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Last Known Victim

Last Known Victim

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Last Known Victim

valoraciones:
4/5 (26 valoraciones)
Longitud:
458 página
6 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
Sep 17, 2012
ISBN:
9781460303122
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

In 2005, hurricane rescue workers made a grisly discovery at one of the massive refrigerator "graveyards"six female hands.

Captain Patti O'Shay, a by-the-books cop, is assigned to the case. But with the evidence lost to time and the elements, the heinous incident goes unsolved. The perpetrator, known only as "The Handyman," remains at large.

Two years later Patti is still haunted by her own personal tragedyher husband and fellow police captain was murdered in the post-storm chaos. But when a female victim missing her right hand is unearthed, Patti prepares to return to The Handyman investigation. She is unprepared, however, for what she finds at the crime scenethe victim's bones beside her husband's police badge.

Casting aside all the rules, Patti is fearless in her quest to find the truth because if she isn't, she could become The Handyman's last known victim.
Editorial:
Publicado:
Sep 17, 2012
ISBN:
9781460303122
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

No matter how innocent the story being relayed to me is, I can twist it into something pretty damn frightening. I've learned the real trick is not sharing these versions with those relaying the story. It tends to make people avoid me.” ~ Erica Spindler A New York Times and International bestselling author, Erica Spindler's skill for crafting engrossing plots and compelling characters has earned both critical praise and legions of fans. Published in 25 countries, her stories have been lauded as “thrill-packed page turners, white- knuckle rides and edge-of-your-seat whodunits.” Raised in Rockford, Illinois, Erica had planned on being an artist, earning a BFA from Delta State University and an MFA from the University of New Orleans in the visual arts. In June of 1982, in bed with a cold, she picked up a romance novel for relief from daytime television. She was immediately hooked, and soon decided to try to write one herself. She leaped from romance to suspense in 1996 with her novel Forbidden Fruit, and found her true calling. Her novel Bone Cold won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence. A Romance Writers of America Honor Roll member, she received a Kiss of Death Award for her novels Forbidden Fruit and Dead Run and was a three-time RITA® Award finalist.  Publishers Weekly awarded the audio version of her novel Shocking Pink a Listen Up Award, naming it one of the best audio mystery books of 1998. Erica lives just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and two sons and is busy at work on her next thriller.  


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Last Known Victim - Erica Spindler

77

PART I

1

New Orleans, Louisiana

Sunday, August 28, 2005

4:00 p.m.

The gods were watching over New Orleans. Or so it seemed. How else could this historic city built below sea level, this beautiful jewel set in a swamp, have survived?

Survival. Of the species. The fittest. The self. An instinctual response to fight for life. To fight back.

Would she?

Walk to the door. Open it.

There she was. Lying on the bed. Asleep. Bitch! Cheap, faithless whore!

She deserves it. She betrayed you. Broke your heart.

She stirred. Moaned. Her eyelids fluttered.

Quickly! Cross to the bed. Put your hands around her throat and squeeze.

Her eyes snapped open. Pools of blue terror. She bucked and clawed.

Tighter. Tighter. Her fault. Hers. Bitch! Betrayer!

Her creamy skin mottled, then purpled. Her eyes bulged, popping out like those of some freakish cartoon character.

No pity. No second thoughts. She brought this on herself. She deserves it.

Her hands dropped. Her body shuddered, then stilled.

Halfway there. Breathe deeply. Calm yourself. Finish what she forced you to do.

A scream shattered the silence. A loud crack, like a gunshot, shook the house.

Only the wind. Katrina’s fury. Move, quickly! Good. Now check your equipment. Make certain you have everything you need.

Industrial-strength trash bags. Rubber gloves and boots. Foul-weather gear. Shiny new bone saw. Pretty, pretty saw.

Zip-closure plastic bag.

No one to hear. No one to come. All gone.

An empty city.

2

New Orleans, Louisiana

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

3:00 p.m.

A ghost town, Captain Patti O’Shay thought. Or a scene from some post-apocalyptic horror flick. No cars or buses. No people on the sidewalks or lounging on porches. Eerily quiet.

She crept along Tchoupitoulas Street, heading uptown, maneuvering past downed power lines, branches and trees, sometimes having to go off road. Struggling to keep her attention on the task of driving. And to keep exhaustion and despair at bay.

Katrina had hit and all the Doomsday predictions had come true: the levees had begun to break and the bowl that was the Big Easy had begun to fill with water.

Ninety percent of the metro area—including police headquarters—had flooded. Only the high ground had escaped: the French Quarter, parts of the Central Business District, pockets of the Garden District and Uptown. And this street, which ran along the ridge of the Mississippi River.

The city was without power. Without running water. Without access to supplies. Twenty-five percent of the NOPD’s vehicles had flooded.

Citizens who hadn’t evacuated were now trapped. On rooftops and in attics. On the interstates and bridges. Dying in the brutal heat, without food, water or medical care.

Now the looters, junkies and thugs had taken to the streets.

The NOPD had established Harrah’s Casino, located high and dry at the foot of Canal Street, as their staging area. The Royal Sonesta, one of the French Quarter’s swankiest hotels, now served as the temporary police headquarters.

She tightened her fingers on the steering wheel. All communications were down. The police department had been reduced to using a handful of walkie-talkies and one ad hoc, mutual-aid radio channel. A channel they were sharing with all other parish agencies and the state police.

Because of a talk around feature, communication between parties more than five miles apart was impossible, rendering unit commanders without a chain of command. To make matters worse, the various agencies kept cutting over one another, creating the cacophony she was listening to now—a stream of disjointed alerts, updates, conversations and requests for assistance.

It was something, at least. Fellow survivors, agencies struggling to restore normalcy. Audible proof that the world had not come to an end.

Though she feared hers had.

Her husband, Captain Sammy O’Shay, was missing.

She had neither seen nor heard from him since the Sunday before the storm. All officers had been required to remain on duty during the hurricane. She and Sammy had attended early mass at St. Louis Cathedral, then prepared to go out separately on patrol.

She remembered stepping outside of the church and being struck by an overwhelming sense of loss. Of dread. It gripped her so tightly, she caught her breath.

Sammy looked at her. What is it, love?

She shook her head. Nothing.

But he had known better and curled his fingers around hers. Always her rock, her shelter in a storm.

It’s going to be fine, Patti. Business as usual by Wednesday.

They had hugged and parted. Then all hell had broken loose.

Today was Wednesday, Patti realized, thoughts returning to the present. And nothing was business as usual.

Where was he?

Patti suddenly felt chilled, despite the oppressively hot, humid air streaming through the cruiser’s open windows. She shook her head, against the fear, the sense of dread.

Sammy was fine. He’d gone home to check on the house or look for her and been trapped by floodwaters. Or he had gotten trapped trying to help citizens escape. That’s the kind of man Sammy was.

He was resourceful. If he had been injured, he knew to take refuge and await help.

So many were missing. So many were dead.

The walkie-talkie crackled and squawked. A number of buildings burned out of control in the metro area. There were reports of hundreds of displaced citizens converging on the convention center, of gunshots fired at the Superdome, of private militia teams arriving by choppers.

Hearsay and rumor. With no way of being substantiated because of the breakdown in communication.

Where was Sammy?

Suddenly the conversations stopped, overridden by an extended squeal. The sound affected her like a blow. Pressing and holding the radio’s emergency button was one way to clear the channel for an emergency alert on this primitive form of communication. The protocol signaled users to stay off the channel until the alert was issued.

Officer down. Repeat, officer down. Audubon Place.

Patti unclipped her walkie-talkie and brought it to her mouth. Captain Patti O’Shay here. I’m on Tchoupitoulas, approaching Jackson Avenue. Can I get to Audubon Place from here? Advise.

She was immediately inundated with advice on which streets were passable: one lane on both Jackson and Louisiana Avenues had been cleared. Once she hit St. Charles Avenue, she would have to drive the streetcar tracks on the neutral ground, which had been cleared by Bobcats.

Audubon Place was the most palatial street in New Orleans, perhaps the entire South. A gated community of twenty-eight mansions, it was home to wealthy old-line, New Orleans families, captains of industry and the president of Tulane University.

Located uptown on St. Charles Avenue, across from Audubon Park and bounded by the university campus, it’d been left mostly unscathed by the storm.

A juicy—and vulnerable—sitting duck for looters.

Patti made her way there, thoughts whirling. The report could turn out to be false—many had in the past couple of days. If it wasn’t, who was the officer? How extensive were his injuries—and how the hell would she get him medical treatment?

Patti reached her destination. She saw another cruiser had made the scene before her. And that reports of private militia had not been exaggerated.

Four heavily armed men in camouflage stood at the neighborhood’s graceful, gated archway. Around them, private Hummers and a bulldozer.

She climbed out. The other cruiser’s driver’s-side door opened. One of her guys. Detective Tony Sciame. A thirty-year veteran of the force, Tony had now, truly, seen it all.

He started toward her. He looked like he’d aged ten years since she’d seen him last.

She didn’t mention the fact, knowing she looked it, too.

What’s the status? she asked.

Not certain. I arrived a couple minutes before you. They wouldn’t let me in.

Excuse me?

Said they were in control of the area. Private security, hired by the residents to protect their property.

Money might not be able to buy love, but everything else was for sale at a price.

They approached the guards. As they did, Patti saw a third cruiser inside the gate, several houses down. Her heart sank.

Who’s in charge? she asked the men.

I am. Major Stephens. Blackwater USA.

Captain Patti O’Shay, NOPD. She held out her credentials. We got word of an officer down.

He inspected her ID, then waved them inside. Follow me.

He led them through the gates and toward the third cruiser. She heard the hum of the generators powering the mansions. It was the way of the world, catastrophe affected the poor so much more profoundly than the rich.

And apparently, proved little more than an inconvenience to the superrich.

The victim lay several yards in front of the vehicle. Facedown in the muck.

No badge, the man said. Weapon’s gone.

As they closed in on the victim, the smell of death strengthened. Despite the heat, Patti’s hands were cold as ice.

It appears the back of his head was bashed in by a heavy object, the major continued. Then he was shot. Twice. In the back.

They reached the corpse. Patti gazed down at the victim, light-headed, the blood pounding crazily in her head.

Decomposition’s too far along for it to have happened after the storm, Tony said.

She opened her mouth to respond but found she couldn’t speak. She recognized this officer. From a lifetime together, sharing their trials, hopes and dreams. From nearly thirty years of marriage.

It couldn’t be true. But it was.

Her husband was dead.

3

Thursday, October 20, 2005

11:00 a.m.

Patti stared at the computer screen, at the almost two-month-old NOLA.com news story.

Decorated NOPD Captain Shot by Looters 9/01/05 8:10 a.m.

Captain Sammy O’Shay, thirty-year veteran of the police force, was found shot to death at Audubon Place. His body was discovered by fellow officers Wednesday. Police Chief Eddie Compass believes his murder to have been the work of looters targeting the affluent neighborhood. An investigation is under way.

What a joke. There had been no investigation under way then; there wasn’t one now. The city and all its agencies, including the NOPD, were in turmoil, their focus on survival. How did one investigate without evidence, equipment or manpower? Without facilities to house them all? Hell, parts of the city still didn’t have safe drinking water.

Patti frowned. She wanted answers. Absolutes. She didn’t even know for certain if Sammy had been shot before the storm hit, or after.

The chief had decided that Sammy had interrupted looters and been killed. It made sense, considering the neighborhood and timing. But if that was the case, why hadn’t she heard from her husband in the hours between their parting at the cathedral and the time when all forms of communication had been cut off?

Any number of reasons. More unknowns. Frustrating.

She massaged her temple, the knot of tension there, as she reviewed what she knew of Sammy’s death. He’d suffered a blunt-force trauma to the back of his head, suggesting that the killer had attacked from behind, catching him by surprise. He’d disarmed him, then used Sammy’s own gun against him, shooting him twice in the back.

His cruiser had been unlocked, the keys in it. The vehicle’s interior had been clean. When they found him, both Sammy’s badge and gun had been missing. The scene hadn’t been processed; any evidence that might have been useful was long gone now.

Captain? You okay?

Patti blinked and dragged her gaze from the computer monitor. Detective Spencer Malone stood at the door to what served as her makeshift office. Not only a detective under her command, he was her nephew and godson. He was frowning.

I’m fine. What’s up?

He ignored her question. You were rubbing your temple.

Was I? She dropped her hands to her lap, irritated. It’d been almost two months since Sammy had been killed, and being hovered over had gotten damn old. She hurt enough without being constantly reminded of her loss by people treating her as if she might shatter at any moment.

She was part of an NOPD family dynasty that included her father and grandfather, her brother-in-law, three nephews and a niece. But working with so many of her family members meant she had no way to escape the microscope.

Just a little headache, that’s all.

You’re certain? Before your heart attack—

I was tired all the time? Rubbing my temples?

Yes.

She had suffered a minor heart attack the spring before Katrina, but this was completely different. I’m fine. You needed something?

We have a situation, Spencer said. At one of the refrigerator graveyards.

New Orleanians had evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, leaving behind fully stocked refrigerators and freezers. Now they were returning to those same appliances, which had been without power all these weeks. Most people just strapped the reeking units closed and wheeled them out to the curb. There they were collected and hauled to various dump sites to be cleaned by the Environmental Protection Agency. These sites had earned the nickname Refrigerator Graveyards.

A situation? she repeated.

A big one. EPA made an interesting discovery in one of the units. A half-dozen human hands.

Patti decided she wanted to go on this call with Spencer. The EPA supervisor, a man named Jim Douglas, met them at the car.

Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen, Douglas said.

At first I thought Paul, he’s the one who was cleaning the unit, was pullin’ my leg. When you spend your day doing this— he motioned around them —a good gag’s a welcome thing. You know what I mean?

Absolutely, Spencer murmured. I’d say this detail gives new meaning to having a job that stinks.

You know it. Don’t worry, you get used to the smell.

Patti didn’t bother telling him that one of the first, and most important, lessons a cop learned was to smear some Vicks under the nose before arriving at a scene where there was a stinker.

She had to admit, this place smelled about as bad as anything she’d ever encountered—and that was saying something. Her eyes watered even though she still stood at the periphery of the site.

The man led them to a trailer. Got a couple HazMat suits and masks for you. You’ll want ’em.

He motioned them inside, then handed them each a white Tyvek jumpsuit, complete with hood and booties, and respirator masks.

When they had suited up, they started for the unit in question. Patti found the scene surreal: row after row of discarded refrigerators and freezers, food tombs in this great, stinking graveyard.

And like tombs and tombstones, the refrigerators bore messages. New Orleanians had begun to use their discarded appliances as a sounding board, spray-painting messages on them, some of frustration or anger, some of hopelessness. One proclaimed in orange spray paint across its front, Heck of a job, Brownie, referring to what President Bush had said to his incompetent FEMA head days after the storm. One in black, So long, Sir-Stinks-a-Lot, and another, Here lies Uncle Fester. Thanks a lot, Katrina.

Interestingly, many of the units were still adorned with calendars, children’s drawings and photos. Each a kind of snapshot of lives upended, time stopped.

These units are classified as containing hazardous waste, Douglas explained as they walked down a row lined with the ruined appliances. That’s why the EPA’s here. First we clean out the contents, which, by the way, is when the hands showed up. After the unit’s been pressure-washed, we drain and dispose of freon from the coils and oil from the compressor.

How many units are here? Spencer asked. By his tone, Patti suspected he was having the same reaction to this bizarre scene as she. Of course, since August 29, not much about life in New Orleans hadn’t been bizarre.

Ten thousand, Douglas answered. And we’re just getting started. We expect a quarter of a million before it’s all over.

Spencer whistled. That’s a whole lot of funky Frigidaires.

The man snickered, even though funky didn’t cover it. "The good news is, they’re being recycled. When we’re done with ’em, they’re compacted, then sent to a facility where they go through a shredder, then separators. Pretty cool, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Here we are, Douglas said unnecessarily, as neither Patti nor Spencer could have missed the unit in question; the first officer had encircled it and the immediate area with crime-scene tape. Two men, similarly outfitted in HazMat suits, stood just beyond the tape.

Then she saw the hands. Or what was left of them, anyway. Mostly skeletal, laid out on a plastic sheet on the ground. By each sat a plastic zip-type bag. She wondered if they would be able to extract any usable DNA from what remained, either from the hands or what looked like the gumbo inside the bags.

DNA soup. Lovely.

Patti shifted her gaze to the refrigerator itself. A typical freezer-on-top variety, white and low tech, no ice or water dispenser in the door. It didn’t come from the Taj Mahal, that was for certain.

The larger of the two men stepped forward. Officer Connelly, Captain. I answered the call.

You set up the perimeter?

Yes. Verified the find and called it in.

Good. Contact the department, see if they were able to round us up a crime-scene crew. She turned to the other man. Paul, I’m Captain O’Shay and this is Detective Malone. I understand you’re the one who found the hands.

He bobbed his head in agreement. I suppose I should’ve gotten Jim right away, but I kinda couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Surprised the hell out of me, that’s for sure.

It would anyone, Paul. Why don’t you tell us exactly what happened.

"See, we have a procedure we follow. First, we empty the units. Dump what we can in the bins. By hand or with the help of a grapple machine. When that’s done we pressure-wash ’em.

Most of what’s in these things is sludge. I mean, these babies have been without power for a long time. It’s damn disgusting, I’ll tell you that.

Patti wouldn’t disagree. How’d you find the hands?

They were there— he pointed —in the freezer. Wouldn’t have found ’em if one of the bags hadn’t broken. Slipped out of my hands and busted open. Act of God, it was.

The act she had interest in was one of pure evil.

But you didn’t go get Mr. Douglas?

I was kinda blown away, you know? Thought maybe this wasn’t the real thing. That one of the other guys planted it as a joke.

His voice shook slightly, though Patti was uncertain whether from anxiety or excitement.

So I laid that one out to take a real good look at it, and you know it didn’t look like plastic. That’s when I found another one. He glanced at Douglas. And went and got Jim.

And together you removed four more?

He bobbed his head once more. After we realized what we had, we were real careful.

We appreciate that. She glanced at Douglas. Do we know where this refrigerator came from?

The Metro New Orleans area.

You don’t have a street, a neighborhood or—

Just the Parish. Orleans.

Although frustrated, she wasn’t surprised. The cleanup effort was immense. She’d heard the debris from this storm alone was going to equal thirty-four years’ worth of regular New Orleans debris. Something like one hundred million cubic yards, enough to fill the Superdome twenty-two times over.

She turned back to Paul. Notice anything else different about this unit?

He thought a moment. Nope. Sorry.

If you think of anything, let us know. She held a hand out to Jim Douglas. We’ll take it from here. When our crime-scene crew arrives, you’ll send them our way?

He said he would, and as he and Paul walked away, she turned back to Spencer. He had crossed to the hands and was squatted down beside them.

They’re all right hands, he said. That’s six different victims.

She frowned. Why right hands?

Why hands at all? he countered.

They’re trophies. Obviously.

Katrina comes into town and our sick bastard here loses his collection. He fitted on a pair of latex gloves, then held his own hand to the skeletal remains. Women’s hands. Too small to be a man’s.

She slipped on a pair of gloves and joined him. When she compared, she saw that the hands were a similar size to hers. Still, they could have belonged to a young male, maybe a teen?

Maybe. Spencer cocked his head. Look at this. These four were very neatly severed.

But these two, Patti murmured, real hack jobs.

As time passed, he got better at what he did.

Practice makes perfect.

Grim thought.

Well, here’s another. She stood. They were all frozen. They all began the decomposition process at the same time—when the power went out.

Spencer took over. So we’re not going to be able to say when the mutilation occurred. Could have been right before the storm—

Or years ago.

Exactly.

Grim fact number two. No telling how many people have handled this refrigerator or how long it’s been outside, exposed to the elements.

Finding any trace will be a miracle.

He referred to trace evidence, she knew. Things like hair and fiber. As will usable prints. We’ve got no way to pinpoint where this refrigerator came from, so no frame of reference to hang our investigation on.

Grim fact number three, Spencer offered.

Exactly. And DNA, if we can get an uncontaminated sample, won’t do us jack without something to compare it with.

Grim fact number four, Spencer murmured, trying for levity. Thanks, I needed that.

The crime-scene crew, consisting of one tech, arrived. She recognized him from his gear. Obviously this lone tech would be doing it all, from photography to fingerprint-and-evidence collection.

Where they’d scraped him up, Patti could only imagine. Without housing, there was nowhere for people to live, even those who still had jobs. Currently hundreds of NOPD officers were living on the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy, docked downtown on the Mississippi River.

Yo, the tech said, setting down the gear. What do we have?

Spencer pointed. Somebody’s collection.

The guy made a face and shook his head. This is so screwed-up. The tipping point for me was them spotting a shark swimming down Veterans Boulevard. I mean, how do you come back from that?

He loaded the camera. Mom lives in St. Tammany, I evacuated to her place. Lost forty trees on her property, but not one hit her house. Can you believe it?

He didn’t expect an answer and got to work. His story wasn’t new. Patti heard a version of it from everybody she ran into. Nobody connected in this post-Katrina world without sharing their storm story.

She turned to the other officer. Connelly, help him out here. Make certain the evidence is collected. Check in with me when it’s done.

She and Spencer started back to their vehicle. They didn’t speak until they had removed their HazMat gear and climbed into Spencer’s vintage Camaro.

She turned to him. We look for a victim. See if the computer turns up a vic that was missing a hand. Have Tony give you a—

She had been about to say a hand. He realized it, too, and glanced her way, eyebrow cocked.

A grim smile touched her mouth. Detective Sciame assists. Keep me posted.

He agreed and they fell silent again. As Spencer drove, Patti gazed out at the ravaged landscape, one thought playing through her head: it wasn’t enough the city had Katrina’s devastation and rebuilding process to face, now they had a serial killer to catch as well.

PART II

4

Friday, April 20, 2007

Noon

City Park was a sprawling thirteen-hundred-acre park in the heart of New Orleans. Before Katrina, it had boasted three eighteen-hole golf courses, a tennis center, and lagoons complete with a gondola and paddle boats, Storybook Land and Carousel Gardens, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Limping back to its previous glory or not, it was still one of the oldest urban parks in the United States.

Today it was the location of a gruesome discovery: human remains.

Spencer parked his 1977 Camaro in front of the Bayou Oaks golf center’s two-story practice range and climbed out. The dispatcher had described the remains as skeletal. Certainly not the first of his career. Louisiana’s sub-tropic climate, with its abundance of rain, long hot summers and acidic soil, accelerated the decomposition process. Here, a body could be reduced to nothing but bones and a few tendons in two weeks.

Detective Tony Sciame roared into the gravel lot. Spencer crossed to his partner’s seen-better-days Ford Taurus just as the driver’s-side door flew open and Tony heaved himself out.

The smell of French fries followed him. The call had obviously interrupted his lunch.

Pasta Man, Spencer greeted him. Betty know you’re eating that garbage?

Betty, Tony’s wife of thirty-four years, monitored her husband’s food consumption like a hawk—something Tony had no intention of doing for himself—and it had become a sort of battle of wills between them.

Of course she does, Slick. My Betty’s a very bright woman.

Spencer chuckled and glanced up at the sky. Good day for a round of golf.

Tony hooted in amusement. Slick, the closest you’ve ever come to swinging a golf club is the time you broke up a fight between those two guys in plaid knickers.

Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. They fell into step together, and he sent his partner an amused glance. And if I were you I wouldn’t say anything about other guys’ fashion choices.

What? Tony looked down at himself. I look good.

He wore trousers in a shade too green to be called khaki and too brown to really be green. Puke or vomit would describe it nicely. Tony had paired the pants with a wild print shirt whose predominant color was orange.

Sure, you do. For a color blind old fart.

Tony snorted. You’re just jealous I have the self-confidence to wear bright colors.

Whatever you need to tell yourself, my friend, Spencer teased. Spencer had nicknamed the older man for his pasta gut, while Tony’s nickname for Spencer aimed at his youth and inexperience. Though they swapped insults much of the day, they liked, respected and, most importantly, trusted each other to watch their backs.

In the NOPD, detectives weren’t assigned partners, per se. They worked rotation. When a case came in, whoever was next in line got it and chose someone to assist. It was in the choosing that most of the detectives paired up.

Spencer and Tony’s was an admittedly odd pairing. Spencer was thirty-three and single; Tony had been married longer than Spencer had been alive and had four children. Spencer was a relative rookie to Investigative Support Division, ISD for short, and homicide; Tony had been working homicide for twenty-seven years. Spencer had a reputation for being a brash hothead; Tony, one as a cautious plodder.

The tortoise and the hare. Not very sexy but, in their case, effective.

Yo, Mikey, Spencer greeted the first officer, a guy who’d been in his brother Percy’s graduating class at the academy. The two had been pals and bottle buddies before Mike had gotten married. What do we have?

The officer grinned. Hey, Spencer, Detective Sciame. First tee, west course. Skeletal remains. Mostly intact.

Man or woman?

Dunno. Not my area.

Who’d the coroner’s office send?

The bone lady. Elizabeth Walker.

ID?

Nope. And no personal effects, though there might be something more in the grave. We didn’t move the body. Called DIU, district three. They sent Landry.

Nearly ten years ago, the NOPD brass had decided the best place to fight crime was where it happened. They had decentralized the department, relocating the various detective units, taking them out of headquarters and moving them into the eight district stations, bundling them into what they named the Detective Investigative Unit. The detectives in DIU didn’t specialize; they handled everything except rape, child abuse and high-profile murders. For those crimes, ISD took over.

Glad to hear that, Mikey. You might make a decent cop, after all.

Bite me, Malone.

Nah, you’d like it too much.

Can we save your personal issues for later? Tony asked dryly. "The rest of the friggin’ department’s already here. I’d like to make

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  • (4/5)
    This was good. I was on the edge of my seat. I was not sure who the killer was until they told me. I guessed wrong about 4 times before the truth was revealed.
  • (4/5)
    A great read, though, in my opinion, not one of Erica Spindler's best. The plot was definitely interesting and kept me entertained. This is a sequel, though you could easily read this as a stand-alone and have absolutely no problem understanding the story.I didn't find the story to have any one true "main character". A family of cops are chasing a serial killer called "The Handyman". A lot of family dynamics are woven into the story, so it becomes much more than a typical serial killer novel. However, I found the story to drag a little at times. (At 522 pages, it could easily have been 100 pages shorter.) Also, I figured out who the "bad guy" was about half way through. There were a couple of good twists that had me second-guessing myself for a brief period and the end result was good enough that it didn't matter that I had guessed correctly.
  • (3/5)
    I am a huge fan of Erica Spindler. If I recall right, the first book I read of hers was Fortune. I enjoyed it so much, I went to purchase every book she’d written to date. I’ve always found her to be very consistent with the quality of her writing.I was very excited about the release of her latest book, Last Known Victim. However, after reading it, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good book, but it just didn’t have the impact on me that some of Spindler’s other books did. I haven’t really figured out why, yet. It could have been the ending. When the killer was revealed, I wasn’t shocked. I just kinda thought, “Oh, ok.” It could have been the characters. The characters in Last Known Victim were brought back from See Jane Die and Killer Takes All.Anyway, I’ll have to think on it some more. For now, I’ll just sit back and wait, patiently for Erica’s next book.
  • (2/5)
    One would think based on the way thriller writers write about them that every fourth person in the United States is a serial killer. To say that this sub-genre is overdone would be a massive understatement. Most of the ones I have read are not very good, and Last Known Victim is worse than most. Set in New Orleans, post-Katrina, the serial killer du jour is known as The Handyman. If that’s not a generic serial killer name, then I don’t know what is. Unfortunately the author put as much imagination and inventiveness to the naming of the killer as the rest of the novel. Every weak trope that is used in this sub-genre can be found here to the unbelievably unrealistic nature of the killer. I won’t spoil it, but when I found out who the killer was, I wanted to wretch. The killer was so obvious and so stereotypical that it was almost like this author was spoofing serial killer novels. Unfortunately, this isn’t a spoof. It’s just a bad novel. I would suggest staying away.Carl Alves – author of Blood Street
  • (4/5)
    Erica Spindler is in my top ten favorite/must read authors for a reason. She has more than proved herself as a talented, page turning author. Her characters are solid and interesting. Her facts are more realistic than a lot of books in the same genre. In LKV, Patti O'Shay, a captain in the New Orleans police department is out to find her husband's killer. The first clues come from an abandoned refridgerator left in Katrina's aftermath. One of my three suspects eventually became unmasked as the killer. This isn't a bad stat. I like to be kept guessing, and Spindler suceeds in that again here. I hate having to wait a year each time for a new Spindler book. If you haven't read any books by this author, I recommend you pick up some of the older ones first. Work your way through them to this one! Last Known Victim isn't a five star book like most of her others, but it still is way above the norm.
  • (4/5)
    This was my first Erica Spindler book, and I think I’ve found a new author! The suspense is good, the characters are believable, and she does a great job of keeping you guessing. There’s more than one convincing red herring (I did *not* guess the bad guy!), and you’re not really sure if you can really trust Yvette until the very end. Patti wasn’t the greatest leading character — I found her to be a little wooden — but the other characters, especially Stacy and Spencer, make up for it. One thing to note: even though this isn’t technically part of a series, some of the characters have appeared in earlier Spindler novels, and there is reference to them. But I didn’t feel like I was really missing anything by reading this one first.
  • (2/5)
    This was such a 'blah' book I have trouble even giving it two stars; the characters were wooden, the writing clichéd and repetitive. Not sure if I'm interested in picking up her other books now. Suspected the killer early on, but went back and forth between that particular person and another person; ultimately, the big 'reveal' was not a surprise at all.
  • (3/5)
    Another book I did not read during this month/year. What possessed me to read it I'm not sure except that i had nothing else on my personal shelf at home (that was unread) except this. Oh, and it was raining that day... I truly don't remember what my reaction was to the style of writing, as I don't actively try and guess who the evil person is. Hard as this may be to believe I actually don't care what happens, and that is why I rarely read mysteries. 2.5/5 just because that is exactly a 50% rating.
  • (4/5)
    I would vote for it as it is such a beautiful novel that tackles so many real-life issues. I loved it to pieces and wish everyone would read it just once in their lives :) If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on Novel Star, just submit your story to hardy@novelstar.top or joye@novelstar.top