A Matter of Trust (Mia Quinn Series #1)

A Matter of Trust (Mia Quinn Series #1)

4.2 30
by Lis Wiehl
     
 

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When life is murder, who can you trust?

One minute Mia Quinn is in her basement, chatting on the phone with a colleague at the prosecutor’s office. The next minute she hears a gunshot over the line, and Mia listens in horror as her colleague and friend Colleen bleeds to death.

Mia’s a natural for heading up

…  See more details below

Overview

When life is murder, who can you trust?

One minute Mia Quinn is in her basement, chatting on the phone with a colleague at the prosecutor’s office. The next minute she hears a gunshot over the line, and Mia listens in horror as her colleague and friend Colleen bleeds to death.

Mia’s a natural for heading up the murder investigation, but these days it’s all she can do to hold her life together. As a new widow with a pile of debts, a troubled teenaged son, and a four-year-old who wakes up screaming at night, she needs more time with her family, not less—and working Colleen’s case will be especially demanding. But Colleen was her friend, and she needs to keep her job. So Mia reluctantly teams up with detective Charlie Carlson to investigate. But the deeper they dig, the more complications unfold—even the unsettling possibility that someone may be coming after her.

Lis Wiehl’s signature plot twists and relatable characters shine in this absorbing series debut . . . with an intriguing cameo from her best-selling Triple Threat series.

“A stunning crime series debut . . . Smart, suspenseful, and full of twists that only an insider like Wiehl could pull off .” —Linda Fairstein, New York Times best-selling author

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This suspenseful first in a new series from Wiehl and Henry (Eyes of Justice and three other Triple Threat novels) opens with a bang. While Mia Quinn, a prosecutor in the King County (Wash.) district attorney’s office, is on the phone with a fellow prosecutor, Colleen Miller, someone shoots Colleen dead. Mia’s boss, DA Frank D’Amato, asks her to lead the investigation into Colleen’s death, which could have a link to the murder of another prosecutor four years earlier. Meanwhile, Mia is also working the case of a bullied teenager who committed suicide, and trying to raise her teenage son and preschool daughter, as well as coping with her husband’s death. Trust becomes the centerpiece—who deserves it and the betrayal that trust sometimes leads to—in a story full of twists and turns that also offers a hint of future romance for Mia. Agent: Todd Shuster, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. (Mar.)
RT Book Reviews
“Wiehl begins an exciting new series with prosecutor Mia at the center. The side storyline about bullying is timely and will hit close to home for many.” ---RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
Kirkus Reviews
A prosecutor investigating a colleague's death realizes that she too could be in danger. The death of Mia Quinn's husband, Scott, is only the beginning of her troubles. Mia must return to work as a prosecutor for Washington's King County district attorney to make sure she has enough money to support her young daughter Brooke and her son Gabe, whose obsession with gaining weight for his high school football team seems to cost as much as her law degree did. Mia is chatting on the phone with her friend and colleague Colleen Miller and getting ready for a yard sale of Scott's old things, each box unearthing another secret Scott was keeping, when suddenly she hears a loud noise at the other end of the line followed by silence. Mia hands the phone to Gabe and rushes to Colleen's, but she is too late to save her friend's life. Paired with Detective Charlie Carlson to find out what happened, she dreads working with a man-child she knows could never have the ardent respect for the law that she does. The two unearth more than they were expecting, including discoveries that implicate Colleen's murder as part of a larger pattern and suggest that Mia and her family may be targets as well. Fans who miss the characters and relationships Wiehl (Eyes of Justice, 2012, etc.) usually develops and find her case for a sympathetic heroine less than compelling may want to wait till next time around.
From the Publisher

"Wiehl and Henry introduce their new series featuring Mia Quinn, a recently widowed federal prosecutor in Seattle. The first-person story  includes cutting-edge investigative techniques of murder and of online bullying that has led to a teen suicide. Narrator Eleni Pappageorge captures Mia's struggles with grief, single parenting, and the discovery of her husband's secret financial devastation. The antagonism between Mia and Charlie, the homicide detective assigned to the investigation, is delivered with a subtle humor and sensitivity that suggests a potential romance later in the series. Pappageorge's depiction of Gabe, Mia's teenage son, who is torn between the confusion of grief and wanting to belong, is insightful and true to life. Her versatile range and vocal skills perfectly render a gripping suspense with a completely unexpected ending." 
G.D.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine
Library Journal
Legal prosecutor Mia Quinn is having a hard time. Her husband recently passed away, leaving her with a mound of bills and two children. The last thing she needs is involvement in a murder investigation, but she doesn't have much choice, particularly when the victim is her best friend, Colleen. (Not to mention that Mia was on the phone with Colleen when she was shot.) Mia teams up with Det. Charlie Carlson to investigate the case. The deeper the duo digs, the more Mia realizes that she may be the killer's next target. VERDICT With the assistance of best-selling mystery author Henry, former federal prosecutor and Fox News commentator Wiehl ("Triple Threat" series) launches an intense series debut. Full of raw emotion, believable characters, and plot twists, this legal thriller is a clear choice for Wiehl's fans and for readers who enjoy Oliver North's fiction.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595549037
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Series:
Mia Quinn Series, #1
Pages:
311
Sales rank:
706,460
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

A MATTER OF TRUST

A MIA QUINN MYSTERY
By LIS WIEHL APRIL HENRY

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Lis Wiehl and April Henry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-8819-6


Chapter One

If life was like a play, then the director had the ultimate power. The power to blight men's lives, or to give them what they most longed for. Even the power to utter the ultimate yes or no.

Tonight was a special engagement. One night only. Never to be repeated. The stage was a hundred-year-old two-story house, lit from top to bottom as if electricity cost nothing. The director watched from the quiet residential lane. At the director's side was the killer. It was a walk-on role with no dialogue.

Now for the lead actress to make her entrance.

Anticipation grew, thrumming like a bow string.

But where was she? Ah, there. In the basement by the window, phone clamped between ear and shoulder, pulling a box from a shelf.

The director nodded, and the killer raised the gun.

The lead bent over and set the box on the floor. Then she knelt beside it, dropping from view before the killer could take aim.

The director motioned for the killer to wait. Exhaling slowly, the killer lowered the gun.

* * *

"It was all right there on Facebook," Mia Quinn said into the phone as she tugged at the lid on the blue plastic eighteen-gallon storage tub. "Darin's dad made screen captures in case anyone tries to take anything down. He showed me a few of them."

"Facebook is God's gift to prosecutors," Colleen Miller said. "A couple of months ago I had this defendant on the stand. He swore on his mama's grave that he didn't sell drugs and that he'd never even held a gun. Then I asked him to explain why, if that were true, he had a Facebook status update showing himself holding a Glock, smoking a blunt, and flashing a sheaf of hundreds." Colleen laughed. "It was all over right there."

"It's hard to argue with proof that we can put right up on the screen in front of the jury." Mia finally managed to pry off the lid, revealing fishing supplies: a tan canvas vest, a tackle box, and a reel.

There, that wasn't so hard, she told herself. This stuff can go in the garage sale, no problem. The cold from the basement's cement floor seeped through her old jeans, worn soft as flannel. Outside, the dark pressed up against the windows, half set in the ground. Summer had passed in a blur, and now winter was coming.

Colleen said, "I love how defendants can't help but post incriminating pictures of themselves flashing gang signs and all the stuff they're not supposed to have. Now if only we could get our witnesses to stop using it. You know the other side is checking it as much as we are."

As prosecutors for Washington's King County District Attorney's Office, Mia and Colleen didn't get to choose their clientele. The hard truth was that sometimes the victims and the witnesses they built a case around were only a little bit better than the bad guys they were trying to put away. This was blue-collar law, not whiteshoe. It was down and dirty, blood and guts, real people as opposed to companies squabbling genteelly over money.

But being a prosecutor also meant you made a real difference. Which was why Mia had been glad to go back to work at the same office she had left nearly five years earlier, even if the reason she needed to return was terrible.

"When I left, I don't think we were checking the Internet nearly as much." Still on her knees, the phone pressed up against her ear, Mia dragged over another box from the nearest shelf. No matter how much she didn't want to face this, it had to be done. "Now everyone Tweets or has a blog or at least a Facebook page. Even my dad is on Facebook, although his picture is still that generic blue silhouette."

Mia pulled the lid from the second box. It held the vintage black pin-striped suit Scott wore when they got married. In the wedding photos he had looked all ears and teeth and Adam's apple—too young to be getting married. Over the years he had fleshed out to the point he complained about love handles.

Underneath the suit was a cardigan his mother had knit him in college, cream colored with two stags rearing on the back. He had never worn it. The sweater and the suit were like so much else down here, stuff Scott had never quite parted with.

"A lot changed while you were gone," Colleen said. "Frank's the district attorney, the murder rate is lower than it's been since 1955, even though the economy is in the toilet, and now a killer is likely to be some crazy guy with a grudge and a bunch of guns and a plan to take out a whole restaurant full of people. And of course everyone's on the Internet now, even bad guys. Right before you came back I prosecuted a guy who claimed he didn't even know the victim. Only I found photos of them together on his friend's Flickr account." Colleen's low laugh was tinged with sadness. "If there's one thing this job has taught me, it's to turn over rocks—but sometimes you don't like what you find underneath. Lately I've been thinking how flat-out ugly it can get when you start looking."

Mia nodded, forgetting for a moment that Colleen couldn't see her. A familiar smell teased her. And suddenly it was like Scott was right there in the room with her. She closed her eyes and imagined him pulling her to her feet, slipping behind her to lift her hair and kiss the back of her neck.

How long had it been since he had done that?

"Still there, Mia?" Colleen asked.

She shook herself. "Sorry. It's like every box I open is a surprise package. How about you? Have you found anything you want to add to my garage sale?"

"I'm rooting around in my basement, but all I've found so far are some old albums. I'm talking vinyl. Do you think anyone would want Fleetwood Mac's Rumor and Sigh?"

"You never know. I wish Gabe would start playing that instead of whatever it is he does listen to." Even from the basement Mia could hear her fourteen-year-old's music two floors above. Discordant, angry. It wasn't singing so much as yelling set to a thrumming bass line and pounding drums.

Colleen said, "You know, you could probably get more if you put your stuff on Craigslist."

Mia had thought about this when she sat up late at night with her computer and her calculator and her file full of bills. "Yeah, but then I'd have to set up meetings with every potential buyer. That takes too much time and just lets a lot of people know too much about me. A garage sale will get it all over with at once."

"Still, before you go pricing everything at a quarter, let me come over and look through it with you," Colleen insisted. "Some stuff might do great on eBay."

"Sure." Mia lifted her head and scanned the basement. It was overwhelming. Boxes and boxes and boxes, some filled with Scott's old files. A bench and a rack of weights. Gray Rubbermaid cabinets, some of them filled with pantry items, others with cans of paint, plastic bottles of automotive additives, baby food jars full of screws. And what about Scott's power tools? In the corner was an electric saw. That should definitely go before Gabe decided to make something one afternoon and sawed his fingers off.

Colleen cleared her throat. "And, Mia, I know things have been hard, so if you're tight for money, I could maybe—"

Mia cut her off. "We're fine," she lied. The hole was so big that no matter what she threw in, it would never be filled up. Just like the hole in her heart. She returned to her original question, the one that had prompted her to call Colleen on a Sunday night. "I want to file against those kids," she said. "I know you didn't get a chance to look at them, but their posts were like weapons. It hurt me to read them. I can't imagine what it was like for Darin Dane."

Mia was still trying to figure out exactly how the politics of her job had changed, and it was easier to ask Colleen off-line without worrying if she was stepping on toes. "Darin's dad has more than enough proof that these kids hounded his son to death. We can charge them with cyberstalking, harassment, violation of civil rights ..."

"I don't know ..." Colleen's voice trailed off. She had been the first to talk to Darin's father but had ended up asking Mia to step in because her caseload was too heavy. "I just keep imagining what Frank will say." Frank was Frank D'Amato, once just Colleen and Mia's co-worker, now the King County prosecutor. He prided himself on the office's winning record. But key to that record was taking on cases you couldn't lose. "This kid was fragile to begin with. He's been in counseling since, what—since he was eleven or twelve? Frank will say his demons were all in his head, not at the school."

"But those messages they posted about him were vicious. They said he was ugly, deformed, stupid, crazy. They urged him to kill himself." Mia regarded the shop vac. If she kept it, what would she use it for? If she tried to sell it at the garage sale, would anyone buy it? Or should she just give up and haul it to Goodwill? And then there were the leaf blower, lawn mower, and extension ladder. She had never used any of them. Even before Brooke was born, Scott had taken care of the outside part of their lives. Now she would have to get over her fear of heights if she wanted to make sure the gutters didn't overflow during Seattle's rainy season. Which was pretty much November through May.

"Some of the posts said the world would be better if he were dead," she continued. "It's a hate crime. Darin was gay, or at least everyone thought he was."

Her eyes suddenly filled with tears at the thought of Darin, the same age as Gabe, although the two boys could not be more different. And while she had no worries that Gabe was being bullied, Mia had made it clear to him that he had to show her his computer screen or share his passwords anytime she asked.

"Frank will say it's normal for teens to have spats, to have hierarchies, even to ostracize one kid," Colleen said. "And school's only been in session for, what—two weeks? Frank will say that short of a time period isn't enough to prove causality."

Mia took a deep breath. "Yes, but these kids had been targeting him for months. And it didn't let up just because school was out for summer. They were relentless, and the Internet made it easy to harass him around the clock. The only thing school being back in session gave them was easy access to his physical person. The autopsy found bruises consistent with his having been hit, kicked, and punched."

The silence spun out so long Mia thought their connection had been dropped. Then Colleen said carefully, "You might need to be realistic, Mia. Frank's up for reelection this fall. To win he needs a big war chest. And the kids you're talking about, the ones who went to school with Darin Dane, also happen to be the sons and daughters of some of Seattle's richest parents. People who are software engineers, doctors, lawyers. They're not going to let someone smear their kids, especially not right when they're trying to get them into good colleges. And they're not going to support a DA who lets one of his attorneys do that."

"Doesn't Frank want to do what's right more than he wants to win?"

"Nothing is black-and-white," Colleen said simply. "Nothing."

Mia lifted the top from the next box. It was filled with Scott's ski clothes. Just another hobby they hadn't had time for since Brooke was born.

Mia lifted a pair of black ski pants and blinked in surprise at what she found underneath. It couldn't be—could it? She pushed herself to her feet.

Mia must have made a little noise, because Colleen said, "Mia? Is something wrong?"

* * *

A head bobbed at the bottom of the window. There. Finally. She was getting to her feet.

At a motion from the director, the killer stepped out of the shadows, lifted the gun, and carefully lined the sights up on the white column of her throat. The director watched dispassionately. The lead wasn't a person anymore, but she hadn't really been one for a while, had she? She was a problem.

A problem that could be solved with a single twitch of the finger.

The director nodded, and the killer pulled the trigger.

Chapter Two

Colleen?" Mia said after the sudden boom and clatter. "What the heck was that?"

No answer.

"Colleen?"

A gunshot, Mia thought. Her blood turned to slush. That was a gunshot.

No. That was impossible.

Wasn't it?

"Colleen?"

She must have imagined the boom. Or misunderstood it. The clatter, though, the clatter made sense. Colleen had simply dropped the phone. Any second now and she would pick it up, laughing and apologizing for her clumsiness.

Mia pushed back her memory's insistence that there had been a boom first. The memory that reminded her that the sound of the phone falling to the ground had come second.

Because the first sound could not have been a gunshot.

"Hello? Colleen? Hello?" Mia held her breath, straining to hear.

And after a second she did hear something. But it was another puzzle. A watery bubbling. Like the sound four-year-old Brooke made when she felt brave enough to put her face in the tub and blow bubbles. And then, terrifying and sharp and impossible to deny, a moan.

"Colleen?" she said again, but more softly. Part of her already knew there might not be an answer.

She had to call the police. But how? If she hung up on Colleen, she would sever her friend's only connection to the outside world.

Her cell phone. In her mind's eye Mia saw it on the kitchen counter. She raced up the basement stairs, rounded the corner, and snatched up the phone. The music thumped overhead. "Gabe!" she shouted as she dialed 911, still clamping the landline phone, the one connected to Colleen, between her right shoulder and ear. "Gabe, turn that off!"

"Police, fire, or medical?" a voice said in her left ear.

"Medical. And probably police." Overhead the music dropped a few decibels.

"What is the nature of your problem?"

"I was just on the phone with Colleen Miller, my co-worker, when there was a loud noise. I think it was a gunshot." Mia felt like she couldn't speak fast enough. "Our connection is still open, so I called you on a different phone, but Colleen's not talking. The only thing I can hear is her breathing, but it sounds all, all wet. And she's moaning."

Even the unflappable 911 dispatcher's tone changed at that. In answer to her rapid-fire questions, Mia provided her own name as well as Colleen's name, address, and phone number, and the fact that she lived alone. As Mia spoke she hurried up the stairs to the second floor. In her right ear she couldn't hear the moan anymore, let alone the sound that must be Colleen's sputtering breath. Had her friend stopped making sounds, or was it simply too noisy to hear her?

Mia flung open the door to Gabe's room. He was bent over his electric guitar, his too-long bangs a brown curtain in front of his eyes. At the sound of the door banging open, he scowled and then stabbed a button on his computer keyboard. The music abruptly ceased.

"I already turned it d—" He stopped himself when he saw Mia's expression and the two phones she held, one to each ear.

Mia answered another of the dispatcher's questions. "As far as I know, Colleen doesn't have any guns in the home." Suddenly she thought of an explanation. "She was looking for something in her basement right before it happened. Maybe her ex left a gun behind she didn't know about and she dropped it or something." Even though Colleen and Martin had been divorced for fifteen years, anything was possible, wasn't it?

Gabe's mouth fell open.

"Has she said anything to you?" the dispatcher asked. "Can you still hear her?"

Mia held herself perfectly still and was rewarded, if that was the right word, with a faint sound pulsing against her ear. "Just that bubbling sound of her breathing, that's all I can hear now. Nothing else. You've got to tell them to hurry." She couldn't bear to think of Colleen all alone and struggling to breathe.

"I've dispatched police and an ambulance to the scene," the dispatcher said. "Don't hang up, Mia. I need you to stay on the line and tell me anything you hear."

"Look, I'm going to give my son the phone and have him listen. I'll have him call you guys on his cell phone if she says anything. But I need to get over there, and I can't do that and listen."

In her ear, the dispatcher started to argue, but Mia was already hitting the button to end the call on her cell. Over the past few terrible months, she and Colleen had reconnected, becoming even closer than before. If Colleen needed her, Mia would be there, no ifs, ands, or buts.

With the sudden silence of no music and no 911 dispatcher, Mia listened again. Nothing except the faint gurgling sound that must be Colleen breathing.

"Mom—what's going on?" Gabe had pushed the hair out of his eyes, and Mia suddenly understood why he might wear it like that. Gabe wasn't old enough yet to have mastered how to hide his feelings, so he let his hair do it for him. His eyes were huge and dark, as vulnerable as a fawn's.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A MATTER OF TRUST by LIS WIEHL APRIL HENRY Copyright © 2013 by Lis Wiehl and April Henry. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Lis Wiehl is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels. She is a Harvard Law School graduate and has served as a federal prosecutor in the state of Washington and as a tenured faculty member at The University Washington School of Law. She is currently a popular legal analyst and commentator for the Fox News Channel. Visit her online at liswiehlbooks.com Facebook: Lis Wiehl, Fox News Legal Analyst and Author Twitter: @LisWiehl

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