Results of the Hammett Prize in the year 1995.
Kidnapped by a cult of religious fanatics, an Austin school bus driver and eleven of his young charges have been held underground at the group’s highly fortified compound for forty-six days. While a team of federal negotiators begins to lose all hope of rescuing the hostages, crime reporter Molly Cates sets outto discover everything she can about the cult’s iron-willed leader, Samuel Mordecai. And as the clock ticks inexorably, she takes the role of Clarisse Starling opposite Mordecai’s Hannibal Lecter, engaging in a psychological confrontation as harrowing as any in The Silence of the Lambs.
Tough, terrifying, and relentlessly heart-wrenching, this is a novel whose images no reader will ever forget.
The town was Choctaw, Alabama. The place was Breakheart Hill. The girl was Kelli Troy. But the story of what really happened to her there on an August afternoon in 1962 is known by only one man, Ben Wade, the boy who loved her then and who must tell her story now:
“For what really happened never truly leaves me, no matter how often my imagination insists upon rewriting it. I hear the blow that echoed through the trees, see her fall to the ground, then rise and begin to stagger up the killing slope…. And after that, each life returns to me, each life that was destroyed in the deep woods that day, their faces circling in my mind, one behind the other like heads on a potter’s wheel.”
The violence that rocked Breakheart Hill on that summer afternoon did not end on its wooded slope. At least not for Ben Wade, now the town’s doctor and one of its most revered citizens. Perhaps it never ended for anyone in Choctaw.
Harry Bosch’s life is a mess. His new house has been condemned because of earthquake damage. His girlfriend has left him. He’s drinking too much. And he’s even had to turn in his badge: he attacked his commanding officer and is suspended indefinitely pending a psychiatric evaluation.
At first Bosch resists the LAPD shrink, but finally he recognizes that something is troubling him, a force that may have shaped his entire life. In 1961, when Harry was twelve, his mother was brutally murdered. No one was ever even accused of the crime. Harry opens up the decades-old file on the case and is irresistibly drawn into a past he has always avoided. It’s clear that the case was fumbled. His mother was a prostitute, and even thirty years later the smell of a coverup is unmistakable. Someone powerful was able to keep the investigating officers away from key suspects. …[more]
It is May Caldwell’s sixteenth summer, and life couldn’t be more dull in Linwood, Iowa. Vaguely suicidal and haunted by half-remembered scenes from her early childhood, May is a girl waiting for her life to happen. And happen it does with the unexpected arrival of Frances Anne Crane, a.k.a. Frankie, a girl with too much past and nothing to lose. Together they seduce an older man as Frankie awakens all that May has been holding inside: the mystery of her uncle Brodie’s illicit past, the painful truth of her grandparents’ slow dissolutions, and her own emerging sexuality. Where Frankie leads, May follows, and what’s left is a murder no one can pin, a family’s buried past resurfaced in a wild night of mayhem, and May’s safe world blown to smithereens in this unforgettable tale of betrayal and desire.
In the heat of the city, a man is out of time: speeding in a beat-up Ford Tempo, blasting easy-listening music. Reporter Steve Everett drinks too much, makes love to his boss’s wife, and has just stumbled upon a shocking truth: a convicted killer is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit.
In the cold confines of Death Row, Frank Beachum is also out of time. Ready to say good-bye to the wife and child he loves and hello to the God he still believes in, Beachum knows he did not kill a convenience store clerk six years ago. But in a few hours—if Steve Everett can’t find the evidence to stop it—a needle is going to pierce Frank Beachum’s skin.
The killing machine is primed. The executioner is waiting. And so is the priest. Now the clock is ticking down and the race is on—between the reporter and his demons, between the system and its lethal flaws, between the last innocent man and society’s ultimate crime…