A Dark and Lonely Place

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FROM PULITZER PRIZE WINNER EDNA BUCHANAN, the novel she has always wanted to write: the gripping saga of star-crossed lovers across generations. A century ago, when Indians and alligators roamed frontier Miami, the legendary John Ashley was accused of murder and sentenced to hang. He insisted he was innocent and went on the run with his sweetheart, Laura Upthegrove.

John and Laura became the most notorious, colorful, and compelling figures in Florida’s violent outlaw history. ...

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A Dark and Lonely Place

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FROM PULITZER PRIZE WINNER EDNA BUCHANAN, the novel she has always wanted to write: the gripping saga of star-crossed lovers across generations. A century ago, when Indians and alligators roamed frontier Miami, the legendary John Ashley was accused of murder and sentenced to hang. He insisted he was innocent and went on the run with his sweetheart, Laura Upthegrove.

John and Laura became the most notorious, colorful, and compelling figures in Florida’s violent outlaw history. Their sensual and dreamy saga is juxtaposed with the taut and suspenseful story of their fictional descendants who share the same love and dangers a hundred years later. In today’s Miami, Homicide Sergeant John Ashley investigates a millionaire’s spectacular murder and instantly recognizes a stunning model linked to the case as the girl who has haunted his dreams since childhood. Her name is Laura, and the lightning-fast attraction is supernaturally mutual.

The homicide case goes bad, Ashley is falsely accused of murder just like his ancestor, and the new lovers go on the run as history repeats itself. The question is, how powerful is the past? Do the present-day renegades stand a chance? Can we change our own destiny? Or must the end always be the same for dangerous people in dangerous times?

In a sweeping epic that explores the inevitability of fate, A Dark and Lonely Place draws the reader into an unforgettable world of intrigue, drama, romance, and tragedy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Half of this uneven novel from Edgar-finalist Buchanan (Nobody Lives Forever) offers a fictionalized history of the infamous, if little-known outside Florida, Prohibition-era gangster John Ashley and his moll, Laura Upthegrove. This solidly written, journalistic account can stand alone, elevating Ashley with his misunderstood criminal legacy to the ranks of a John Dillinger or a Clyde Barrow. The other half focuses on 21st-century Miami homicide detective John Ashley (no relation to the first John Ashley) and the love of his life, a beautiful model named—you guessed it—Laura. While Buchanan, a Pulitzer Prize–winning police beat reporter, clearly knows her way around cops and cop lingo, this time around the devil’s in the details. Detective Ashley’s clean-living life takes dramatic twists and turns eerily similar to those of his Prohibition-era predecessor when he’s wrongfully accused of murder. Alas, Buchanan takes the similarities to an unbelievable extreme. Smooth prose can redeem only in part the credulity-challenging present-day plot. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"solidly written, journalistic...Smooth prose." - Publishers Weekly

"Edna Buchanan's A Dark and Lonely Place is an action-packed South Florida love story that blends fact and fiction, past and present, and ultimately transcends time." - Sherryl Woods, bestselling author of An O'Brien Family Christmas

Library Journal
Buchanan, a former Miami Herald crime reporter well known for her hard-edged suspense novels (e.g., Legally Dead), deviates from her norm as she attempts to tell two stories of star-crossed lovers. In the early 1900s, John Ashley and Laura Upthegrove become folk heroes as they turn to a life of crime rivaling that of Bonnie and Clyde. In 2011, Miami detective John Ashley is enamored of beautiful model Laura, whom he swears he has met before, as he gets caught up in solving a complicated murder that reeks of police corruption. While Buchanan manages somewhat successfully to intertwine the stories, her attempts at local dialect are distracting ("Ah see 'em, darlin'"), and both love stories fall flat. The book's saving grace? The intriguing historical details of the real John and Laura. VERDICT If you're in the mood for a love story, look elsewhere. If you want a crime thriller, try one of Buchanan's earlier titles. However, if you're a fan of historical crime sagas reminiscent of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, give this one a shot. [See Prepub Alert, 5/23/11.]—Julie Pierce, Fort Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., FL
Kirkus Reviews
As if reconstructing the real-life, century-old tale of Florida's most notorious outlaw couple weren't enough, Buchanan (Legally Dead, 2008, etc.) dovetails it with a parallel modern-day story in this ambitious, inventive saga. Florida historians have long remembered John Ashley and Laura Upthegrove as a prototypical Bonnie and Clyde. Separated for years by the lies of Lucy Ashley, the come-hither wife of John's brother Bill, they rediscover each other, light up the bed sheets and head for Miami Beach, a hamlet that visionary millionaire Carl Fisher dreams of making into a major attraction. But their own dreams are waylaid when John kills his Seminole companion DeSoto Tiger and the authorities refuse to accept his story of self-defense, driving him off the straight and narrow and into the arms of bank robber Kid Lowe and a series of equally unsavory accomplices. Meanwhile, back in 2011, the investigation Sgt. John Ashley of Miami Homicide has launched into the shooting of playboy lobbyist Ron Jon Eagle turns intriguing when fashion model Laura Groves seems strangely familiar, then radioactive when two other models are killed and John shoots an intruder who's been waiting in ambush in his house. The parallels between the two stories are many and intricate. Both involve couples named John and Laura on the run after the shooting of a Native American provokes more murders among the law-enforcement community; both Johns are aided by loyal brothers named Robert and shot in the eye by their own allies; and Laura Groves' great-grandmother turns up at the end to neatly tie both stories together. The nonstop action and romance go a long way toward offsetting the frequent shapelessness of both stories--especially the tale of the real-life outlaws, which all too often reads like an extended summary of old newspaper articles.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410444264
  • Publisher: Gale Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 1/4/2012
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 697
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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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Read an Excerpt


Joe Ashley came home late, grim and smelling of whiskey. He woke his wife, Leugenia, and their nine children and told them to quickly pack up whatever they wanted to keep because they had to leave at once and would not be back.

“Was there gunplay?” his wife asked. Her eyes fearful in the lamplight, her voice trembled. “Is anybody dead?”

“No, but a man was shot. He’ll live, but if we don’t leave now, somebody will die.”

She began to pack her best linens in a wooden chest.

The children, still half-asleep and in their nightclothes, began to gather their belongings, except for John, who was sixteen.

“Where are we going?” he asked his father.

“Get your things together, now, son.”

John dressed quickly, carried his guitar and his banjo out onto the front porch, left them on the steps, and broke into a dead run down the dusty road. The dust, white in the moonlight, looked like silk.

His father stepped out and glared after him.

“It’s that girl,” he said bitterly, then moved to go after the boy.

His wife placed her small, worn hand on his forearm and raised her eyes to his. “He just wants to say goodbye, Joe,” she said softly. “You remember how it was.”

He nodded gruffly and caught her in his long arms.

“I got to get busy,” she said after a moment, and gently extricated herself.

“You can’t bring that sideboard,” he said hoarsely, as she turned away. “It’s too big.”

It had belonged to her grandmother.

“We can fit it in the wagon, Joe. Bobby and two of the girls can ride up front with us.”

He nodded and went to harness up the team.

Laura lived a mile and a half away. John arrived breathless, his lungs bursting. The place was dark. He stood beneath her window and whistled three times like a mourning dove, a signal they sometimes used. When there was no response, he found a feed bucket, carried it to her window, stood on it, and scratched the screen three times.

He heard her whisper in the dark. “John?”

“It’s me, Laura . . .”

She was suddenly there, a swift shadow in the dark. He couldn’t make out her face or what she wore but recognized her sweet scent, orange blossoms and roses. At that moment a mockingbird burst into a soaring, full-throated, heartbreaking song in the night. John knew he would never forget the sound or that moment.

“John, what are you—”

The front door burst open with a crash as though kicked by a mule. Laura’s stepfather loped barefoot across the creaky porch in his long johns, brandishing his breech-loading, double-barreled shotgun.

“I got you now, boy!” he shouted. “Freeze right there! Caught you dead to rights climbing into my little girl’s bedroom!”

John stood his ground, heart pounding. He felt no fear. He could die now, he thought, with no regret, outside her window.

“No, sir,” he said boldly. “I did not try to climb into your daughter’s room. I would never do that. I just tried to get her attention, to tell her something important.”

Laura’s mother, in nightclothes and a hairnet, materialized like an apparition on the porch. Laura’s brother, Dewitt, trailed after her. “Mama, what’s happening?”

“Hush, boy!” she told him. “Git yourself back to bed, right now.”

“What could you have to tell our Laura at this time of the night?” her stepfather asked, then racked one into the chamber.

“Daddy,” Laura cried. “Stop! Don’t do anything! Please!”

John turned to her. “Don’t worry, Laura,” he said softly. “We’re leaving tonight. I came to say goodbye. You are my girl, aren’t you?”

“Goodbye? When are you coming back, John?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know, Laura. But I will, I promise. Remember that. I’ll be back!” Out the corner of his eye he saw her stepfather advance.

“Get down from there, you son of a bitch, now!”

“Are you my girl?”

“Yes, Johnny.”

“Sorry, darlin’,” he said. It was the first time he had called her that. He liked the sound of it as he stepped off the feed bucket.

“Git your skinny ass outta here. Now!”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re damn lucky, boy. Last time I came this close to shooting somebody, I did it! Kilt me a Yankee. Git outta here now, afore I shoot you too!”

John stole a fleeting glance at her window then left the way he came. When he arrived home, heartsick and out of breath, the house was empty, his family gone. He and their dog, a bluetick hound that emerged from the woods behind the house, followed the wagon’s tracks for two miles before they caught up with it. His father reached down and with a strong arm lifted both the boy and the dog into the wagon. His mother hugged his neck. “We worried about you, son.”

“No need, Mama. We’re together. Everything’s all right.” To cry in front of his mother would not be a manly thing to do.

Clouds drifted across the moon’s face, darkening the trail ahead. Joe Ashley constantly searched the shadowy road behind them, to see if anyone was following.

John regretted all the things he didn’t say to Laura. Too late now. With a ragged sigh he wrapped his arm around his little brother Bobby who was sitting up, sound asleep.

Is she asleep too? John wondered. Or awake and thinking of me? He knew he’d see her again. But how? And when?

© 2011 Edna Buchanan

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is an exhilarating thriller

    In 1904 West Florida, Joe Ashley comes home late informing his wife Leugenia that they and their nine kids must leave immediately as a man was shot and he will be accused. His son John grabs his guitar and banjo before running to see his girlfriend Laura Upthegrove to say goodbye for now. However, John is falsely accused of murder and with Laura at his side flees with much of the state's law enforcement in pursuit.

    In 2011 Miami Beach, homicide detective John Ashley leads the investigation into the high profile murder of politically connected Indian lawyer Ron Jon Eagle. However, he is stunned when he notices a model Summer Smith at a photo shoot who looks identical to the woman who has haunted his dreams for years; though he has never mentioned his fantasy female to his fiancé cop Tracy Dominguez. He also believes she sort of recognized him too by her reaction. John catches up with his model, but soon is accused of murder and forced on the lam with Laura (Summer's real name) at his side while many of the state's law enforcement pursue.

    This is an exhilarating thriller as the premise to A Dark and Lonely Place is history repeats the ugly scenarios because humanity fails to truly understand the lessons instead preferring to forget. The two subplots are fascinating with the historical segue based on a real Sunshine State Bonnie and Clyde. Although at times the contemporary plot seems stretched to make it appear identical to what happened to the first John and Laura, readers will enjoy Edna Buchanan's taut thriller.

    Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    highly recommended

    I really enjoyed it, a very different story and interesting characters. The only change I would make is, make the transitions between times more clear, it was sometimes confusing due to the same names and places.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    Wooden characters

    This read like a 5th grade novel. Very predictable. Wooden characters so much in love......please....i just could not buy into the plot. If city police are that corrupt/stupid, we're doomed. Does not make me want to read any further fantasy by this author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    Very different but okay

    I did not enjoy this book as much as most that I read. I don't believe I would try another of her books again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2014

    Again a long review is a big put down but did save me from

    buying a half read archived when the blurb said nothing at all again hope for actual page text length genre combos date first published and ratings as to age violence sex language or sybjects that would offend the more sensitive reader like darn silly plots

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 10, 2011

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    Posted August 1, 2013

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    Posted February 23, 2013

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    Posted December 16, 2014

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