Book: Nine

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Nine: A Novel of Suspense

Author: Jan Burke
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

When a brutal felon on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list turns up dead in Los Angeles County, few mourn him; in fact, the public begins to cheer his unknown assailants as heroes. But as more brutalized corpses of fugitive outlaws are found, Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Alex Brandon knows that the vigilante group the public has nicknamed “The Exterminators” may be far more ruthless and sadistic than its victims.

The corpses bear eerie similarities to victims of a serial killer investigated by Brandon ten years ago. The perpetrator died at the hands of his own deeply traumatized teenaged stepson, Kit Logan. Logan, protected by his wealthy family, never spent a day in jail; instead, he was sent to a private reform school for the truant sons of L.A.’s most affluent. Alex Brandon, unable to locate Logan for questioning, has a chilling sense he is being manipulated. But why?

A terrifying novel that asks what happens when justice is no longer enough, Nine introduces an unforgettable protagonist. A modern morality tale, it is another captivating gem from an acclaimed master of mystery and suspense.


A drug kingpin on the FBI’s Most Wanted list is found hanging upside down over a bathtub, his corpse drained of blood. The killing looks like an organized-crime payback hit—until another Ten Most Wanted criminal is found similarly strung up, and then another. Soon Detective Alex Brandon of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is grappling not only with a testy partner and a complicated home life, but also with a band of brilliant vigilantes whom the public starts to regard as heroes.

Alex Brandon is almost too good to be true, with his penetrating blue eyes, his steely toughness, his politeness, and his tenacious smarts. But Jan Burke—best known for her well-regarded series featuring reporter Irene Kelly—is such a sane, intelligent writer that Brandon and the book’s many other characters come vividly alive. She’s also a fine craftsman of individual scenes, many of which are perfectly paced little dramas or comedies. Nine‘s gripping, multithreaded plot is sometimes too complex for its own good, and the climax tips into melodrama, but overall the reliable Burke, a past winner of the Edgar and other mystery awards, has produced another winning read. —Nicholas H. Allison

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In Jan Burke’s popular mystery series featuring reporter Irene Kelly and her detective spouse Frank Harriman, the boundaries between good and evil are clearly delineated. Nine explores murkier areas, where some people are bad, some worse, and even the best may be responsible for tragic mistakes in the past.

The novel introduces Los Angeles homicide detective Alex Hartwick, who is investigating the brutal murder of a notorious drug dealer. It soon becomes evident that this is just the first in a series of murders whose victims are all on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and Hartwick is plunged into a complicated case that’s somehow connected to Kit Logan, a young man still tormented by horrific abuse at the hands of his serial-killer stepfather years earlier. From Hartwick’s search for answers to the vigilantes’ pursuit of their next Most Wanted victims, the story unfolds using numerous characters and many different points of view, racing toward unexpected revelations and a terrifyingly imaginative climax.

While Hartwick is Nine‘s central protagonist, Logan is its most compelling character. We root for the healing of his damaged psyche and observe with interest his relationship with a young female runaway he has taken under his wing, as well as his tentative romance with another woman. The flashbacks to young Kit’s abuse are chilling, making his recovery even more remarkable. Like most Burke villains, the vigilante ringleader is truly evil and completely amoral, but all of the other characters in Nine are multidimensional and understandable, despite their atrocities. Suspenseful and original, this is a non-formulaic thriller that weaves a complicated plot and satisfyingly ties everything together in a story of survival, justice, and redemption. —Clare Martin

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