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A winner of the Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice, and Daphne du Maurier awards, CJ Lyons writes relationship-focused suspense novels under the apt banner “Thrillers with Heart.” After the deranged lunatic who murdered Sarah Durandt’s husband and son is executed, Sarah returns to her home in the Adirondacks in hopes of achieving some measure of closure. But once there, Sarah is forced to face a nightmarish possibility. The wrong man may have been sent to his death, and the killer ...
A winner of the Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice, and Daphne du Maurier awards, CJ Lyons writes relationship-focused suspense novels under the apt banner “Thrillers with Heart.” After the deranged lunatic who murdered Sarah Durandt’s husband and son is executed, Sarah returns to her home in the Adirondacks in hopes of achieving some measure of closure. But once there, Sarah is forced to face a nightmarish possibility. The wrong man may have been sent to his death, and the killer of her loved ones may be hunting for a new victim.
Winner of the 2013 Thriller Award for Best E-Book Original
“This story is so fast paced with so many mesmerizing characters, ‘fantastic’ is not high enough praise. Lyons proves once again that she is a master of suspense.”
—RT Book Reviews (TOP PICK! 4 1/2 stars)
Praise for C.J. Lyons and her bestselling novels
“Everything a great thriller should be—action packed, authentic and intense…I love how the characters come alive on every page.”—Jeffery Deaver, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A pulse-pounding adrenaline rush…Reminds me of ER back in the days of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies.”—Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author
“The perfect blend of romance and suspense. My kind of read.”—Sandra Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A high-stakes adventure with dire consequences.”—Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
“Packed with adrenaline.”—David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author
“Tense, whip-smart medical scenes…gripping.”—Tess Gerritson, New York Times bestselling author
“Harrowing, emotional, action-packed and brilliantly realized…an irresistible read.”—Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author
“Exciting…engrossing, intriguing.”—Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author
“An adrenaline rush and an all-around great read.”—Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author
“Characters with beating hearts and three dimensions.”—Newsday
“Breathtakingly fast-paced.”—Publishers Weekly
“An intense, emotional thriller [that] climbs to the edge.”—National Examiner
“Thrilling…you won’t be able to put this one down.”—RT Book Reviews
“A powerful, taut thriller.”—Mystery Gazette
“A master.”—Pittsburgh Magazine
Sarah Durandt flinched as faded blue-checked gingham curtains rattled open to reveal the prisoner strapped to a gurney.
One of the women behind her gasped. Sarah leaned forward, one hand flattened against the glass that separated them from a monster. She breathed through her mouth. It was the only way to choke down the heavy air trapped inside the tiny cement-walled room.
She and the other witnesses were gathered behind glass so thick halos circled the objects in the white-tiled execution chamber on the other side. Bulletproof glass. Who did they think would be doing the shooting? The condemned man already woozy from sedatives or those who came to watch him die?
Sarah curled her hands one into the other and held them still on her lap, shivering as the air-conditioning blew a frosty stream down on her. Eleven others were crowded into the room with her, families representing the other victims. She barely noticed them. They were here for closure. She needed answers.
Her gaze narrowed to a laser-sharp focus aimed at the prisoner beyond the glass. His arms were extended, needles inserted into veins on both sides of his body. Seven leather straps crossed his body and limbs, holding him in a position eerily reminiscent of a crucifixion. But this man was no Messiah.
This man was the devil incarnate.
Damian Wright was medium sized, someone who would not stand out in a crowd with his bland face, blander features.
Sarah knew better. She knew his cunning. Hidden behind his façade of normalcy smoldered a sick desire to torture and maim. Even here, on his deathbed, he persisted in tormenting her. Denying her the slightest measure of comfort or peace.
She wasn’t sure why, of all the victims, Damian had focused his sick power plays on her. She wasn’t anyone special, just a schoolteacher from upstate New York who lived in a village of less than five hundred souls. Her brown hair was usually pulled back into a ponytail and forgotten about, leaving it free to fall around her shoulders on special occasions like today—the execution of a serial killer.
Damian’s sweat-beaded skin glistened as he lay beneath a large, round surgical light. His eyes were squeezed shut against its unflinching illumination. The warden nodded to a black-suited man with a small silver cross on his lapel. The man stretched out his hand, his wedding ring shimmering as it passed through the beam of light, and pulled a black microphone down. Sarah rubbed her own ring finger, tracing the plain band Sam placed there six years ago.
Uncoiling like a cobra, the microphone bobbed hypnotically above Damian’s lips. A click, like a muffled gunshot, echoed through the witness room as the warden switched on the intercom. The scratchy sound of Damian’s breathing filled the room.
Sarah found herself inhaling in time with Damian, could almost smell the antiseptic and surgical tape and the stench of sweat and nerves emanating from beyond the window. Alan Easton, who sat beside her, gave her hand a comforting squeeze.
“You okay?” he asked, his tone that of a friend rather than her lawyer. She was the only family here to bear witness for Sam and Josh. The only family Sam had left. And Josh, how could she not be here for her son?
She nodded, her attention focused on the events in front of her. The execution chamber held only three men: the warden in his navy suit, bleached white shirt, and narrow tie; the black-suited minister; and Damian Wright, the man who had destroyed her life.
If Sarah were to describe the Death House to her sixth-grade students back home, she would have said the theme of the room, of the entire building set far apart from normal prison housing, was containment.
Nothing was meant to ever escape this tiny building with its cement walls painted an institutional green. The utilitarian execution chamber beyond the viewing window made no efforts to soften or hide its purpose. A flat surgical table, arms splayed wide, bolted to the floor was its only piece of furniture.
“Any last words?” the warden asked the condemned man.
Sarah came to attention. A fly trespassed into the profane proceedings and beat its wings against the cage shielding two flickering fluorescent lightbulbs, its buzzing deafening. Damian Wright, convicted murderer and child rapist, opened his rheumy eyes and stared directly at her. She pulled her hand free from Alan’s, fisted it tight.
Tell me. Say something. Give me a clue.
Her prayers went unheard. Damian remained silent, muscles slack, not fighting his restraints. Only his chest moved, rising and falling as he counted down to his last breath. Sarah’s lungs squeezed tight, ready to burst from pressure. Damian stared at her, a smile creasing his eyes.
She blinked first, not ashamed to surrender; she’d do anything if it helped her to find Sam and Josh.
Damian’s smile widened. But he remained silent.
Fury knotted her gut. Did he torment her, refuse her the closure she so desperately yearned for, because she’d been away at that damn mandatory in-service on the day he took Josh? Or was it because of all the boys he’d killed, only Josh had a father willing to fight, to die for him?
Alan said it was probably because Sam interrupted his ritual with Josh. Forced him to deviate from his sick, twisted fantasy to kill Sam before he could return to Josh.
The minister intoned from his Bible, his eyes never rising from the written word to gaze upon the lost soul he prayed over.
The words of the Psalm, words that twenty-two months ago would have brought Sarah comfort and solace, were now reduced to meaningless noise with less significance than the buzzing of the fly. She pressed her palm flat against the cold glass, more intent on gleaning the answers she needed from Damian than listening to the word of God.
She’d spent her entire life listening. Where was God when she’d needed him most? Where was he when her husband and son needed him?
“I’m sorry we couldn’t stay the execution,” Alan whispered. “I know how much you hoped—”
She shrugged his words away, her entire universe consisting of the gaze of a killer. The man who had confessed to killing Sam and Josh—but who refused to tell her where they were buried.
For a year and a half she had fought. Fought Damian Wright’s silence, his refusal to see her. Fought the new Texas law that allowed executions to be “fast-tracked” with an unprecedented efficiency. Fought her own desire to see Damian die. A desire superseded only by her need to find her husband and son.
The warden strode forward, reading from a document in a monotone that floated just beyond the periphery of Sarah’s awareness.
Where are they, you sonofabitch? Sarah tried to broadcast all her loathing and hatred into her glare, hoping to loosen Damian’s tongue in these, his last seconds on this Earth. Her fist pounded against the thick glass, creating only the smallest of muffled thuds.
The killer didn’t flinch or look away from her. Nor did he speak. Instead his expression turned to one approaching pity. As if she were the one condemned, not him.
The warden finished and removed his glasses, aiming a small nod in the direction of the executioner’s booth. Sarah had researched the procedure. Behind the one-way mirrored glass, an unseen man flipped a switch. Medication flowed into Damian’s veins. First more sedatives, then a paralytic, finally the potassium chloride to stop his heart.
Time stopped. Sarah didn’t blink. Damian didn’t blink.
Three minutes later, the minister stood aside as a man clad in a white coat stepped forward and listened with a stethoscope. He straightened, reached a hand out to Damian’s face, and closed the killer’s eyes.
The blinds snapped shut.
A collective sigh swirled through the room as the other witnesses shifted in their seats. Through the haze filling Sarah’s vision she heard several women and a man sobbing, felt the rustle of their movements as the room emptied. She remained frozen, not blinking, eyes burning.
Alan touched her elbow, pulled her fist away from the glass, and drew her up onto unsteady feet. “We have to go now,” he murmured.
She kept her face craned toward the darkened window until the last possible moment. Finally, Alan led her out into bright sunshine, Texas heat and humidity bearing down on her with the intensity of a ten-ton truck.
For a moment she was the one suffocating under the weight of paralyzed lungs. Her chest tightened. For an instant it was her heart that stopped.
She blinked and pain returned. An ice-pick stabbing behind her eyes, her constant companion for twenty-two months, unmitigated by any sedatives or hope of release. Unlike Damian Wright’s pain.
And she knew she was alive. At least her body was. Her mind was. Her soul—that was buried in some unmarked grave back home, up on Snakehead Mountain.
Alongside Sam and Josh.
* * *
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over … The words threaded themselves through Sarah’s mind, spinning a cocoon that blocked out all feeling, providing a soft, safe place to hide. A place where there was no need to think, to do, to react. To be. It’s over, it’s over, it’s over …
Sarah hugged herself tighter and leaned against the car window, her back to Alan as he drove them away from the prison. She’d promised herself no matter what, she wouldn’t break down, at least not in front of anyone.
But Alan wasn’t anyone. Alan understood—he’d been through it himself. His wife had been killed by a drug addict who stormed their house looking for cash. That was why he’d left his corporate law practice to focus on victims’ rights, to help people like Sarah.
How could she have survived the past two years without Alan?
The tires spinning against the highway carried her away from Damian Wright, away from her last chance to find Sam and Josh. It’s over, it’s over, it’s over …
Her body sagged against the door frame, her right hand automatically reaching for the single ring on her left. She had no engagement ring. Instead, Sam had given her his most valuable possession, a guitar pick used by the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan, and promised that when he sold his first song he’d replace it with a diamond. Seven years later, the pick still sat in its black velvet jewelry case on her dresser.
Her hand felt cold, but her wedding band radiated warmth, as if she touched Sam. She spun the ring in time with the words weaving their way into her soul, inviting her to surrender. It’s over, it’s over, it’s over …
No! It can’t be. Not like this.
Tears pressed against her closed eyelids, burned as they fought to escape. Sarah’s grip on the plain gold band tightened. Her last link to Sam and, through him, Josh. She was tired, so very tired. She should give up. What more could she do?
After all, she had a life to live. Sam would want her to be happy. Someday. A ragged breath tore through her and she felt Alan stir beside her. Alan—could she imagine a future with a man like him? A man who’d devoted almost two years of his life to guiding her through this morass of pain and grief, who’d brought her back into the light, had given her this one last chance.
Last chance, last hope, last rites.
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over.
Sarah straightened, opened her eyes, and blinked against the harsh Texas sun. She uncurled her legs, smoothed out the soft cotton of her navy blue dress. She refused to wear black, not until Josh and Sam were laid to rest. The dark highway stretched hypnotically into the future.
“You all right?” Alan’s gaze left the road to stare at her for a long moment.
A sad smile curled Sarah’s lips. “Yes. I’m fine.”
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over … the words sang through her mind, pounding insistently like a toddler throwing a tantrum, banging his head against the floor when he didn’t get what he wanted. Josh had thrown a few of those in his day. Until he learned that when he did, he never got what he wanted.
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over!
Sarah gave a small shake of her head—the only warning Josh needed now. She’d shake her head, smile, and he’d leave his whining behind, take her hand, and snuggle against her. Sorry, Mommy. I forgot.
But I haven’t.
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over … No. It’s not.
It’s just begun.
Copyright © 2012 by CJ Lyons
Posted April 28, 2011
This book was excellent. It was a shorter read at only 163 pages. However, it was action packed like nothing I have read before. CJ Lyons proved herself once again in this thriller novel. Following the life and grief of Sarah Durandt, you are taken on a roller coaster ride through a small mountain town with twists and turns you don't expect, not knowing who to trust, and who's gonna walk out in the end. This a highly recommended read from a highly recommended author!
11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 17, 2011
Sarah Durandt had gone to Texas to watch a man die, but she did so in the hope that he would - at the end - tell her where he had buried her husband and son two years before.
But in that, as with quite a few things and people in her life, things are not quite as they seem.
Not Alan Easton, a lawyer pretending to be her friend and admirer, but doing so under very false pretenses. Not Samuel Durandt, the husband she still loves, thinks is dead, but is more than he seems. Not Hal Waverly, the Hopewell, NY sheriff who she thought she knew. And not Jack Logan, FBI Special Agent in Charge, who was in charge of the Damian Wright - the man Sarah had gone to see executed for killing boys - case.
As things come to light and seeming ghosts reappear, not knowing who to trust can leave both Sarah and Sam dead.
This is my first read of Ms. Lyons' works and my initial reaction to the story was (and continues) to be a little speechlessly star-struck.
Sarah is grieving what she believes to be a double tragedy, but has a spine of steel that lets her carry on in spite of it. She knows when to bend instead of breaking, but is, at the same time, stubborn.
Hal Waverly has also known loss, and carries on as well, but differently. In a lot of ways, he is still the man Sarah has known for a lot of years, but has a secret that he doesn't want known.
Sam Durandt tries to do things to the best of his ability, but they don't always work out exactly as he planned them. He knows his own shortcomings, but keeps on going.
Aside from the story's tempo, action, and timing, I really enjoyed the characterization. All of the characters - the good, the bad, and the ugly - are people that the reader may know, may want to know, or (as in the case of someone like Damian Wright) may hope to never come across in any capacity.
This is the kind of story I like to read and look forward to reading more of CJ Lyons' books.
8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 4, 2011
I did enjoy this book. But it is miscatigorized as romantic-suspense. It is a suspense-filled thriller with a dash of lackluster romance. So it's worth a read but i wouldn't pay a lot for it. I paid 99 cents, so it was a good read for that price!
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 22, 2013
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Posted October 4, 2011
Story was overlong and rather choppy in many parts. It took too long to tell the story (with too much fluff in between) and at many points the story skipped over information so there wasn't a decent flow to the story. On the bright side it did help me fall asleep faster.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2011
It was OK. I found it too predictable, and a bit boring. I would not recommend. It was readable though and I could tell the author was trying to get you to emotionally attach to a few of the characters but they lacked depth so it was hard to do. I read it, but wont pick up another by this author.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2011
Posted August 18, 2011
Oh my gosh, was it ever good! I love to try and figure out how it is going to end long before I finish a book and this one blew me away. Wow. CJ Lyons can sure spin a tale, and keep you at the edge of your seat throughout the book. I just love this book and can't wait to start the next one I have of hers. She is blistering! Want a great read? Blind Faith will not let you down! On to the next one I have of hers, will let you know how this one goes! I am positive it will be as good as Blind Faith was though. What a story spinner CJ Lyons is!
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2013
Good book. Was able to put it down many times but still wanted to see where it went. A bit over the top. Still, I did want to finish .
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 26, 2012
This book was very good; however, it was very discouraging
because I had problems turning the pages. The sales person at Barnes & Noble said that when you get over 600 pages it takes longer for the page to turn!!! That it is a problem with the publishing company and the way they format the book. Shame on you!! I have been very disappointed with the NOOK!
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2011
You won't want to put this one down. The author keeps you wondering what will happen next, never a dull moment. I highly recommend this book and will definately be reading more of her books.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2011
This book was amazing. It was sad at times and it made me cry. It pulled at my heart strings. CJ Lyons is a wonderful writer. This is the first book by her I have read and I plan to read as many as I can get my hands on. I would recommend it to anyone!
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Posted September 27, 2013
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Posted September 3, 2013
I usually do not read books of this type because they are a little too suspenseful for this 71 year old but I started it & couldn't put it down. Very good book and when I'm ready for a little more excitment in my life, will buy another from this author. JudyEWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 31, 2013