I felt like this was a very good book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fast paced and there were many times in the second half of the book that I actually had to force myself to put it down. I really liked this one and am definitely looking forward to meeting this cast of characters again!

Highly recommended.


Read an excerpt:

Browse Inside The Sound of Broken Glass: A Novel by Deborah Crombie

Author Bio:

Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepherds. Visit Deborah at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:

2/25 ~ Review @ My Readers Block
2/26 ~ Review @ Deal Sharing Aunt
2/27 ~ The Reading Frenzy
2/28 ~ Review by Carol Wong
3/03 ~ Review @ Celtic Lady Reviews
3/04 ~ Review @ 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!
3/05 ~ Review @ Deco My Heart
3/07 ~ Review @ A Bookish Girl
3/12 ~ Interview & Review @ Thoughts in Progress
3/13 ~ Review @ Melinas Book Blog
3/17 ~ Review @ Marys Cup of Tea
3/18 ~ Interview @ Writers and Authors
3/18 ~ Review @ Tales of a Book Addict
3/19 ~ Review @ Vics Media Room
3/20 ~ Review @ Views from the Countryside
3/26 ~ Review @ Lazy Day Books
3/28 ~ Review @ Book Dilettante

2013.46 REVIEW – Abe Lincoln: Public Enemy No. 1 by Bill Walker & Brian Anthony

Abe Lincoln: Public Enemy No. 1

by Bill Walker & Brian Anthony

on Tour October 5 – November 5, 2013

Book Details:

Genre: Alternate History
Published by: Lowtide Books
Publication Date: 10/5/13
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-0-9897457-0-3 (Hardcover), 978-0-9897457-1-0 (Paperback), 978-0-9897457-2-7 (ebook)
Purchase Links:
Book Website: www.lincolnpublicenemy.com

Synopsis:

When John Wilkes Booth shoots Lincoln with a bullet cursed by the notorious Chicken Man, a local voodoo practitioner, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events extending far into the future. Instead of killing Lincoln, the bullet puts the president into a coma for sixty-eight years, his body remaining limber and ageless. When he awakens in 1933, Abe Lincoln is a man out of time, a revered icon…and a political pariah. FDR and J. Edgar Hoover not only do not want him around, they want him to retire. But their plan to be rid of him backfires and Lincoln is on the run, a fugitive from justice.

Determined to reach Chicago and retrieve the small fortune left in trust for him by his long-dead son, Lincoln discovers that Hoover has confiscated all his money, leaving him destitute. With Bureau of Investigation agent Melvin Purvis in hot pursuit, Lincoln finds his way to a hobo camp where he befriends a young runaway, who agrees to accompany the former president back to Washington. There Lincoln hopes that Hannah Wheelhouse, the Chicken Man’s granddaughter, can help him find the peace he longs for.

Then fate deals Lincoln another strange hand when he and the boy end up as hostages to infamous bank robber John Dillinger. Instead of leaving them by the side of the road after the robbery, Dillinger takes a liking to Lincoln and invites him to join the gang, promising him he’ll get all his money back.

Will Lincoln survive long enough to recapture his fortune and get away, or will he be hunted down in a manner unbefitting a martyred President?

In this inventive and entertaining novel, history gets a work-out, the action is flat-out, and almost everyone gets rubbed-out!


REVIEW: When I was originally pitched this book I was definitely intrigued. I have never read alternate history before and thought that this would be a fun step into a new-to-me genre. I’m not upset that I tried this book out, but I don’t think alternate history is a genre that’s a good fit for me.

Overall, it’s a fun and wild roller-coaster ride of a book. I can definitely see this on the big screen and think it would do great in Hollywood! But I really had an issue with the alternate history part of the book. This is just something personal that has nothing to do with the book itself at all. See, I was a history major in college. And the Abraham Lincoln assassination is something that I studied somewhat extensively. I just couldn’t get past the idea that Lincoln was in a coma for all those years because of a cursed bullet and then woke up in the 1930s. I just couldn’t do it.

That being said, the book itself was well-written and plotted. The pacing was fun and the plot was exciting. I just had a personal issue with the idea of alternate history.

But in general I would definitely recommend this book. It really is a fun read, just the history lover in me had an issue with alternate history.


Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONEMarch 3, 1934
Lake County Jail
Crown Point, IndianaCounselor Louis Piquett felt a trickle of cold sweat roll down between his shoulder blades and silently cursed God, the courts, and the governor of the state of Indiana. He couldn’t afford to be nervous today, yet his head pounded and his stomach churned from the breakfast he’d eaten at a roadside diner on the way to the jail. He fought back a wave of nausea and cranked open the Ford’s passenger side window, letting the raw March air wash over his face. He closed his eyes and breathed it in.
“You okay, Louis?”
Piquett turned toward his law partner, Arthur O’Leary, and nodded. “Right as rain. Just wish you’d turn down the blasted heat.”
O’Leary’s lips curled in a lopsided grin, which gave his narrow hawk-like face an air of mirthful menace. “Sorry…you know I’m always cold.”
Piquett took off his fedora and wiped his forehead with a wrinkled linen handkerchief. “Yeah, I know. You should go see the doctor about it.”
O’Leary grinned, and Piquett gazed out across South Main Street at the late-Victorian pile that was the Lake County Jail and Courthouse, his eyes scanning the mounted machineguns and the dozens of National Guardsmen manning them behind a four-foot high wall of fifty-pound sandbags.
“You’d think they were expecting the Kaiser’s army,” O’Leary said, chuckling.
“They just don’t know what to make of our client, Arthur. Lord knows, I sometimes wonder about him myself.”
“He doesn’t belong here, that’s for sure,” O’Leary said, shaking his head.
“Unfortunately, his enemies think otherwise. You and I both know he didn’t kill that federal officer.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Piquett stared back at his partner, his dark eyes like flints. “I know what you meant.” The handkerchief came out again. “You take care of the guards, like I asked you?”
O’Leary nodded. “There won’t be a search.”
Piquett patted the left side of his suit jacket. “They find this on me and we’ve got a lot more trouble than we ever bargained for.”
O’Leary shot his partner a look of annoyance. “Nobody’s got a gun to your head, Louis.”
Despite the rumble in his guts, Piquett smiled. “That’s why I like you, Arthur. You always look at the bright side.” He glanced at his watch. “Time to go. Wish me luck.”
O’Leary nodded, and Piquett eased himself out of the Ford and closed the door. He hesitated a moment then leaned in through the open window. “If I’m not out in twenty minutes, you get on out of here. You remember where I put the emergency funds?
“I remember.”
“Good. Keep lookin’ at that bright side, Arthur.”
Piquett slapped the roof of the Ford and strode toward the jail. Passing through the narrow opening in the sandbags, he gave the soldiers a cordial nod, climbed the steps and disappeared into the building.
Following an official clearance, and after passing through a succession of remotely-controlled gates, he stood before the final door separating him from his client. The lone guard, seated at a scarred oak desk, motioned toward the open logbook lying in front of him. Piquett picked up a pen off the blotter and signed his name with a flourish.
“Morning, officer,” he said, handing back the pen.
The guard, a scrawny young man with greasy black hair and a dull look in his eyes, took back the pen with a smirk spreading across his face.
“Yeah, well, it ain’t so good for that client a yours, counselor.”
Piquett’s trial-winning smile widened. “Well, we’re all innocent in the eyes of the law, until proven guilty, officer. That’s the very foundation on which our great and glorious nation resides. Besides, you never know how a day’s going to end, until it’s over.”
The guard frowned, his puzzled expression making him look even less intelligent. “You mind standing back and raising your arms, counselor?” he said. “Gotta search ya.”
Piquett’s stomach rolled over, but he managed to keep the grin plastered to his face, even as he felt the sweat break out anew.
Just then an older guard stuck his head in the doorway.
“He’s clean, Jeff.”
The younger guard’s frown deepened. “But Sheriff Holley said we was to search every visitor ‘fore I pass ’em through this point.”
The older man leaned into the room, his face flushing. “And I’m tellin’ you he’s clean.”
Piquett watched the tense exchange between the two guards and said a silent prayer.
The younger guard appeared to think about this for a moment, the gears in his mind grinding slowly. Then he sighed and shook his head. “You say he’s clean, Irv, then fine, he’s clean.”
The older guard nodded, giving Piquett a knowing look the younger guard missed then left the room. The younger guard stood and threw the lever that operated the automatic doors. There was a loud “clunk,” followed by the whir of machinery. The door slid open and clanged to a stop.
Another guard appeared on the other side of the open doorway and motioned for Piquett to follow.
They passed through a corridor lined with empty holding cells. At the end of the hall Piquett spotted a wooden chair facing one of the cells. The guard motioned for him to sit. For a fleeting moment, Piquett toyed with the notion of turning around and leaving, going back to the car and driving away–maybe take that vacation he’d always promised himself. But then, whatever was left of his tattered code of ethics took over and he eased himself into the chair.
“Thank you, officer,” he said to the guard. “I’ll let you know when we’re done.
The guard nodded, retraced his steps down the corridor and disappeared around the corner. Piquett kept his eye on the corridor for another moment then turned toward the cell.
His client sat in a matching hardback chair dressed in a white shirt, charcoal-gray vest and matching pants. He was impossibly tall–even sitting down–and impossibly…there. The face he’d grown up admiring, the face that graced the penny and the five-dollar bill now sat watching him with a look of bemusement, gray eyes twinkling in the harsh glow of the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.
“Good morning, counselor,” Lincoln said in his high, soft-spoken voice.
“Good morning, Mr. President.”
“Please, Mr. Piquett, I do not think it fitting to refer to me by that hallowed moniker, especially when viewed in the harsh light of my present circumstances.”
Piquett felt his face redden. “I’m sorry, sir, you’ll have to forgive me. I much admired your administration, your achievements.”
Lincoln smiled revealing gaps between his teeth. “And while my achievements may make me immortal, I am an inconvenient reality whose presence is a reminder of things some would prefer to forget. As far as those demigods who now reside in Washington are concerned, I am a man out of time and out of step with the problems of the day.”
“I disagree, Mr. Lincoln.”
Lincoln slapped his knee and chuckled. “You know what’s truly ironic, counselor? The tenor of Washington has not changed all that much. I suspect the streets are cleaner and summers are more tolerable nowadays, but those puffed-up politicians have raised backstabbing to a high art. Practice makes perfect. Did you bring it, Mr. Piquett?”
The abrupt shift in the conversation flustered the lawyer for a moment. “Y-yes, sir.”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small package wrapped in butcher paper and tied with twine. He handed it through the bars and Lincoln took it with his large, calloused hand. The package disappeared into his pocket.
“Thank you, counselor, you’ve been most helpful. And I appreciate all that you’ve done. I was especially inspired by your performance in the courtroom during my arraignment last month.”
Piquett puffed with pride. “It was an honor, sir. I just wish I could’ve done more.”
Lincoln stood and thrust his hand through the bars. “You’ve done more than any man could ask. If I have need of you again, I will surely call on you.”
The lawyer grasped his client’s hand, feeling the strength in the older man’s grip.
“Where will you go?” Piquett asked.
Lincoln’s expression turned melancholy. “Back into the history books where I belong, counselor…if they’ll let me….”
Ten minutes later, as O’Leary guided the Ford through the crush of late morning traffic, Piquett thought about the small wrapped package he’d given Lincoln and wondered–in spite of his sordid lack of ethics–if he’d done the right thing, after all.
* * *
Jail Handyman Sam Cahoon went cold all over when he felt the barrel of a pistol jabbing into the small of his back. But it was that high voice in his ears that sent his heart racing.
“I’ve got to be going, Sam,” Lincoln said, “and I need your help. Please don’t make me use this. I know only too well what it can do.”
Lincoln guided him over to the locked steel door leading to the adjoining room and motioned for Sam to call out to the guards. A large black man rose from a nearby table where he’d been playing solitaire and joined them. When Sam continued to hesitate, Lincoln kicked the door with his foot, sending a booming sound reverberating around the Day Room, which now fell silent.
“That you, Sam?” came the voice from the other side of the door.
Sam looked to Lincoln, his eyes wide with fright. Lincoln pressed the barrel harder into the handyman’s back and nodded.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Sam said. “I’m done in here.”
“All right,” the voice replied.
A moment later came the rattle of keys and the door swung inward. Lincoln kicked the door hard, sending the startled guard behind it sprawling, then he shoved Sam Cahoon aside and grabbed the guard, who was scrambling to his feet.
“Y-you out of your mind?” the guard sputtered.
“So they tell me, son. Now you go on and get us into the guardroom, and no tricks.”
The guard’s hands trembled, causing him to fumble with the keys. Lincoln jabbed the barrel harder into the guard’s back, eliciting a moan of fear from the man.
“Hurry, now.”
“I g-got it,” the guard said, slapping the key into the lock and twisting it. They burst into the guardroom, where a civilian fingerprint technician and one other guard sat drinking coffee and chewing on jelly donuts, their eyes as round as saucers. Lincoln spotted two Thompsons with fully loaded drum magazines sitting on the windowsill and nodded to the black man.
“Mr. Youngblood, we shall require those fine instruments of destruction.”
The black man chuckled and grabbed them, handing one to Lincoln, who then held up the pistol he’d used for all to see. A sly grin spread across his face. It was a crudely carved wooden gun blackened with shoe polish, the words “Colt .38” etched into its side.
Both the guard and the fingerprint technician shook their heads in disgust.
Lincoln’s grin widened. “Well, now, it does seem one can fool some of the people all of the time.” He put the wooden gun back into his pocket and waved the barrel of the submachine gun towards the exit door.
“Mr. Youngblood, take this officer to one of the cells.”
“Yes, sir.”
Youngblood manhandled the guard out of the room and returned moments later.
Lincoln looked at the fingerprint technician, who sat frozen, the jelly donut still hanging from his mouth.
“What’s your name, son?” Lincoln asked.
The young technician yanked the donut from his mouth.
“Uh, Ernest Blunk, sir. You gonna shoot me?”
“I have no desire to kill anyone, Mr. Blunk, but I am getting out of here. It’s your choice.” Lincoln’s gaze was implacable and Blunk nodded soberly and stood up.
“All right, gentlemen,” Lincoln said, “shall we take our leave?”
After a short trip down two corridors and one flight of stairs, they emerged into the alley. Lincoln eyed the narrow passageway in both directions, noting the way was clear. He smiled and turned to Blunk, who stood with his arms wrapped around himself, shivering in the cold.
“Where’s the garage, son? The one with the private cars.”
“Down the alley, around the c-corner, behind the courts.”
“Let’s go.”
The garage was in a shed-like building with a sliding wooden door that reminded Lincoln of an old barn. The door shrieked on its rusty rails as Youngblood slid it open. Inside it was toasty warm and reeked of gasoline and spilled oil. A lone mechanic lay under a late-model Chevy, banging away at a water pump and cursing under his breath. Another man sat behind a desk in the small glassed-in office. Just then a woman walked into the garage.
“Mr. Saager, is my car–” She stopped in mid-sentence when she spotted Lincoln and Youngblood wielding the two Thompsons and fainted dead away, her limp body slapping against the grimy concrete.
Youngblood handed his Thompson to Lincoln, picked up the woman and deposited her inside the office on a battered sofa. The black man motioned for the man at the desk to move and the man scrambled out the door with his hands in the air.
“What’s the fastest car in here?” Lincoln asked, handing Youngblood back his Thompson.
The man from the office looked around and nodded toward the mechanic under the Chevy.
“Hudak’d know best.”
“Ask him to join us.”
The man eased over to the Chevy and gave the mechanic’s leg a nudge with his foot.
“What you want, Saager?”
“We got a man here asking about fast cars.”
“What do I look like, a salesman? I’m up to my butt in work here, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I got to get this damn Chevy out of here by two.”
Saager looked to Lincoln and shrugged. Youngblood raised the barrel of his Thompson and Saager paled a few shades whiter. He kicked the mechanic harder and said. “You get on out here, Hudak, if you know what’s good for you.”
The mechanic slid out from under the car, the curses on his lips dying away when he spotted the two men and their machineguns.
“Damn!”
“What’s the fastest car in here?” Lincoln asked.
Hudak jabbed his finger toward a sleek brand-new car parked in a corner, its jet-black paint gleaming under the hooded lights. “That there Ford. Got a real honey of a V-8.”
“That’ll be fine, Mr. Hudak.”
“But that’s Sheriff Holley’s new car.”
Lincoln laughed. “Even better. Mr. Blunk, you will drive. Mr. Hudak, you and your partner will disable all the other vehicles in the garage.”
Hudak looked incredulous.
“Now, Mr. Hudak.”
The mechanic walked toward the Chevy, shaking his head. When he reached the car, he opened the hood and started gingerly pulling wires.
Youngblood rolled his eyes, grabbed a hammer and pushed the mechanic aside. “Not like that–like this.” He swung the hammer down onto the spark plugs one by one, shattering them then pounded holes in the carburetor. He handed the hammer to Hudak. “Now, go to it, my man. Just like the boss says.”
In moments every other car was disabled and Blunk pulled the Sheriff’s car up to the door, the engine revving with a throaty roar. Lincoln and Youngblood climbed in and Lincoln hung his Thompson out the window at Saager and Hudak. Neither man moved.
“All right, Mr. Blunk. Let us proceed.”
The car pulled into the alley and then out onto East Street. Lincoln swiveled his head back and forth, looking to see if anyone followed. “Nice and slow,” he said. “It wouldn’t do to draw attention to ourselves.”
They passed the courthouse and Lincoln smiled when he spotted all the soldiers. They swung around a parked bus and pulled up to a stoplight. A bank sat on one of the corners and Lincoln stared at it. “Mighty tempting to procure us some traveling money, but I think we’ve worn out our welcome here, Mr. Youngblood.”
Yes, sir, Mr. Lincoln,” the black man said, grinning from ear to ear. The light turned green and the car sped out of town. When they reached State Road 8, Lincoln relaxed and began singing an old hymn. His singing voice was surprisingly tuneful and brought a smile even to Blunk’s dour face.
“Where we going, anyway?” Blunk asked when Lincoln had finished singing.
“Wherever the winds of fate shall take us.”
Youngblood laughed as the car sped off down the road.
The Great Emancipator was free.


Trailer:

Bill Walker

BILL WALKER is an award-winning writer whose works include novels, short stories and screenplays. His first novel, Titanic 2012, was enthusiastically received by readers, and Bill’s two short story collections, Five Minute Frights and Five Minute Chillers, are perennial Halloween favorites. A highly-respected graphic designer, Walker has worked on books by such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. His most recent novel, A Note from an Old Acquaintance, was published in 2009.

Catch Up With Bill Walker:

Brian Anthony


BRIAN ANTHONY is a writer and award-winning filmmaker. His first feature film, Victor’s Big Score, was praised by Variety as “A tremendous calling card for writer-producer-director Brian Anthony.” As a writer-producer Anthony has contributed to shows for American Movie Classics, Arts and Entertainment, and Fox Syndication, including Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Lost in Space Forever. A veteran film historian, Anthony has been interviewed on network television regarding film history, and co-authored the acclaimed biography of the film comedian Charley Chase, Smile While the Raindrops Fall, in 1998. Brian is an expert art and book restorationist, and you can see his work at Anthony Restorations.

Catch Up With Brian Anthony:


I hope you will check out the other stops on the tour:

10/05 ~ Showcase, Review & Giveaway @ Deal Sharing Aunt
10/06 ~ Review & Giveaway @ rantin ravin and reading
10/11 ~ Showcase @ CMash Reads
10/16 ~ Review @ Vics Media Room
10/17 ~ Review @ Community Bookstop
10/18 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Gabina49s Blog
10/25 ~ Review & Giveaway @ The Stuff of Success
10/28 ~ Review, Interview & Giveaway @ Bless Their Hearts Mom
10/29 ~ Guest Post, Review & Giveaway @ The book Faery reviews
10/30 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Tales of a Book Addict
11/04 ~ Review & Giveaway @ My Cozie Corner
11/05 ~ Showcase @ Thoughts In Progress
11/06 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Popcorn Reads
11/07 ~ Review @ My Devotional Thoughts
11/08 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Now is Gone
11/11 ~ Review & Giveaway @ WTF Are You Reading?

2012.26 REVIEW – The Prophet by Ethan Cross

The Prophet
by Ethan Cross

Copyright: 2012
Pages: 416
Read: Oct. 8-15, 2012
Challenge: Mystery & Suspense Challenge
Yearly count: 26
Format: Print
Source: Review copy for Partners in Crime Tours

Blurb: OLD ENEMIES…
Francis Ackerman Jr. is one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Having kept a low profile for the past year, he is ready to return to work – and he’s more brutal, cunning, and dangerous than ever.

NEW THREATS…
Scarred from their past battles, Special Agent Marcus Williams cannot shake Ackerman from his mind. But now Marcus must focus on catching the Anarchist, a new killer who drugs and kidnaps women before burning them alive.

HIDDEN TERRORS…
Marcus knows the Anarchist will strike again soon. And Ackerman is still free. But worse than this is a mysterious figure, unknown to the authorities, who controls the actions of the Anarchist and many like him. He is the Prophet – and his plans are more terrible than even his own disciples can imagine.

With attacks coming from every side, Marcus faces a race against time to save the lives of a group of innocent people chosen as sacrifices in the Prophet’s final dark ritual.


Review: I was beyond excited when I was able to sign up for this particular tour. The book immediately caught my attention – I knew that I had to read it!

And boy, oh boy, am I glad I got to read this one.

Let me just start by saying that this book is not for the faint of heart. It was absolutely gruesome in spots. And normally I love gruesome. But for some reason, it bothered me. And the more I think about it, the more I realized that this is somehow connected to me becoming a mommy. Either way, I pushed through it and was super glad that I did.

Obviously I didn’t have the back story that the first book (The Shepherd) would have provided, but that does not hinder this story at all. This book reads quite well as a standalone, but be forewarned – it will make you want to find a copy of the first book! I know it sure did me!!

The characters are well-developed. Had I known more of the back story, I probably would have understood Marcus a little bit better, but as I said before, it’s not a necessity to understanding this book.

And let me just tell you – the ending – wowzers! Talk about a cliffhanger ending that makes me eagerly anticipate the next book in this series! I’m a sucker for cliffhangers, and this one was very exciting in my opinion.

The writing was sharp, characters were well-developed and interesting, the storyline was interesting. This was definitely a fast-paced, keep you up until 3am type of book.

I cannot say enough good things about this book; I am just beyond thrilled that I was able to read this book and have found a new author to put on my must-read list.

Highly recommended.


 AUTHOR BIO:
 When a fireman or a policeman would visit his school, most of his classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno. When these moments came for Ethan Cross, however, his dreams weren’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; he just wanted to write about it. His dream of telling stories on a grand scale came to fruition with the release of his first novel, the international bestseller, THE SHEPHERD.Ethan Cross is the pen name of a thriller author living and writing in Illinois with his wife, two daughters, and two Shih Tzus. In addition to The Shepherd and The Prophet, he has published two novellas––The Cage and Callsign: Knight (with Jeremy Robinson).
AUTHOR SITES:
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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Francis Ackerman Jr. stared out the window of the dark copper and white bungalow on Macarthur Boulevard. Across the street, a green sign with yellow letters read Mosswood Playground – Oakland Recreation Department. Children laughed and played while mothers and fathers pushed swings and sat on benches reading paperback novels or fiddling with cell phones. He had never experienced such things as a child. The only games his father ever played were the kind that scarred the body and soul. He had never been nurtured; he had never been loved. But he had come to accept that. He had found purpose and meaning born from the pain and chaos that had consumed his life.

He watched the sun reflect off all the smiling faces and imagined how different the scene would be if the sun suddenly burned out and fell from the heavens. The cleansing cold of an everlasting winter would sweep across the land, cleansing it, purifying it. He pictured the faces forever etched in torment, their screams silent, and their eyes like two crystal balls reflecting what lay beyond death.

He let out a long sigh. It would be beautiful. He wondered if normal people ever thought of such things. He wondered if they ever found beauty in death.

Ackerman turned back to the three people bound to chairs in the room behind him. The first two were men—plain-clothes cops that had been watching the house. The older officer had a pencil-thin mustache and thinning brown hair while his younger counterpart’s head was topped with a greasy mop of dark black. The younger man’s bushy eyebrows matched his hair, and a hooked nose sat above thin pink lips and a recessed chin. The first man struck Ackerman to be like any other cop he had met, honest and hard-working. But there was something about the younger man he didn’t like, something in his eyes. He suppressed the urge to smack the condescending little snarl from the younger cop’s ferret-like face.

But instead of hitting him, Ackerman just smiled at the cop. He needed a demonstration to get the information he needed, and the ferret would be perfect. His eyes held the ferret’s gaze a moment longer, and then he winked and turned to the last of his three captives.

Rosemary Phillips wore a faded Oakland Raiders sweatshirt. She had salt and pepper hair, and ancient pock marks marred her smooth dark chocolate complexion. Her eyes burned with a self-assurance and inner strength that Ackerman respected.

Unfortunately, he needed to find her grandson, and if necessary, he would kill all three of them to accomplish his goal.

He reached up to her mouth and pulled down the gag. She didn’t scream. “Hello, Rosemary. I apologize that I didn’t properly introduce myself earlier when I tied you up, but my name is Francis Ackerman Jr. Have you ever heard of me?”

Rosemary met his gaze. “I’ve seen you on television. You’re the serial killer whose father experimented on him as a child, trying to prove that he could create a monster. I guess he succeeded. But I’m not afraid of you.”

Ackerman smiled. “That’s wonderful. It means that I can skip the introductions and get straight to the point. Do you know why I asked these two gentleman to join us?”

Rosemary’s head swiveled toward the two officers. Her gaze lingered on the ferret. Ackerman saw disgust in her eyes. Apparently, she didn’t like him either. That would make things even more interesting once he started to torture the young cop.

“I’ve seen these two around,” she said. “I’ve already told the cops that my grandson ain’t no damn fool. He wouldn’t just show up here, and I haven’t heard from him since this mess started. But they wouldn’t listen. Apparently they think it’s a good idea to stake out an old lady’s house instead of being out there on the streets doing what the people of this city pay them to do. Typical government at work.”

Ackerman smiled. “I know exactly what you mean. I’ve never had much respect for authority. But you see, I’m looking for your grandson as well. I, however, don’t have the time or patience to sit around here on the off chance that he might show up. I prefer the direct approach, and so I’m going to ask you to level with me. Where can I find your grandson?”

“Like I told them, I have no idea.”

He walked over to a tall, mahogany hutch resting against the wall. It was old and well-built. Family pictures lined its surface and shelves. He picked up a picture of a smiling young black man with his arm around Rosemary. A blue and gold birthday cake sat in front of them. “Rosemary, I’ve done my homework, and I’ve learned that your grandson thinks the world of you. You were his anchor in the storm. Maybe the one good thing in his life. The one person who loved him. You know where he’s hiding, and you are going to share that information with me. One way or another.”

“Why do you even care? What’s he to you?”

“He’s nothing to me. I could care less about your grandson. But someone that I do care about is looking for him, and I try to be useful where I can. And like you said, sometimes bureaucracy and red tape are just too damn slow. We’re going to speed along the process.”

Rosemary shook her head and tugged on the ropes. “I don’t know where he is, and if I did, I’d never tell a monster like you.”

His father’s words tumbled through his mind.

You’re a monster…Kill her and the pain will stop…No one will ever love you…

“Oh, my dear, words hurt. But you’re right. I am a monster.”

Ackerman grabbed a duffle bag from the floor and tossed it onto a small end table. As he unzipped the bag and rifled through the contents, he said, “Are you familiar with the Spanish Inquisition? I’ve been reading a lot about it lately. It’s a fascinating period of history. The Inquisition was basically a tribunal established by Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in order to maintain Catholic orthodoxy within their kingdoms, especially among the new converts from Judaism and Islam. But that’s not what fascinates me. What fascinates me are the unspeakable acts of barbarism and torture that were carried out in the name of God upon those deemed to be heretics. We think that we live in a brutal age, but our memories are very short-sighted. Any true student of history can tell you that this is the age of enlightenment compared to other periods throughout time. The things the inquisitors did to wrench confessions from their victims was nothing less than extraordinary. Those inquisitors displayed fabulous imagination.”

Ackerman brought a strange device up out of the duffle bag. “This is an antique. It’s previous owner claimed that it’s an exact replica of one used during the Inquisition. You’ve got to love Ebay.”

He held up the device—built from two large, spiked blocks of wood connected by two threaded metal rods an inch in diameter each—for their inspection. “This was referred to as the Knee Splitter. Although it was used on more than just knees. When the inquisitor would turn these screws, the two blocks would push closer together and the spikes would first pierce the flesh of the victim. Then the inquisitor would continue to twist the screws tighter and tighter until they received the answers they wanted or until the affected appendage was rendered useless.”

Rosemary spit at him. As she spoke, her words were strong and confident. He detected a slight hint of a Georgian accent and suspected that it was from her youth and only presented itself when she was especially flustered. “You’re going to kill us anyway. No matter what I do. I can’t save these men anymore than I can save myself. The only thing that I can control is the way that I go out. And I won’t grovel and beg to the likes of you. I won’t give you the satisfaction.”

He nodded. “I respect that. So many people blame the world or society or others for the way that they are. But we’re all victims of circumstance to a certain extent. We like to think that we’re in control of our own destinies, but the truth is that much of our lives are dictated by forces far beyond our control and comprehension. We all have our strings pulled by someone or something. It’s unavoidable. The only place that we have any real control is right here.” He tapped the tip of his fifteen-inch survival knife against his right temple. “Within our minds. Most people don’t understand that, but you do. I didn’t come here to kill you, Rosemary. It will give me no pleasure to remove you from the world. But my strings get pulled just like everyone else’s. In this case, circumstances dictate that I hurt you and these men in order to achieve my goal. I’m good at what I do, my dear. I’ve been schooled in pain and suffering my entire life. Time will only allow me to share a small portion of my expertise with you, but I can tell you that it will be enough. You will tell me. That’s beyond your control. The only aspect of this situation that you can influence is the duration of the suffering you must endure. So I’ll ask again, where is your grandson?”

Her lips trembled, but she didn’t speak.

The smell of cinnamon permeated the air but was unable to mask a feral aroma of sweat and fear. Ackerman had missed that smell. He had missed the fear, the power. But he needed to keep himself contained. He couldn’t lose control. This was about information, not about satisfying his own hunger.

“Time to begin. As they say, I’m going to put the screws to this officer. Makes you wonder if this device is responsible for such a saying, doesn’t it?”

~~*~~

After several moments of enjoyment with his new toy, Ackerman looked at Rosemary, but she had diverted her gaze. He twisted the handles again, and the officer’s thrashing increased.

“Okay, I’ll tell you!” she said. “He’s in Spokane, Washington. They’re set up in an abandoned metal working shop of some kind. Some crooked realtor set it up for them. I’ve tried to get him to turn himself in. I even consider calling the police myself, but I know that he and his friends won’t allow themselves to be captured alive. He’s the only family I have left.” Tears ran down her cheeks.

Ackerman reached down and twisted the pressure from the officer’s legs. The man’s head fell back against the chair. “Thank you. I believe you, and I appreciate your situation. Your grandson has been a bad boy. But he’s your flesh and blood, and you still love him.”

He walked over to the table and pulled up another chair in front of Rosemary. As he sat, he pulled out a small notepad. It was spiral-bound from the top with a blood red cover. “Since you’ve been so forthcoming with me and out of respect, I’ll give you a genuine chance to save your lives.” He flipped up the notepad’s cover, retrieved a small pen from within the spiral, and started to write. As the pen traveled over the page, he said, “I’m going to let you pick the outcome of our little game. On this first sheet, I’ve written ‘ferret’ to represent our first officer.” He tore off the page, wadded it up, and placed it between his legs. “On the second, we’ll write ‘Jackie Gleason’ to represent the next officer. Then Rosemary. Then all live. And all die.”

He stirred up the wadded pieces of paper and placed them on the floor in front of her. “I think the game is self-explanatory, but to make sure that there’s no confusion, you pick the piece of paper, and I kill whoever’s name is on it. But you do have a twenty percent chance that you all live. And just to be clear, if you refuse to pick or take too long, I’ll be happy to kill all three of you. So please don’t try to fight fate. The only thing you have control over here is which piece of paper you choose. Have no illusions that you have other options. It will only serve in making the situation even less manageable for you. Pick one.”

Rosemary’s eyes were full of hate. They burrowed into him. Her gaze didn’t waver. A doctor named Kendrick from the Cedar Mill Psychiatric Hospital had once told Ackerman that he had damage to a group of interconnected brain structures, known as the paralimbic system, that were involved in processing emotion, goal seeking, motivation, and self-control. The doctor had studied his brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology and had also found damage to an area known as the amygdala that generated emotions such as fear. Monkeys in the wild with damage to the amygdala had been known to walk right up to people or even predators. The doctor had said this explained why Ackerman didn’t feel fear in the way that other people did. He wondered if Rosemary had a similar impairment or if her strength originated from somewhere else entirely.

She looked down at the sheets of paper then back into his eyes. “Third one. The one right in the center.”

He reached down and uncrumpled the small piece of paper. He smiled. “It’s your lucky day. You all get to live. I’m sorry that you had to endure this due to the actions of someone else. But as I said, we’re all victims of circumstance.”

Then he stood, retrieved his things, and exited onto Macarthur Boulevard.

~~*~~

Ackerman tossed his duffle bag into the trunk of a light-blue Ford Focus. He wished he could travel in more style, but the ability to blend outweighed his own sense of flare. He pulled open the driver’s door, slipped inside, and dropped some jewelry and the wallets and purse of his former captives on the seat next to him. He hated to lower himself to common thievery, but everything cost money. And his skill set didn’t exactly look good on a resume. Besides, he didn’t have time for such things.

He retrieved a disposable cell phone from the glove box and activated the device. As he dialed and pressed send, he looked down at the small slip of paper that Rosemary had chosen. The words All Die stared back at him.

After a few rings, the call connected, and the voice on the other end said, “What do you want?”

Ackerman smiled. “Hello, Marcus. Please forgive me, for I have sinned. But I do it all for you.”


Praise for The Prophet
“The best book of its kind since Thomas Harris retired Hannibal Lecter, a cat-mouse-game extraordinaire that will leave your knuckles white and your stomach churning.” – Jon Land, Bestselling Author of Strong Vengeance
“Cross pushes the boundaries in this sinisterly clever showdown between one shadowy vigilante justice group and three twisted serial killers. The surprises are fast and furious and will leave you breathless to read more.” – Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Catch Me and Love You More
“THE PROPHET confirms, confidently and vociferously, that Ethan Cross is one of the best damn writers in the genre.” – Anthony J. Franze, Bestselling Author of THE LAST JUSTICE
“Solid, memorable storytelling that moves rapid-fire through a complex and gripping plot.” Ethan Cross is one of the sharpest emerging writers on the thriller fiction scene today.”
– Steven James, national bestselling author of Opening Moves and The Pawn
“THE PROPHET is a terrifying, twist-laden tempest of a thriller that builds to a climax even more ferocious and chilling than the blizzard in which it’s set. With a flawed-yet-likable cast of protagonists pitted against some of the most terrifying and believable villains in recent memory, Ethan Cross’s latest is a definite must-read.” – Jeremy Burns, Author of THE DESERET BLUEPRINT and FROM THE ASHES

This review is posted in conjunction with the Partners in Crime Book Tours. I received a copy of this book to review in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation.