The brutal rape and murder of Suzanne Shepard, a scandal-mongering New York City TV journalist, provides a welcome high-profile case for Melanie Vargas in Martinez's stellar third thriller to feature the sharp and sexy federal prosecutor (after The Finishing School). Melanie accompanies her boyfriend, FBI agent Dan O'Reilly, to the grisly crime scene in Central Park, where someone, later dubbed the Central Park Butcher, has carved "bitch" into the victim's stomach with a hunting knife. In the ensuing joint state-federal investigation, Dan, Melanie and NYPD detective Julian Hay pursue a number of slippery suspects, including a well-known politician who the media claim is getting special treatment. Then Melanie starts receiving threatening e-mails. Could it be the same guy who stalked Shepard, or a celebrity cosmetic surgeon, a fitness trainer who also deals drugs, or a suspicious witness? Martinez, herself a former federal prosecutor, supplies plenty of insider savvy as she juggles the large cast with élan. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Cover-Upby Michele Martinez
Was it the sinister Park Avenue plastic surgeon with a secret past? Or the trendy personal trainer
Television reporter Suzanne Shepard was a ruthless celebrity scandalmonger with a roster of high-profile enemies. But which one left her mutilated, lifeless body in the dark recesses of New York's Central Park? Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas needs to find out.
Was it the sinister Park Avenue plastic surgeon with a secret past? Or the trendy personal trainer selling recreational drugs to his rich clients? Or the ambitious city power broker who also happens to be the father of one of Melanie's best friends? Sifting through the scandals that fueled the dead reporter's career is what keeps Melanie from obsessing about her own intense affair with sexy FBI agent Dan O'Reilly.
But there's more at risk than Melanie's heart. She's been receiving chilling e-mails from an anonymous "admirer" who knows way too much about the murder -- and about Melanie's every move. If Melanie doesn't find the killer soon, it will be her own death that makes headlines.
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A Novel of Suspense
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
FBI Agent Dan O'Reilly looked through his windshield at the large crowd milling on Fifth Avenue. It was eleven o'clock on a rainy Wednesday night in June, but the blazing spotlights from the television news vans made it feel like high noon. His companion in the car, federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas, was surveying the scene with obvious alarm. Here and there, recognizable faces stood out—celebrity reporters from the local news channels.
"You didn't warn me about this," Melanie said.
"Famous victim. You've got to expect press."
The NYPD had set up a barricade at the Seventy-ninth Street entrance to Central Park. Inside the gates, a short walk into the Ramble, a tabloid-TV personality lay dead. Suzanne Shepard, the glamorous blond scandalmonger, had been viciously raped and stabbed, and Dan and Melanie had come to view the crime scene. But after a tough year, Melanie was fighting serious burnout, and she hardly needed a high-profile case right now. Twenty minutes earlier, she'd been enjoying a romantic evening, getting hot and heavy with Dan on her living-room sofa after taking him to dinner for his birthday. She hadn't been in the market for anything like this. Then his pager started shrieking.
"Press coverage kicks everything up a notch," Melanie said. "More pressure. More scrutiny. I should never have let you drag me out here."
"Admit it. You can't say no to me."
In the semidarkness of the car, Dan smiled. He had a movie-star smile, a football-hero body, and intense blue eyes. He was right. These days,Melanie wasn't refusing him much. Which probably wasn't the smartest move mere months after she'd divorced her cheating husband, and with a little girl to raise.
"You're full of yourself, O'Reilly," she said.
Dan edged his G-car toward the barricade. Several cameramen walked backward in front of them, filming them through the car windows.
"I can't believe this. Look at these guys," Melanie said.
"Didn't you tell me your boss was pissed at you for turning down that terrorism financing case?" Dan asked.
"What choice did I have? It involved overseas travel, and I can't leave Maya."
"Bring in a big murder case," Dan said. "Bernadette'll love you again."
"You know what they say. Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems."
"You know what else they say. No cases, no job. Trust me, you'll be up on the dais accepting Prosecutor of the Year on this one. Then you'll thank me."
Dan rolled his window down, and they both handed over their credentials to the cop stationed there, who studied them and proceeded to consult with somebody over a walkie-talkie. After a few minutes, he handed the creds back, pulled the barricade aside, and waved them through. Melanie had pushed Maya's stroller through this very gate more times than she could count, but in the reassuring light of day. She wished mightily that she were doing that now. The park looked so different at night. Strange shadows loomed between the arcs of yellow light spilling from the lampposts, and branches flapped in the wet wind. What had happened to the old Melanie? Time was, she would've been eating this up instead of feeling the butterflies.
They drove as far as the Boathouse before the path became too narrow for the G-car to pass. A traffic jam of blue-and-whites and American-made sedans with tinted windows had all stopped at the same place, parked every which way in front of the ornate brick building. Their drivers were nowhere in sight. Slapping a police placard in the front windshield, Dan got out and came around to open Melanie's door.
"At least the service is good," she said, stepping out. He closed the door with a thud, and the sound seemed to echo in the gloom all around them.
"Not as good as what you're gonna get later. I wasn't done with you." Dan winked at her, giving her a jolt right down to her toes.
It was a warm, rainy night, and the sky above them glowed lurid orange with reflected light from the city. They passed through a gate to enter the Ramble, and the manicured park immediately turned wild and overgrown, smelling of wet earth and rotting leaves. The woods closed in on either side, so the footpath was barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast. She couldn't see more than a few feet ahead. The ground was broken and uneven, and Melanie was glad she'd chosen boots with sturdy soles. A sudden scurrying noise in the underbrush made her start.
"You okay?" Dan asked.
"Yeah. Just a squirrel."
"Or a rat. This is Central Park after all."
"Thanks a lot."
"I'd try to take him out with my Glock, but I haven't been to the range lately."
Melanie laughed. "Oh, that gives me a lot of confidence."
The path sloped upward and opened onto a vista that would have been beautiful if it weren't swarming with cops and blazing with strange artificial light. Portable klieg lamps had been set up around the edges of a ravine that dropped off precipitously from the pathway. Beyond the ravine—which measured maybe twenty feet deep by fifty feet wide—an inlet of the Central Park Lake glittered and a spectacular weeping willow swayed in the wet wind. Below, crime-scene detectives in protective white coveralls and face masks were busy photographing, bagging, marking, and sampling, their grim faces washed out to sepia hues by the glare.
Melanie and Dan came to a halt by necessity. Both the path ahead and the steep trail down into the ravine where the detectives worked were blocked off with police barricades.
"There's Brennan," Dan said. He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Yo, Butch! Up here."
A tall, stocky man standing knee-deep in the underbrush in the middle of the ravine looked up. Butch Brennan was the supervisor of the crime-scene team, an old-timer, nearing retirement now, who'd waded through oceans of gore in his day without losing his happy-go-lucky attitude. In fact, the more brutal the crime, the more cheerful Butch got. And Melanie could tell that he was smiling broadly through his face mask now as he gave them a peppy wave.Cover-up
A Novel of Suspense. Copyright © by Michele Martinez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
Meet the Author
Michele Martinez, a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School, was a federal prosecutor in New York City for eight years. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two children.
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This book was well written, with soundly crafted characters. The storyline flowed fine and it was an enjoyable read.
Would like to see more of federal prosecutor melanie and federal agent dan
Martinez has anther hit, anyone that has not discover her yet is missing out, pick up her books and enjoy
Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas has seen a lot during her years in New York City, and very little of it has been pretty. [Most Wanted (2005), The finishing School (2006)]. She's a tough, smart gal and there is not much that shocks her. However, that was before the grisly scene in Central Park: 'Melanie gasped and jerked her eyes away, closing them instinctively to shield herself from the monstrous sight. But it stayed with her anyway, vibrating against her eyelids, so after a moment she opened them again, swallowing hard to fight back the sour taste rising in her throat.' Susan Shepard, a once beautiful tabloid television reporter, has been murdered, her body so gruesomely butchered that it could only have been done by a psychopath., soon dubbed the Central Park Butcher. It wasn't any secret that Shepard had enemies she'd made plenty of them in her line of work. But her news beat was celebrities, the rich and famous, who among them could have committed this heinous crime? In her heart of hearts Melanie believes that whoever did it has also done it to other women so she fears he will soon repeat his villiany. At tha time she didn't suspect that she would be his next intended victim. Earlier in the evening she'd been having a romantic tryst with handsome FBI agent Dan O'Reilly, the new love of her life. She's been burned before, is now divorced and learning to trust Dan. Yet love almost fades from her mind when she receives a frightening email from an anonymous sender. The words are chilling. Later emails from the same untraceable source terrify as the writer divulges details about the crime that only he could know. It's obvious that he is the Butcher, and he knows Melanie's every move. Author Martinez has crafted a spine tingling thriller, keeping a cap on the Butcher's identify until the end. After 8 years as a federal prosecutor in New York she well knows the ins and outs of department politics, which become almost a subplot in her story. For this reader the romance wrap-up - Dan's promise of unending fealty didn't quite ring true but the escalating suspense throughout and the shocker ending were extremely well done. Recommended. - Gail Cooke
New York City based TV reporter Suzanne Shepard has made enemies with the people she covers as she seeks only scandals amongst the rich and famous. She exposes celebrities to ridicule. So when she is found raped and murdered in Central Park no one is shocked nor is anyone shedding tears. Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas and her boyfriend, FBI agent Dan O'Reilly arrive at the Central park crime scene to witness a horrific sight. Someone using a hunting knife carved 'bitch' into Suzanne¿s stomach apparently while she was alive and felt each etch made by the sharp weapon. Whereas the media nickname the culprit the ¿Central Park Butcher¿, a joint police investigation consisting of Dan, Melanie and NYPD Homicide Detective Julian Hay begins only to find a myriad of people with motives even sharper than the murder weapon as suspects run the gamut from stalkers including one observing Melanie to celebrities to everyday service people to friends and lovers with each possible person even aficionados sharing in common a keen loathing of Suzanne. --- This is a great police procedural as the potential motive leads to a sizable part of Manhattan wanting the insidious intrusive reporter dead as Suzanne had no morals or concern over collateral damage when it came to obtaining a story. Melanie is terrific as the prime star though ably supported by her lover and Julian. The investigation ad its related suspense make for a razor-sharp thriller, but it is characters especially Melanie and Suzanne who turn Michele Martinez¿s third Vargas tale (see THE FINISHING SCHOOL and MOST WANTED) into a great read. --- Harriet Klausner