Cold Case Squadby Edna Buchanan
And so begins the first chapter of Edna Buchanan's Cold Case Squad, a new suspense novel that features a special homicide unit that breathes new life into old cases.
A man and a woman are shot dead at a strip club in Miami Beach. A few hours later, an explosion in a garage/i>/i>
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"Like all things good and bad in the world, it began with a woman..."
And so begins the first chapter of Edna Buchanan's Cold Case Squad, a new suspense novel that features a special homicide unit that breathes new life into old cases.
A man and a woman are shot dead at a strip club in Miami Beach. A few hours later, an explosion in a garage rocks a child's birthday party and burns a father of three to death. The murders go unsolved and the fire is chalked up to an accident.
But was it an accident? Twelve years later, a blonde walks in to the Miami Police Department's Cold Case Squad -- which Buchanan fans will remember from The Ice Maiden -- and complains that she's been seeing her husband everywhere she goes. Trouble is, he's been dead for twelve years. In Buchanan's characteristic voice, "Some guys just don't know when to let go."
As the Cold Case Squad unearths the details of the strip club deaths and the dead or missing father -- as well as the unsolved killings of a series of little old ladies -- readers get to know the three cops and their boss: veteran homicide detective Sergeant Craig Burch, whose marriage has turned into a case he can't solve; Detective Sam Stone, for whom the past will always be a mystery; Detective Pete Nazario, airlifted out of Cuba during "Operation Pedro Pan" in the 1960s; and Lieutenant K. C. Riley, for whom one case will never grow cold.
Edna Buchanan has been thrilling readers since her Pulitzer Prize-winning stint as a crime reporter for The Miami Herald. The Chicago Tribune once raved that "few writers can touch Buchanan," to which The Washington Post Book World seemed to respond, "I doubt if anyone else is doing it better." In Cold Case Squad, Edna Buchanan, the woman the Los Angeles Daily News calls "the Queen of crime," delivers unlikely killers, near-perfect murders, and her most suspenseful novel yet.
Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
"With dead-on forensic science, police procedural, and human foibles, Edna knows Miami and she knows cops, and there isn't an author who can touch her for sultry and tropical mystery."
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Cold Case Squad
By Edna Buchanan
Simon & SchusterCopyright © 2004 Edna Buchanan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTWELVE YEARS LATER
Like all things good and bad in the world, it began with a woman.
She was a blonde, with a complaint about her ex-husband. She saw him everywhere she went. Turn around and there he was. She knew he was trying to send her a message, she said.
Problem was, the man was dead, gone from this earth for twelve long years.
Some guys just don't know when to let go.
My name is Craig Burch, a sergeant on the Miami Police Department's Cold Case Squad. My assignment is relatively new. I worked homicide for eighteen years, mostly on the midnight shift. I fought like hell to land this job. Why not? It's every big-city homicide cop's wet dream. This squad is armed with a detective's most powerful weapon: time. The luxury of enough time to investigate old, unsolved cases without interruption. I wanted that. I wanted the change. I wanted to see the faces of murderers who suddenly realize their pasts and I have caught up with them. The job has other perks as well. No daily dealing with fresh corpses or, worse yet, corpses less than fresh. No more stepping cautiously through messy crime scenes in dark woods, warehouses, or alleyways, trying to avoid stepping in blood, brains, or worse. No more trying to forget the pain-filled screams of inconsolable survivors whose unearthly cries will scar your soul and echo in your dreams asleep or awake. No more watching autopsies that suddenly and unexpectedly replay in your mind's eye at inopportune moments. And no more throwing my back out when lifting dead weight. Real dead weight.
This job also reduces my chances of being rocked, bottled, and/or shot at by the unruly Miamians who cluster bright-eyed and belligerent at every nasty crime scene in neighborhoods where trouble is a way of life and violence is contagious.
I quit confronting new deaths. Instead, I breathe new life into old, cold cases and track killers whose trails vanished long ago like footprints on a sea-washed beach.
Loved the concept. Still do. And I yearned for what came with it - mostly regular, daylight hours, giving me the chance to spend more time with my family before the kids are grown and gone. Made sense to me. It was long overdue. I looked forward to it. Connie couldn't have been happier - in the beginning. What's not to like? Weekends off together for the first time? The man in the mirror suntanned instead of wearing a prison pallor from sleeping days and working nights?
Now I know why people say: Be careful what you wish for - you might get it. At the moment, I live alone. Last time I called home, one of the kids hung up on me. Every job in my line of business has a downside.
This one has ghosts.
My detectives are hand-picked self-starters. They don't hear the screams, see the blood, or feel the moral outrage cops experience at fresh murder scenes. Instead, they dissect dusty files and stacks of typewritten reports as cold and unemotional as a killer's heart.
Our standard operating procedure is to reread the case files of old, unsolved murders, pass them around, and brainstorm on which have the most potential. We also field tips on old homicides from our own cops, other agencies, confidential informants, prison inmates, and the friends and families of victims.
She was one of the latter: a walk-in. Our team had just voted on whether to pursue the high-profile triple homicide of a man, his pregnant wife, and their toddler. Murdered nearly twenty-five years ago, they were presumed casualties of the time - collateral damage in the drug wars of the eighties. But one of my guys suspects another motive, something more personal. Two of my detectives, Sam Stone and Pete Nazario, were still arguing about it when the secretary steered a stranger their way.
Her hair was feathery, tousled in an expensive, wavy style intended to look natural, the kind that costs more to look as though it was never touched by professionals.
Stone sprang to his feet when the secretary brought her past my desk, directly across from theirs. He grew up in Miami's bleakest, blackest, toughest neighborhood. Sharp, edgy, young, and focused, he has a passion for high technology and is as aggressive as hell. Sometimes he's a runaway freight train and you have to hold him back.
Well dressed in blue that matched her eyes, she was your typical soccer mom with a little mileage on her.
Nazario offered her a chair. He came to Miami alone as a small child, one of the thousands of Pedro Pan kids airlifted out of Cuba and taken in by the Catholic church when Castro refused to allow the parents to leave the island. Nazario never saw his parents again and grew up a stranger in a strange land, shuttled to shelters and foster homes all over the country by the archdiocese. Maybe because he lived with strangers who didn't speak his native language or maybe he was born with it, but Nazario is blessed with an uncanny talent - it's invaluable to a detective, even though it's not admissible in court or probable cause for a warrant: He knows, without fail, when somebody is lying to him. Stone and Nazario are among the best, and I don't say that just because they work for me.
The woman in blue chewed her lower lip, her face pinched with apprehension. She looked to be in her late thirties, but it's tough to tell the age of most women. Her name was April Terrell, she said. A plastic tag identifying her as a visitor to the building was clipped to her short, crisp jacket. Her summery dress flared at the hip and quit just above a nice pair of knees. She held a little purse demurely in her lap while apologizing for showing up unannounced. I listened, trying not to look up and be obvious.
"It's about my husband," she said, then corrected herself, "my ex-husband."
They married in college, she said. She quit and worked as a legal secretary to put him through pharmaceutical school. "I thought I knew him. The divorce caught me off guard. Our children were two and three. That was almost fourteen years ago."
She gave the guys a sad-eyed, self-deprecating smile. "He found someone else, younger, his second year in business. He remarried right away and started a new family."
The guys itched to hear the point. I know I did.
"It's funny." Her lower lip quivered, indicating the opposite. "All of a sudden, after all this time, he's there. I see him everywhere I go."
Nazario frowned. "He's stalking you?"
"Our domestic violence unit has a felony stalking squad." Stone reached for the phone on his desk. "You need to talk to one of them. We're homicide. Cold cases. I'll call downstairs and find you someone."
"Wait." She spoke briskly. "Obviously I haven't made myself clear. I know who you are. You investigate old deaths. That's why I'm here. Charles was killed twelve years ago."
I looked up. Nazario and Stone exchanged glances.
"Oh," Stone said accommodatingly. "And you say you've seen him lately?"
"Yes." Her voice held steady.
"On what sort of occasions?" Stone steepled his long fingers in front of him, his liquid eyes wandering to a window, past the grimy streaks to a patch of innocent blue sky above the neighborhood where he was born.
She raised her voice and her right hand slightly, as though to recapture his attention. "You know what I mean. Like at the bank yesterday ... I saw another customer, his back was to me. He looked so much like Charles that for a moment I forgot he was dead and almost called out his name. The man turned around later and, of course, he didn't look like Charles at all." She shrugged. "You know how it is. You catch a glimpse of someone familiar but it turns out not to be them. It's happening to me more and more. He's in my dreams almost every night now."
"When did this start?" Nazario asked, his face solemn.
"Last year. I keep asking myself why, after all this time? Why?" She leaned forward, speaking clearly, voice persuasive. "The only explanation is that Charles is trying to tell me something."
Her shoulders squared, head high in a regal pose, reacting to something in their eyes. She shot me a quick glance, suddenly aware that I was listening, too.
"I'm not crazy," she said quickly. "Please don't think that. It's just that it's made me realize that I never felt right about what happened to him. I think I always suspected, but I had two little children to raise alone, a boy and a girl."
"Did you seek grief counseling at the time?" Nazario asked softly.
The blond waves bounced as she tossed her head. "Who had time for that?" She opened her hands in a helpless gesture, pale palms exposed. "I had to take care of business and get on with life because of the children. How could I allow myself the time to obsess, to cave in to anger, bitterness - or grief? You've heard people say, 'If I only had the time, I'd have a nervous breakdown'? Our children worshiped their dad. The divorce was tough enough on them, on all of us. He and his new wife had a baby. Their dad's death was the final crushing blow. They'd never see him again, call him on the telephone, or spend another weekend or vacation together. Now that they're older and asking questions, I realize there are no answers. The whole thing didn't make sense ..."
"Sometimes," Nazario gently interjected, "when you suppress a traumatic incident and don't deal with it, it comes back to trouble you later, when you least expect it."
She shook her head forlornly, staring down at her naked fingers for a moment. She wore no rings.
"Can you at least look into it?" she said, raising those blue eyes.
"Into what?" Stone's brow furrowed.
Lieutenant K. C. Riley, our boss, suddenly appeared, slamming an office door, lean and mean, a folder in hand, expression impatient.
"He burned to death." April Terrell's voice rose, quavering slightly. "In a flash fire. It was horrible. They had to have a closed casket. There wasn't enough ..."
Talk about timing.
K. C. Riley reacted as though slapped.
This can't be good, I thought.
"My ex-husband, the father of my children," April told the lieutenant without introductions. "His death was no accident. I'm sure he was murdered."
"When did this happen?" Riley's pale lips were tight, arms crossed.
"Twelve years ago, May 23, 1992. It happened on a Saturday." Charles had confided the last time he'd dropped off their children that he and their new stepmother of just a year were not getting along. The brief marriage, a bumpy ride, was already off track. Natasha, wife number two, spent extravagantly. And there was, of course, a big life insurance policy.
She had since lost track of the widow, she said.
"That sort of accident was totally out of character for Charles. He was skilled and competent, precise and careful about everything he did."
Riley lapped it up, never missed a beat. "Thanks for coming in, Ms....?"
"Terrell, April Terrell."
"I'm K. C. Riley."
The two women shook hands.
"It's certainly worth looking into," Riley said. "My detectives will get right on it. Right, Sergeant?"
Three jaws dropped as one: mine, Stone's, and Nazario's.
Excerpted from Cold Case Squad by Edna Buchanan Copyright © 2004 by Edna Buchanan. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Edna Buchanan worked The Miami Herald police beat for eighteen years, during which she won scores of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award for Career Achievement in Journalism. Edna attracted international acclaim for her classic true-crime memoirs, The Corpse Has a Familiar Face and Never Let Them See You Cry. Her first novel of suspense, Nobody Lives Forever, was nominated for an Edgar Award.
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My first Edna Buchanan book but certainly not my last. Can't wait to read some more of this author! Fast paced and overall a great read!
Edna Buchanan is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. This book was just as enjoyable as the others I have read. The characters were well developed and interesting, the plot was never dull and was well written. Another winner!
Cold Case Squad is the first book I have read by Edna Buchanan. I found it to be a fast moving story with excitement and humor and surprises.
With the advent of computer databases, the internet, DNA testing and other advances in technology and science, crimes that couldn¿t be solved a decade ago might be resolved today. In Miami, the COLD CASE SQUAD consists of only four people but they are working on two cases using new investigative techniques and although they haven¿t solved them they have more information that could lead to identifying the killers................................... The first case involves Charles Terrell who was killed when he was working on his car when it exploded, burning him to a crisp. The coroner concluded that an accident occurred but twelve years later, his ex-wife asks them to reopen the case . She believes he was murdered because he was so fussy and meticulous, he would never work with faulty tools. Also Detective Stone discovers through the internet and databases unavailable at the time of the Terrell death that a serial killer was murdering female senior citizens. Although both cases seem impossible to solve the team is confident that they will find the killers................................... COLD CASE SQUAD is an action-filled exciting police procedural that starts off at light speed and only gets faster as the story progresses. As comic relief one of the detective¿s wives, furious with her husband, plays practical jokes on him that relieves the tension when it threatens to explode. Edna Buchanan gives readers an insider¿s look at a group of men and women dedicated to finding killers no matter how long they have gotten away with murder............................. Harriet Klausner
FROM THE INSECURE APARTMENTS BUILDINGS OF DADE COUNTRY, TO THE GREASY SAUSAGE AND BURNED COFFEE DIVE OF 7-11 IN PALMETTO BAY---EDNA HAS FLUBBED HER STORIES IN RECKLESS ABANDON!BUT ,HEY, I AM THE UNEMPLOYED SECURITY GUARD-I CAN SAY WHAT I WANT, ABOUT WHOMEVER I WANT! SHE IS PULITZER PRIZE WINNER-AND STILL PICKS POOR FRIENDS TO COLLABORATE THE WORKS OF HER WRITINGS UPON SAID INCOMPETENT SOULS! THAT IS LIFE-AND THAT IS---OUR OPINION!---WE CAUTION TAKING POT SHOTS POLITICALLY AT REPUTATIONS THAT CANNOT DIE---THEY REINCARNATE INTO UGLY ALIENZ AND HOVER OVER HOUSES AND WHISK PEOPLE AWAY TO---MARS---AND BEYOND---!