From the Publisher
"Karen Young is a writer of rare emotional power and conviction, exploring the darkest corners of the human heart and finding redemption there. This is storytelling at its finest, the kind that stays with you long after the last page is turned." Susan Wiggs, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Fireside
"Blood Bayou kept my heart beating overtime with its perfect blend of romance and suspense. This was my first Karen Young novel, but her compelling characters, snappy dialogue, and a gorgeous bayou setting that had me fanning myself on a winter day in Kansas, land her permanently on my must-read list. One of the best books I've read this year!" Deborah Raney, author of Yesterday's Embers and Almost Forever
"Master storyteller Karen Young has written a gripping tale of second chances, rescue, and redemption. I became absorbed in the story, the characters, and the mystery from the very first paragraph. This is a page-turner that will long linger in my mind." Debbie Macomber
"Karen Young's Blood Bayou grabs the reader by the throat from the beginning and does not let go until the last page. More importantly, along the way the reader enters into a significant faith journey with the characters, one that begins with sin and ends with repentance and love. It is a rare book that can offer a superb story, wholly believable characters, and a heart-wrenching narrative of evil and redemption. Yet Karen Young has written just such a book. I simply cannot wait for her next one!" Diane Mott Davidson
Young's 35th novel comes from an evangelical Christian imprint, and this outing adds to her blend of suspense and romance spiritual elements that would make sense to many readers outside the Christian market. Lawyer Camille St. James gets a convicted murderer exonerated and off Death Row, only to see him arrested for murder days after his release. Camille's ex-husband, Jack, a former lawyer and recovering alcoholic turned minister, re-enters her life because the murder victim is his sister. The two are thrown together again as Camille pushes hard to discover the real murderer, drawing not only a response from a criminal but from a small Louisiana town eager to blame her for freeing a man capable of murder. The experienced author competently spins suspense and romance while adding the element of redemption through faith that is natural to her plot. Camille is skeptical about the thoroughness of her ex-husband's spiritual rebirth, making the faith component even more credible. Young's readers can easily follow her move to more explicit spiritual character development, and she should gain new readers in the Christian market with her well-crafted inspirational fiction. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Read an Excerpt
Luanne Richard opened the door to her killer wearing a smile and little else. With a drink in one hand and invitation and mischief dancing in her eyes, she sensed no danger. After several martinis, her instinct for danger was hazy at best.
She'd been lounging on the patio in her bikini when the doorbell rang. It had occurred to her that a cover-up might be the proper thing, but she wasn't much into doing the proper thing. Never had been. It got really boring trying to live life properly. Now, glancing through the peephole, she saw he was alone and thought it might be fun to tease him a little. No one around, as far as she could tell. So she let him in, closed the door, and turned to face him.
That is when she saw the knife.
She sobered instantly. And when he raised it and lunged, aiming for her throat, she recoiled on instinct alone, tossed her drink at his face and somehow miraculously managed to evade that first vicious slash. While he cursed and blinked gin from his eyes, she turned and ran on bare feet.
She raced through the huge house wondering frantically how to escape. She cursed her carelessness in leaving the gate open when she drove home from the club. It came to her that she stood no chance while inside, so she flew through the living room and made for the den and beyond the patio. She prayed the door was open, that she'd failed to close it when she got up and came back in.
Please, oh, please...
Halfway there, she took a quick look over her shoulder and screamed. He was close and gaining. He would be on her if she didn't do something. As she streaked past a very expensive Chinese vase, she gave it a push to tip it over, thinking to trip him. He stumbled but didn't go down. He picked it up, tossed it side, and laughed. Laughed!
This couldn't be real. This kind of craziness happened in nightmares to other people, not to her. Hadn't she had enough grief in her life? Hadn't she tried her best to fight the demons that tormented her? Hadn't she often resisted temptation? Was she to be damned for the times she didn't?
I'm sorry, God. I'm sorry. I'm sorry...
No! She wasn't going to let this happen. She had a lot of life to live yet. She would change. She had changed. Nobody understood how hard it was for her to keep to the straight and narrow. She kept to the path. Almost always.
Once out on the lawn, she realized she couldn't make it to the front. It was too far away. He'd overtake her before she got halfway there. And there was no time to punch in the security code to open the gate. She was trapped.
Mad with fear, she ducked around lush landscaping, making for the walk that led to the pier and boathouse. She veered to avoid the cherub fountain and stumbled, twisting her ankle painfully. She flung out a hand for balance only to have it slashed on the lethal thorns of a pyracantha. Sobbing now, she dashed through a grove of wax myrtles, wincing at the slap and sting of limbs before finally reaching the pier jutting over the bayou. It was her only chance.
She looked again over her shoulder. He'd slowed, knowing she had no place else to run. The knife blade glinted brightly in the sun. She whimpered, trying to think. Blood dripped from the gash on her hand and her ankle throbbed. Scalding tears ran down her cheeks. What to do?
"Gotcha now, Luanne," he taunted. "The boathouse or the bayou, babe. What's it gonna be?"
Not the bayou. Never the bayou.
She had a fear of Blood Bayou. It had almost claimed her once. None of the romantic legends spun about it held any charm for her. The water was too dark, too still, too deep, too alive with slimy things, predatory things. The bayou was death.
She was out of breath and in pain when she remembered the telephone in the boathouse only a few feet away. Checking behind her, she saw that he was still coming, but moving almost leisurely, as if enjoying the chase, savoring her fear. Anticipating the kill?
The thought made her leap onto the pier. Hot from the August sun, the wooden planks burned the soles of her bare feet. Below the pier, black water slapped against the pilings, disorienting her. Don't look down! Eyes straight ahead, she finally reached the boathouse door, grabbing at the latch, fingers clawing. Panic and blood from her wounded hand made her clumsy, all thumbs, as she worked at the strange fastener. But at last she got it, wrenched it open.
Inside it was dark and dank and, like the bayou, smelled of rotting vegetation and decaying fish. But it was sanctuary and she scrambled inside, slammed the door shut, and set the bolt. It would not keep him out for long, but it offered a few precious seconds. Her eyes struggled with the dark. It was her only chance. But one thing nagged: Why was he giving her this chance? No time to worry about that. She flew to the wall-mounted phone, grabbed the receiver, and punched in 911.
He was at the boathouse now, rattling the door. Terror leaped in her chest. With her heart in her throat, she strained to hear the ring connecting her to 911. But nothing. In a panic, she jiggled the button up and down. Listened for a dial tone. Nothing. She frantically pressed the button up and down again. And again nothing. She gave an anguished cry and slammed the receiver against the wall. The phone line was dead!
She screamed at the thunderous crash. He kicked the door open. It slammed against the wall, shaking the boathouse to its foundation. As she watched, petrified, he took an unhurried step inside, filling the doorway. With the sun behind him, he loomed as large as a truck. He paused, no doubt to let his eyes adjust to the dark interior. He took his time. Then he began to move slowly toward her. "I've got you now, sugar," he taunted, his smile grotesque.
Incoherent with terror, all she saw was the knife. She scrambled backward, desperate to get out of his reach. But he kept coming. With a bump, she backed against the sleek hull of a boat. Trapped! Below was bottomless, black water. Sobbing, she looked at him piteously. She was going to die. The bayou was going to claim her after all.
Blood Bayou © 2009 Karen Young