I really enjoyed this book. If you're a fan of Alison Brennan I think you'll like this one. It is like reading an episode of Criminal Minds so this would be a good way to fill that void until the new season starts. This is part of a series but with this type of book I'm more loose about reading them out of order. I've lightened up on other books but I still prefer to read most in the order they came out.
The BAU is out to solve a case that involves a series of murders where the killer creates the nightmare version of what a bride wants on her wedding day. It isn't as dark and creepy as it can get on Criminal Minds but it is still pretty creepy. They are desperate to find the guy before he kills again. I do like that the story was told in part from the perspective of the killer. Often the focus with this type of book or show the focus is more on the ones trying to catch the killer. The next time I'm in the mood for this type of book this author is certainly going to be one of my options. I don't dive into this genre as often as I do with other genres but I have found a few great authors that I do enjoy when I just feel like reading a psychological thriller.
Where light meets darkness…
Happiness is elusive for many, but from the killer’s standpoint, it’s something he creates. And he’s determined to get it right…at least one more time.
The murders were one year apart, but the similarities have the interest of the FBI. Both victims were found in their tubs, dressed in their wedding gowns. But that’s not the worst of it. When a third body is found, Brandon Fisher and his team make the chilling discovery that more than the killer’s method of operation connects the women.
CAROLYN ARNOLD is the international best-selling and award-winning author of the Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher, and McKinley Mystery series. She is the only author with POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT.™
Carolyn was born in a small town, but that doesn’t keep her from dreaming big. And on par with her large dreams is her overactive imagination that conjures up killers and cases to solve. She currently lives in a city near Toronto with her husband and two beagles, Max and Chelsea. She is also a member of Crime Writers of Canada.
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Excerpts: (Choose One)
#1 EXCERPT FROM BLUE BABY, Prologue:
THE WHITE SILK WAS DRAPED over the porcelain of the tub like angel wings. She was beautiful, radiant. Her face was flushed, and her eyes were open and staring at him.
He took the set of fake lashes from his pocket and applied them. He coated her eyeball with glue before delicately using both hands to pull her eyes closed. The extensions fanned against her flesh.
He applied the eye shadow and stepped back to appreciate the hues of brown and gold.
He smeared the tube across her lips. The bright red was an exquisite touch of color against her fair skin. He put the veil in place and wisped back the nylon until it framed her face and ensconced her shoulders. He stood back to admire his work thus far.
The blonde sat with her back against the end of the tub, her dress spilling down her frame and over the ledge. Her hair was a bed of curls beneath her veil. Her makeup appeared professional, and he was pleased with his hard work. He wasn’t nearly as perfect with the first one.
Her mouth carried a hint of peace. Of happiness.
The Big Event was under way.
His gaze went to her left hand resting in her lap.
How could he have been so foolish? Was he rushing things? He moved swiftly through her apartment and found what he sought on her dresser.
“There you go, beautiful.” He slipped the wedding ring on her finger, leaving him with one final task.
He took the cigar cutter from his pocket, slipped her ring finger into it, and squeezed. As he had the first time, he marveled at the ease of it, how such small blades were able to cut through bone. He let the severed finger fall against her ivory dress.
Stepping back, he took in her beauty.
She was pleased. It was in the way her lips were set.
He smiled. “Now, you can just be happy.”
#2 EXCERPT FROM BLUE BABY, Chapter 1:
HER SNORING HAD KEPT ME up for most of the night, but I wasn’t cruel enough to wake her. While I had considered pinching her nose to quiet her, I mustered the restraint not to. I didn’t really want to deal with a sleep-deprived and pissed-off woman.
The solution wasn’t in getting sleep myself—it was already five AM—it would be in downing a pot of coffee. I’d need that much to function today. But thanks to technology, I’d have to repeat the coffee-brewing process twelve times since I’d upgraded to one of those single-serve makers. I put in the pod, and after some protest in the form of moaning and gurgling, the machine sputtered out the black nectar into my waiting cup. While the brew finished, I rested my eyes. I’d have to be alert soon enough.
The text message had come in overnight, bathing the bedroom in a white glow. I had read it, careful not to tug the sheets and wake my female companion. The gist was that another sicko had decided to use the world as his demented playground. I didn’t know the details yet, but the summation was always a variation of that fact, and my presence had been requested in the briefing room first thing.
I breathed in, eyes closed, my nose appreciating the robust aroma that filled the air while my mind drifted to last night. It might have been a bad idea inviting her over, but it had been fun. I’d have to wake her soon, but I’d put it off for as long as possible.
The puttering of the coffeemaker came to an end, and I added two lumps of sugar and some milk to my cup.
“Brandon? What are you doing up so early?”
She was in one my shirts, her hair tousled over her shoulders. The way she was winding one strand around her finger would drive any man mad.
Forget the coffee. Forget the snoring. There were some sacrifices worth making.
“There’s a case.” God, she looked good, but I dared not touch her.
She slipped her arms around my waist, and I continued to fight the impulse to scoop her up and take her back to my bed. “But you had the day booked off. We had plans.”
“I know, but sometimes these things happen.” Maybe a little embrace wouldn’t hurt anything. I wrapped my arms around her and slapped her butt.
She let out a yelp. “Be careful what you’re starting.” She snuggled her face into my neck, her tongue teasing my flesh.
“We’ll have to take a rain check,” I said, then cupped her face and tilted it upward until her mouth met mine. My jaw was tight, determined, and hungry. I took her without mercy. She reciprocated with as much as I gave. Slipping my hand under the shirt she wore, I found her breasts and teased her nipples with the pads of my thumbs. She let out a moan and arched her head back.
God, I loved giving her pleasure as much as I loved receiving it. I parted from her only long enough to clear a space on the counter and then lifted her up.
Her perfume filled my head, diluting all logic and intoxicating my senses. I trailed kisses from her neck down to her chest and slid a taut nipple between my teeth.
Her deep breathing encouraged me, and the hardening of her nipple reciprocated what was happening in my pants.
As I parted her legs, my cell phone rang. “Son of a bitch!”
“I had a feeling it was too good to be true.” She tapped a kiss on my cheek and hopped down from the counter.
The caller ID flashed PAIGE DAWSON. I took a deep breath. No big deal. Paige was a beautiful redhead with electric-green eyes, who had me straying from my marriage while at the training academy. It was only by a strange twist of fate that I had wound up on the same team as her within the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. When my divorce had been finalized in December, Paige and I had determined that a relationship between us wasn’t going to work. The age difference between us had never mattered. She was in her early forties, and I was twenty-nine. What had interfered were our careers.
I answered with my gaze on the new woman in my life—Becky Tulson. We’d met last fall when I was working on a case in Dumfries, Virginia. The attraction had been instant and the conversation between us stimulating, but until recently, the situation had been complicated.
“Brandon,” Paige said, “there’s been a change of plans.”
A banging came from the front door immediately after, and Becky nodded to me before heading off to answer it.
What the hell? The place was becoming Grand Central, and all I needed was another twenty minutes to fit in a quick one. Apparently I was asking for too much.
“What’s going on?” I asked into the receiver.
“Brandon,” Becky called to me, “Jack’s here.” She stood behind the opened door, shielding her body from Jack’s line of sight.
“We’re outside,” Paige said.
“It’s a little too late to tell me that.” I hung up, wondering how it was possible for this day to descend downhill any faster than it already was.
I hurried to the front door, experiencing a moment of awkwardness. My boss and my lover, face-to-face. My lover wearing only a shirt. My shirt.
“Don’t stand there, kid. We have a flight to catch. Grab your go bag.”
“One second, Jack.” I closed the door on him and worked to get my house key off the ring. I handed it to Becky. “Leave when you’re ready.”
She pouted but nodded. She understood. She also worked in law enforcement and could appreciate that if the job called, one had to respond.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Heck, I’m not even sure where I’m headed.”
“No worries.” She smiled and kissed my lips. I lingered. She pulled back. “You better get going. Jack doesn’t strike me as the patient type.”
“You have no idea.” I grabbed the bag I kept by the front door—for the very purpose of last-minute trips like this—and opened the door. Jack was still standing there, and I jumped, having expected him to be in the car by now.
“I thought we were meeting at—”
Jack shook his head. “There’s a new development.”
A “new development” meant the case we were going to discuss had become urgent. It meant someone else was dead. And our cases rarely involved run-of-the-mill shootings or passionate kills in the heat of the moment.
We hunted psychotic unsubs.
#3 EXCERPT FROM BLUE BABY, Chapter 3:
TARA DAY LIVED IN A three-story apartment building near the Columbia Mall. The pattern of its brick facade made it appear as if it were freckled. The redeeming aspect to the property was the lush greenery, and each unit had either a balcony or patio. Tara’s apartment was on the second floor.
A couple of crime scene investigators were working over her residence, and I suspected they’d be there for hours yet. Collecting evidence in a murder case wasn’t a quick job as it was portrayed on TV. It took time and diligence.
The case file told us Tara’s time of death was placed between midnight and three AM yesterday. Police found her at nine AM after receiving a call from her coworker, just as Nadia had said.
A man I pegged as the lead detective met us at the door. His attention went straight to Jack. My boss just had a way about him. His aura demanded acknowledgment. To those on the outside, there would be no mistaking he was the one in charge.
“Supervisory Special Agent Jack Harper?” the detective asked.
Jack nodded and didn’t initiate a handshake. Neither did the detective.
“My name’s Detective Russell Powers and—” He looked behind him, searching for someone.
A man in his early thirties hurried over, and I recognized something of myself in him. I had a tendency to run late for things, too, and sometimes it felt as if I was constantly playing catch up.
He smiled at us, his eyes shooting straight to Paige. Maybe we were too much alike. As his gaze settled on her, he bit his bottom lip, as if he thought it made him attractive. His nose was bulbous and too big for his face, and his hair was cropped short and came to a point in the middle of his brow. He extended his hand to Paige.
“This is Sam Barber.” Powers made the introduction, but it seemed Barber was getting around fine by himself.
He ended the rounds with me. His shake was firm, and the glint in his eyes told me he was interested in staking claim to Paige. I pressed on a grin, doing my best to make it appear sincere.
“So fill us in. What are we looking at here?” Jack asked. It was part of his tactic. He preferred to be briefed at the scene. He didn’t like relying on what came to us secondhand through reports. He liked to hear it from the detective’s mouth.
“We’ve got a female victim. Tara Day. I assume you know most of what we do at this point.”
I fought a smirk. Powers wasn’t one to play the game, either. He and Jack must have been separated at birth. Like Jack, Powers had a hardened gaze and scowl lines around his mouth. Powers seemed to be in his forties while Jack was in his early fifties. Powers’s hair was receding on the sides, leaving a rounded patch of hair in the middle of his head. Jack had a full mop of hair.
“Hmm.” Jack brushed past Powers into the apartment. The rest of us followed. It was clear that Jack wasn’t impressed with Powers’s lack of cooperation.
The layout of the place was simplistic with a galley kitchen to the left of the entry. A living area was straight ahead. The furniture was basic and low-end. Maybe even used.
Powers guided us down a side hallway. “She was found in the bathroom.”
The bedroom was on the left, and the bathroom on the right. Powers stopped outside the door. It was compact with the sink and toilet squeezed next to a regular-sized bathtub.
“It’s a tight space,” I said, verbalizing my observation.
“It is. The killer didn’t have much room to work with, but as you know, she wasn’t killed here,” Powers said.
“She was suffocated in her bed,” Zachery pitched in. He knew this from the case file.
“Based on the state of the bed—the sheets were all tangled up—that’s the way we’re leaning.”
“So, afterward, he dragged her lifeless body to the tub?” I asked.
“Your name again?” Powers’s eyes were sharp and lasered in on mine.
“Special Agent Fisher.”
The hint of a simper twitched Powers’s lips. It wasn’t hard to surmise what he was thinking—possibly career envy. After all, detectives never had special added to their job titles. It wasn’t just that, though. In this case, there was derision and judgment painted on his expression. Too bad if the man thought it was egotistical. I had worked hard for the title and had two months before my probation period was over and it was officially mine.
“Well, Special Agent Fisher, first he dressed her in a wedding gown, then he placed her in the tub.”
“And the dress was hers?” Paige asked.
Barber entered the conversation. “It seems to be. We found the box it would have come in.”
“While the gown and ring were hers, the veil wasn’t a match to the dress,” Powers said.
“Something borrowed?” Paige asked.
“I noticed that in the case file. Its design was different from the dress,” Zachery said.
“That’s right. The veil had a rosebud wreath, and while her dress had intricate lace rose patterns, there were no buds. It also had a tinge of yellow to it.”
I glanced at Paige. “Sounds more like something old. It also goes back to what was mentioned about him recreating what he had seen.”
Jack shot me a look to keep quiet. There would be plenty of time to discuss the case once we left here.
Powers looked between Jack and me. He caught Jack’s glare but didn’t bother pressing for more about what I had said. I was thankful to him for leaving it alone.
“Have you found her fiancé?” Paige asked.
“Not yet, but we are looking into that,” Barber answered.
“We’ll take it from here,” Jack said to the detectives. “Has the family been notified?”
“They will be this morning. We weren’t able to get in contact with them yesterday,” Powers responded. “The medical examiner is expecting you tomorrow for the autopsy. He’s quite confident on the cause of death, though. The killer got on top of Tara and suffocated her.”
“Compressive asphyxiation,” Zachery added.
Powers appeared about as pleased to be interrupted as Jack did when it happened to him. “That’s right. He’ll also have all the forensic evidence cataloged for you then.”
“Detective?” An investigator came toward our group, her gaze on Powers. She held a plastic bag with a slip of paper inside. “We just found this.” She paused, acknowledging the rest of us. Her cheeks flushed, seemingly shy around new people.
“These people are special agents with the FBI.” Powers looked at me as he gave the generic introduction. He wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the special part. “This is Tammy.”
“Hi.” Tammy rushed to continue. “This receipt was found in her kitchen garbage can. It’s dated for last night at seven.”
Powers took the bag from her and examined the receipt. He then extended it to Jack, and Jack passed it on to us.
I read the name of the bar, Down the Hatch. The cashier number was 007. Tara’s tab came to fifteen dollars. It was a detailed receipt showing two apple martinis. The time stamp, as Tammy had noted, was seven o’clock at night. Early by most standards. Did she meet the unsub at the bar?
I handed the evidence bag back to Tammy, and she left to file it.
Jack addressed me and my colleagues. “Let’s see what we can find out at that bar.”