All the Pretty Girls (Taylor Jackson Series #1)
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All the Pretty Girls (Taylor Jackson Series #1)

4.2 272
by J. T. Ellison
     
 

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When a local girl falls prey to a sadistic serial killer, Nashville Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her lover, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, find themselves in a joint investigation pursuing a vicious murderer. The Southern Strangler is slaughtering his way through the Southeast, leaving a gruesome memento at each crime scene-the prior victim's severed hand

Overview

When a local girl falls prey to a sadistic serial killer, Nashville Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her lover, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, find themselves in a joint investigation pursuing a vicious murderer. The Southern Strangler is slaughtering his way through the Southeast, leaving a gruesome memento at each crime scene-the prior victim's severed hand.

Ambitious TV reporter Whitney Connolly is certain the Southern Strangler is her ticket out of Nashville; she's got a scoop that could break the case. She has no idea how close to this story she really is-or what it will cost her.

As the killer spirals out of control, everyone involved must face a horrible truth-the purest evil is born of private lies.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this tame debut, the body of a young girl discovered by the side of a Nashville highway puts homicide detective Taylor Jackson and her lowdown boyfriend, FBI Agent John Baldwin, on the trail of the Southern Strangler, a playful, brutal killer who likes to carry his victims across state lines before murdering them and removing their hands. Before long, however, Taylor's reassigned to the suspicious death of a prominent TV personality, leaving John struggling to keep ahead of the Strangler's mounting body count. Meanwhile, Taylor is still recovering from a near-fatal neck injury earned in her last case and worrying over her own demons-not the least of which is John's threat to marry her. The real victim is Ellison's plot, strangled by slow pacing, egregious subplots (a serial rapist, a crooked officer, a pregnancy scare) and a clichéd cast of characters: the shady Southern belle, the veteran detective pushed over the edge, the evil genius who stays a step ahead of everyone-even the appealing Taylor strikes a numbingly familiar tough-yet-vulnerable pose. Though a climactic showdown injects some much-needed excitement, readers may have a hard time getting there. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
"Darkly compelling and thoroughly chilling, with rich characterization and a well-layered plot, All the Pretty Girls is everything a great crime thriller should be." -Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author of Fear No Evil

"A genuine page-turner... Ellison clearly belongs in the top echelon of thriller writers. Don't leave this one behind."

"Thriller fanatics craving an action-packed novel of intrigue will be abundantly rewarded!"

-Library Journal on What Lies Behind

"Fans of forensic mysteries, such as those by Patricia Cornwell, should immediately add this series to their A-lists."

-Booklist, starred review, on When Shadows Fall

"Exceptional character development distinguishes Thriller Award–winner Ellison's third Samantha Owens novel (after Edge of Black), the best yet in the series."

-Publishers Weekly, starred review, on When Shadows Fall

"Full of carefully mastered clues...a true thrillfest that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end."

-Suspense Magazine on When Shadows Fall

"A gripping page-turner...essential for suspense junkies."
-Library Journal on When Shadows Fall

"Shocking suspense, compelling characters and

fascinating forensic details."

-Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on A Deeper Darkness

"Mystery fiction has a new name to watch."

-John Connolly, New York Times bestselling author

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780778324430
Publisher:
MIRA
Publication date:
11/01/2007
Series:
Taylor Jackson Series, #1
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
4.21(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

"No. Please don't." She whispered the words, a divine prayer. "No. Please don't." There they were again, bubbles forming at her lips, the words slipping out as if greased from her tongue.

Even in death, Jessica Ann Porter was unfailingly polite. She wasn't struggling, wasn't crying, just pleading with those luminescent chocolate eyes, as eager to please as a puppy. He tried to shake off the thought. He'd had a puppy once. It had licked his hand and gleefully scampered about his feet, begging to be played with. It wasn't his fault that the thing's bones were so fragile, that the roughhousing meant for a boy and his dog forced a sliver of rib into the little creature's heart. The light shone, then faded in the puppy's eyes as it died in the grass in his backyard. That same light in Jessica's eyes, her life leaching slowly from their cinnamon depths, died at this very moment.

He noted the signs of death dispassionately. Blue lips, cyanotic. The hemorrhaging in the sclera of the eyes, pinpoint pricks of crimson. The body seemed to cool immediately, though he knew it would take some time for the heat to fully dissipate. The vivacious yet shy eighteen-year-old was now nothing more than a piece of meat, soon to be consigned back to the earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Blowfly to maggot. The life cycle complete once again.

He shook off the reverie. It was time to get to work. Glancing around, he spied his tool kit. He didn't remember kicking it over, perhaps his memory was failing him. Had the girl actually struggled? He didn't think so, but confusion sets in at the most important moments. He would have to consider that later, when he could give it his undivided thought. Only the radiant glow of her eyes at the moment of expiration remained for him now. He palmed the handsaw and lifted her limp hand.

No, please don't. Three little words, innocuous in their definitions. No great allegories, no ethical dilemmas. No, please don't. The words echoed through his brain as he sawed, their rhythm spurring his own. No, please don't. No, please don't. Back and forth, back and forth.

No, please don't. Hear these words, and dream of hell.

Nashville was holding its collective breath on this warm summer night. After four stays of execution, the death watch had started again. Homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson watched as the order was announced that the governor would not be issuing another stay, then snapped off the television and walked to the window of her tiny office in the Criminal Justice Center. The Nashville skyline spread before her in all its glory, continuously lit by blazing flashes of color. The high-end pyrotechnic delights were one of the largest displays in the nation. It was the Fourth of July. The quintessential American holiday. Hordes of people gathered in Riverfront Park to hear the Nashville Symphony Orchestra perform in concert with the brilliant flares of light. Things were drawing to a close now. Taylor could hear the strains of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, a Russian theme to celebrate America's independence. She jumped slightly with every cannon blast, perfectly coinciding with launched rockets.

The cheers depressed her. The whole holiday depressed her. As a child, she'd been wild for the fireworks, for the cotton-candy fun of youth and mindless celebration. As she grew older, she mourned that lost child, trying desperately to reach far within herself to recapture that innocence. She failed.

The sky was dark now. She could see the throngs of people heading back to whatever parking spots they had found, children skipping between tired parents, fluorescent bracelets and glow sticks arcing through the night. They would spirit these innocents home to bed with joy, soothed by the knowledge that they had satisfied their little ones, at least for the moment. Taylor wouldn't be that lucky. Any minute now, she'd be answering the phone, getting the call. Chance told her somewhere in her city a shooter was escaping into the night. Fireworks were perfect cover for gunfire. That's what she told herself, but there was another reason she'd stayed in her office this holiday night. Protecting her city was a mental ruse. She was waiting.

A memory rose, unbidden, unwanted. Trite in its way, yet the truth of the statement hit her to the core. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Or became a woman. Her days of purity were behind her now.

Taking one last glance at the quickening night, she closed the blinds and sat heavily in her chair. Sighed. Ran her fingers through her long blond hair. Wondered why she was hanging out in the Homicide office when she could be enjoying the revelry. Why she was still committed to the job. Laid her head on her desk and waited for the phone to ring. Got back up and flipped the switch to the television.

The crowds were a pulsing mass at the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. Police had cordoned off sections of the yard of the prison, one for the pro–death penalty activists, another comprised the usual peaceful subjects, a third penned in reporters. ACLU banners screamed injustice, the people holding them shouting obscenities at their fellow groupies. All the trappings necessary for an execution. No one was put to death without an attendant crowd, each jostling to have their opinion heard.

The young reporter from Channel Two was breathless, eyes flushed with excitement. There were no more options. The governor had denied the last stay two hours earlier. Tonight, at long last, Richard Curtis would pay the ultimate price for his crime.

As she watched, her eyes flicked to the wall clock, industrial numbers glowing on a white face: 11:59 p.m. An eerie silence overcame the crowd. It was time.

Taylor took a deep breath as the minute hand swept with a click into the 12:00 position. She didn't realize she was holding her breath until the hand snapped to 12:01 a.m. That was it, then. The drugs would have been administered. Richard Curtis would have a peaceful sleep, his heart's last beat recorded into the annals of history. It was too gentle a death, in Taylor's opinion. He should have been drawn and quartered, his entrails pulled from his body and burned on his stomach. That, perhaps, would give some justice. Not this carefully choreographed combination of drugs, slipping him serenely into the Grim Reaper's arms.

There, the announcement was made. Curtis was pronounced at 12:06 a.m., July 5. Dead and gone.

Taylor turned the television off. Perhaps now she would get the call to arms. Waiting patiently, she laid her head down on her desk and thought of a sunny child named Martha, the victim of a brutal kidnapping, rape and murder when she was only seven years old. It was Taylor's first case as a homicide detective. They'd found Martha within twenty-four hours of her disappearance, broken and battered in a sandy lot in North Nashville. Richard Curtis was captured several hours later. Martha's doll was on the bench seat of his truck. Her tears were lifted from the door handle. A long strand of her honey-blond hair was affixed to Curtis's boot. It was a slam-dunk case, Taylor's first taste of success, her first opportunity to prove herself. She had acquitted herself well. Now Curtis was dead as a result of all her hard work. She felt complete.

Taylor had stood vigil for seven years, awaiting this moment. In her mind, Martha was frozen in time, a seven-year-old little girl who would never grow up. She would be fourteen now. Justice had finally been served.

As if in deference to the death of one of their own, Nashville's criminals were silent on this night, finding better things to do than shoot one another for Taylor's benefit. She drifted between sleep and wakefulness, thinking about her life, and was relieved when the phone finally rang at 1:00 a.m.

A deep, gruff voice greeted her. "Meet me?" he asked. "Give me an hour," she said, looking at her watch. She hung up and smiled for the first time all night.

"I sure am glad we don't live in California."

Detectives Pete Fitzgerald, Lincoln Ross and Marcus Wade were killing time. Nashville's criminal element seemed to be taking a vacation. They hadn't had a murder to investigate in nearly two weeks. The city had been strangely quiet. Even the Fourth of July holiday had procured no deaths for their investigative skills. No one was scheduled for court, and their open cases were either resolved or held up by the crime lab. They had hit dead time.

The three men were crammed in their boss's office, watching TV. A perfectly acceptable pastime, especially since the department had inked a deal with the cable company. Ostensibly, the televisions were to be tuned to twenty-four-hour news networks, but the channels invariably got changed. Usually to accommodate the guilty habit of daytime soaps to which many of the detectives were addicted.

Today though, a car chase through the mean streets of Los Angeles had captured the three detectives' attention. Exciting, splashy. A kidnapping, a semiautomatic weapon at the ready, even a stolen red Jaguar. The car rolled through the various highways, rarely going under seventy miles an hour, captivating the news announcers that speculated breathlessly about whether the kidnap victim was in the vehicle or not. The homicide team cheered on their brothers in blue.

Fitz swept a beefy arm up and looked at his watch. The chase had been going on for nearly two hours now. "They put that spike strip down about five minutes ago. Wheels should start coming off here soon."

"There you go." Marcus pointed to the screen, where a large piece of tire had flown from the back wheel of the Jag, narrowly missing the pursuit car. His brown eyes were shining, excited. Fitz gave him a grin, the kid was just so young.

"You ever done a chase, Marcus?" he asked, leaning back, arms over his prodigious belly.

"No, but I have done all the training for it. I can drive, man, I can drive."

"Remind me not to give you the keys. It's over now." Lincoln Ross stood and stretched, brushing invisible wrinkles from his charcoal-gray Armani suit. "He starts running on rims, they can do a Pitt Maneuver and knock him out. See, there it is."

The pursuit car slipped up on the Jag like a black-and-white snake, then gently bumped the back right fender. In a textbook reaction, the driver of the Jag spun out, slamming into a guardrail, losing a fender, and came to rest facing traffic. In an instant, vehicles surrounded him, cops with long guns and sidearms pointed at him. No escape.

The TV anchors congratulated themselves on a story well covered, predicting it would be anywhere from five minutes to five hours before the standoff would be over. Promising not to break away from the coverage until there was a resolution, they brought in the experts, a former police officer and a hostage negotiator, for the requisite public speculation of the criminal's past. A producer somewhere in New York turned off the five-second delay a moment too soon, and the detectives stared as the door to the Jaguar opened. The suspect jumped out, dragging a woman out of the driver's-side door by the hair.

There was frantic movement on the ground, a quick tightening of the cordon around the kidnapper. The suspect looked up in the air, making sure the overhead helicopter had a moment to focus its long lens on his grinning face. He pulled the woman upright, lifted his arm and shot her in the head. He was gunned down before she hit the ground, the pandemonium obvious. The network went black for a heartbeat, then focused on the face of the shocked anchor. He looked green.

"Like I said, damn glad we don't live in California," Fitz grumbled.

The phone rang and he answered, listening carefully while jotting a few notes. "We're on it."

"What's up?" Marcus had leaned so far back in his chair that he threatened to tip over on his back.

"Body out in Bellevue. I'll go. I'll call Taylor from the car."

What People are saying about this

John Connolly
From the author of The Book of Lost Things:
A taut, striking debut. Mystery fiction has a new name to watch.
Kristy Kiernan
From the author of Catching Genius:
A word of advice before you read J.T. Ellison's brilliant debut, All The Pretty Girls: keep the lights on. With a masterful hand, Ellison delivers a villain to make you quail, pitted against the thriller world's freshest new detective since Tess Gerritsen's Jane Rizzoli. Complex and sharp-tongued, Taylor Jackson is destined to become an icon in crime fiction. With a deft command of the language and a refreshing respect for the delicate balance between killer, victim, and detective, Ellison is an original worth keeping an eye on.
Julia Spencer-Fleming
From the author of All Mortal Flesh:
All the Pretty Girls is a spellbinding suspense novel and Tennessee has a new dark poet. JT Ellison's fast-paced, clever plotting yields a page-turner par excellence. A turbo-charged thrill ride of a debut.
M. J. Rose
From the author of The Reincarnationist:
An impressive debut that is rich not just in suspense but in the details. Fast-paced and creepily believable, Ellison's novel proves that there is still room in the genre for new authors and new cops. There's no novice showing in All The Pretty Girls. It's all gritty, grisly and a great read.
J. A. Konrath
From the author of Dirty Martini:
Ellison hits the ground running with an electrifying debut. All the Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller, shockingly authentic and unputdownable. Fans of Sandford, Cornwell, and Reichs will relish every page.
Lee Child
From the author of Bad Luck and Trouble:
A terrific lead character, terrific suspense, terrific twists ... a completely convincing debut.

Meet the Author

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of 14 critically acclaimed novels and co-writes with #1 NYT bestseller Catherine Coulter. THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original. Visit http://JTEllison.com

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All the Pretty Girls (Taylor Jackson Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 272 reviews.
JWWitness-III More than 1 year ago
I was very surprised by this book. It was one that I saw and downloaded on my nook to try. I got into it easy enough and was very surprised that I ended up liking it. I enjoyed the twists and turns and subplots.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the best book I've read in awhile. I couldn't put it down all the twists and turns. It's so exciting! This book grabs you and sucks you into it.
sherlockSW More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT Hard to believe this was her first book. Fast moving ,good plot and good characters.
christytilleryfrench More than 1 year ago
Nashville Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is called to the scene of a homicide, where the body of a young woman, sans hands, has been discovered. When a hand is found near the crime scene, DNA proves it doesn't belong to the murdered woman but to another woman, whose body was found in another state. This brings the FBI into play, via Taylor's lover, profiler Dr. John Baldwin. The Southern Strangler, as the killer comes to be known, goes on a killing spree throughout the South, crossing state lines, leaving the bodies of young women behind, all missing their hands, but with another woman's hand nearby. And his kills are escalating at a fast rate. Baldwin and Taylor team up to catch him although Taylor gets temporarily sidetracked pursuing a serial rapist named the Rainman while Baldwin travels in the killer's footsteps. But soon the two are back together, hot on the heels of the killer. Taylor Jackson is not your archetypical Southern Belle. A woman from a wealthy family, she chose the life of a cop over that of a privileged soccer mom. She's well-educated, intelligent and tough mentally and physically, but her one weakness is Baldwin. The two are a winning combo and their personas complement one another. Peripheral characters are nicely developed, as is the chemistry between Taylor and Baldwin. The plot moves at a fast pace, with gut-wrenching suspense and plenty of action. Ellison's smart writing places this one apart from other mystery series and is sure to garner a plethora of fans eager for the next book.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
Like a songwriter who writes his chorus before he discovers his verse, I rarely ever start a mystery/thriller series at the beginning. ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS is no exception to this rule; however, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed J.T. Ellison’s debut novel. Sure, it’s easy to make the argument that this book was a bit formulaic at times, but unless you write literary fiction, what book isn’t? With only 20 plots (or 3 or 7 or 36, depending on whom you ask) to work with, it’s not like authors have an abundance of choices out there. What it really boils down to is character and storytelling ability. And I’d say Ms. Ellison has both in spades. Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and Dr. John Baldwin made the story interesting for me, even if they weren’t quite fully-formed, and I gathered pages the way a squirrel might gather nuts. I was suspended and dangling, although I still had a firm grip on reality. Even as I reached the end, I found myself wanting more, of these characters and of this city. But I didn’t find myself craving more dead bodies. All-in-all I’ll be interested to see where this series goes next. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Jeff Farough More than 1 year ago
This wwas an okaay read.. I figured the killer out in the first 30 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read for the authors 1st book, looking forward to many more! Also why can't BN stop this stupid chatter from these idiots. Most don't sound old enough or smart enough to read! Please stop and use this for book reviews only!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good character chemistry, good story lines, fast paced and it kept me up into early morning to finish the rest of the book. 325 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. Loved it.this is the first book that I have read by this author Page turner for sure can't wait to read another one by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I see a whole series with Taylor and Baldwin
Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
I've had Miss Ellison's book on my To Be Read shelf for awhile; now that I've finished it, I am kicking myself for having waited so long to get to it! The first in a series of novel featuring Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson, “All the Pretty Girls” features a protagonist who is both a police officer and a human being – the two aspects of her character never stray far from each other. Her humanity shines through in official situations, while the cop in her is never far away during interpersonal times. PLUS – this is one of the few Procedurals that I have read that actually takes into account that squads and their team members typically have more than one case at a time to concentrate on. I already have the second book in the series “14”, and am looking forward to it. RATING: 4 1/2 stars, rounded up to 5 stars. It kept my interest and it's stayed with me even after I've picked up (and finished) a subsequent novel.
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Excited to read the rest.
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