Dead Giveaway (Stillwater Trilogy Series #2)

( 17 )


The Reverend Lee Barker went missing nineteen years ago...

And the people of Stillwater, Mississippi, believe they know why. They're convinced he was murdered--by his stepson, Clay Montgomery. But only Clay--and his mother and sisters--can say for sure. They were the only ones there that fateful night, the only ones who know what really happened. And they're not talking.

Allie McCormick is a cold-case detective from Chicago. After a ...

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The Reverend Lee Barker went missing nineteen years ago...

And the people of Stillwater, Mississippi, believe they know why. They're convinced he was murdered--by his stepson, Clay Montgomery. But only Clay--and his mother and sisters--can say for sure. They were the only ones there that fateful night, the only ones who know what really happened. And they're not talking.

Allie McCormick is a cold-case detective from Chicago. After a particularly difficult divorce, she's returned to Stillwater with her six-year-old daughter to find the peace she once knew in her hometown, and to work for the local police force while she's starting over. But when Clay's powerful enemies join forces to put him behind bars, Allie feels duty bound to uncover the truth. Her instincts tell her he didn't murder the Reverend Lee Barker.

Maybe Clay's a dark and brooding man with more than his share of secrets, but he was just sixteen at the time. And he's not a cold-blooded killer. At least, that's what Allie believes--until she finds proof that behind the preacher's pious demeanor lurked the heart of a monster.

Then she has to ask herself whether justice has already been done....

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780778328865
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Series: Stillwater Trilogy Series, #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 328,002
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.
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Read an Excerpt

Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning; but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing.

—George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

English novelist 1819–80

They hadn't meant to kill him. That should've mattered. It probably would have—in a different time, a different place. But this was Stillwater, Mississippi, and the only thing smaller than the town itself was the minds of the people living in it. They never forgot and they never forgave. Nineteen years had passed since Reverend Barker disappeared, but they wanted someone to pay for the loss of their beloved preacher.

And they'd had their eye on Clay Montgomery from the beginning.

The only bit of luck that had gone his way was that, without a body, the police couldn't prove Clay had done anything. But that didn't stop them—and others—from constantly poking around his farm, asking questions, suggesting scenarios, attempting to piece together the past in hopes of solving the biggest mystery Stillwater had ever known.

"Do you think someday he'll come back? Your step-daddy, I mean?" Beth Ann Cole plumped her pillow and arranged one arm above her head.

Annoyance ripped through Clay despite the beautiful eyes that regarded him from beneath thick golden lashes. Beth Ann hardly ever pressed him about his missing stepfather. She knew he'd show her the door. But he'd let her come over too much lately and she was beginning to overrate her value to him.

Without answering, he kicked off the blankets and began to get out of bed, only to have her grab hold of his arm. "Wait, that's it? Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am? You're not usually so selfish."

"You didn't have any complaints a minute ago," he drawled, glancing pointedly over his shoulder at the claw marks she'd left on his back.

Her bottom lip jutted out. "I want more." "You always want more. Of everything. More than I'm willing to give." He stared at the delicate white fingers clutching his darker forearm. Normally, she would've recognized the warning in his expression and let him go. Tonight, however, she went straight into her "how can you use me like this" mode, an act she put on whenever her impatience overcame her good sense.

The cloying sound of Beth Ann's voice bothered Clay more than usual. Probably because he'd so recently had bad news. The police chief's daughter, Allie McCormick—a police officer herself—had returned to town. And she was asking questions.

Swallowing a curse, he rubbed his temples, trying to alleviate the beginnings of a headache.

The pounding only grew worse when Beth Ann's voice rose. "Clay, are we ever gonna move beyond a physical relationship? Is sex all you're interested in from me?"

Beth Ann had a gorgeous body and occasionally used it to get what she wanted—and he knew what she wanted right now was him. She often wheedled or pouted, trying to coax him into a marriage proposal. But he didn't love her, and she understood that, even if she liked to pretend otherwise. He rarely made the first move, hardly ever asked her out, never made any promises. He paid her way if they went anywhere, but that was a matter of courtesy, not a declaration of undying devotion. She initiated most of their contact.

He remembered the first time she'd come to his door. From the day she'd moved to town nearly two years ago, she'd flirted with him whenever possible. She worked in the bakery of the local supermarket and did her damnedest to corner him the moment he crossed the threshold. But when he didn't immediately fall and worship at her feet, like all the other single men in Stillwater, she'd decided he was a challenge worthy of her best efforts. One night, after a brief encounter at the store, during which she'd made some innuendo he'd purposely ignored, she'd appeared on his doorstep wearing a trench coat—and not a stitch of clothing underneath.

She knew he couldn't ignore that. And he hadn't. But at least he didn't feel guilty about his involvement in her life. Maybe she liked to act as though he was the sex fiend and she the benevolent provider, but after experiencing her voracious appetite over the past several months he had his own opinions about who'd become the provider.

"Let go of my arm," he said.

Obviously uncertain, she blinked at the edge in his voice and released him. "I thought you were starting to care about me."

Presenting his back to her, he pulled on his jeans. Sexrelaxed him, helped him sleep. Which was why he'd let his relationship with Beth Ann continue for so long. But they'd just made love twice, and he felt more wound up than ever. He couldn't stop thinking about Officer Allie McCormick. His sister Grace had told him she'd been a cold case detective in Chicago—a damn good one. Would she finally bring an end to it all?


Beth Ann was getting on his last nerve. "I think maybe it's time we quit seeing each other," he said as he yanked on a clean T-shirt.

When she didn't answer, he turned to see her gaping at him.

"How can you say that?" she cried. "I asked one question. One!" She laughed in a manner meant to suggest that he'd completely overreacted. "You're so jumpy."

"My stepfather is not a subject I'm prepared to discuss." She opened her mouth, then seemed to reconsider what she was about to say. "Okay, I get it. I was tired and didn't realize how much the subject would upset you. I'm sorry."

She should've told him to go to hell and walked out. He scowled. Although he'd tried to make it clear that he was the most emotionally unavailable man she'd probably ever meet, she was becoming attached. He didn't understand how, but there it was, written all over her face.

He had to make a change. He wasn't even willing to admit he had a heart, let alone open it to anyone. "Get dressed, okay?" he said.

"Clay, you don't really want me to leave, do you?" He used to send her home as soon as they were finished, so there could be no confusion about the nature of their relationship. But the past few times they'd been together, she'd faked sleep and he'd let her stay the night.

Softening his stance had been a mistake. "I've got work to do, Beth Ann."

"At one in the morning?"


"Come on, Clay. Stop being a grump. Get back into bed, and I'll give you a massage. I owe you for that dress you bought me."

She grinned enticingly but with enough desperation to make his neck prickle. He should've said goodbye a month ago. "You don't owe me anything. Forget me and be happy."

Her eyebrows shot up. "If you want me to be happy, that means I matter to you."

Determined to be completely honest—or at least retain his hard-ass image—he shook his head. "No one matters to me."

As tears slipped down her cheeks, he silently cursed himself for not seeing this coming. Perhaps he'd relied too heavily on the fact that BethAnn wasn't a particularly deep person. Anyway, she'd get over him as soon as some other man strolled through the Piggly Wiggly.

"What about your sisters? You love them," she said.

"You'd take a bullet for Grace or Molly, even Madeline."

What he'd done for his sisters was a case of too little, too late. But BethAnn wouldn't understand that. She didn't know what had happened that long-ago night. No one did, besides him, his mother and his two natural sisters. Even his stepsister Madeline, Reverend Barker's only natural child, had no clue. She'd been living with them at the time, but as fate would have it, she'd spent that night at a girlfriend's.

"That's different," he said.

Silence. Hurt. Then, "You're an asshole, you know that?""Better than you do, I'm sure." When he wouldn't give her a target, she drew herself up onto her knees. "You've been using me all along, haven't you!"

"No more than you've been using me," he replied calmly, and pulled on his boots.

"I haven't been using you! I want to marry you!"

"You only want what you can't have."

"That's not true!"

"You knew what you were getting into from the start. I warned you before you ever peeled off that trench coat."

She glanced wildly around the room as though stunned to recognize he was really through with her. "But I thought…I thought that for me you might—"

"Stop it," he said.

"No. Clay." Climbing out of bed, she came toward him as if she'd wrap her arms around his neck and cling for dear life.

He put up a hand to stop her before she could reach him. Not even the sight of her full breasts, swinging above her flat stomach and toned legs, could change his mind. Part of him wanted to live and love like any other man. To have a family. But he felt empty inside. Dead. As dead as the man buried in his cellar. "I'm sorry," he said.

When she saw how little her pleading affected him, her top lip curled and her eyes hardened into shiny emeralds. "You son of a bitch! You…you're not going to get away with this. I…I'm going to…" She gave a desperate sob and lunged toward the nightstand, grabbing for the phone.

Because Beth Ann was so prone to histrionics, Clay guessed she was playing some kind of dramatic game, possibly hoping to get one of her many male admirers to drive over and pick her up, even though she had a carparked outside. He watched dispassionately. He didn't care if she used the phone, as long as she left right afterward. This was a blow to her pride, not her heart, and it couldn't have come as a surprise.

But she pressed only three buttons and, in the next second, screamed into the receiver: "Help! Police! Clay Montgomery's trying to k-kill me! I know what he did to the rev—"

Crossing the room in three long strides, Clay wrenched the phone from her and slammed down the receiver. "Have you lost your mind?" he growled.

She was breathing hard. With her gleaming, frantic eyes and curly blond hair falling in tangles about her shoulders, she looked like an evil witch. No longer pretty.

"I hope they put you in prison," she said, her voice a low, hateful murmur. "I hope they put you away for life!"

Scooping her clothes off the floor, she hurried into the hall, leaving Clay shaking his head. Evidently she didn't grasp that she already had her wish. Maybe he wasn't in a physical prison, but he was paying the price for what had happened nineteen years ago—and would be for the rest of his life.

Officer Allie McCormick couldn't believe what came through her police radio. Pulling onto the shoulder of the empty country road she'd been patrolling since midnight, she put her cruiser in Park. "What did you say?"

The county dispatcher finally swallowed whatever she had in her mouth. "I said I just got a call from 10682 Old Barn Road."

Allie recognized the address. She'd seen it all over the case files she'd been studying since she and her six-yearold daughter had moved back to Stillwater and in with her parents several weeks ago. "That's the Montgomery farm."

"There's a possible 10–31 C in progress."

"A homicide?"

"That's what the caller said."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The story continues

    My emotions are running wild! I just want to leap into the pages and help.There's no ending here you must run and get book three [Dead Giveaway] Hurry!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2014


    J: Pretty good story.

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  • Posted April 25, 2014

    Must read!!!!

    This book was one I couldn't put down! Brenda Novak does her usual wonderful job in book writing.

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  • Posted January 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Hard book to put down. Luckily we had a a lot of snow and since

    Hard book to put down. Luckily we had a a lot of snow and since I hate snow it was able to stay indoors and read. I really loved Allie and Clay's story. A few surprises also in the book. I never knew what would happen next. Can't wait to read the final book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

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  • Posted April 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Couldn't put it down...

    I thought the first book in this trilogy was great, but somehow Novak made this one even more suspenseful and fast paced. It's not very often that I finish a book and have to immediately start the next in the series, but I can't wait to find out how the story ends. Definitely recommend starting at the beginning with Dead Silence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    This story had me from the first page, just like Dead Silence did. Brenda Novak is very talented. She knows how to draw the reader in, in ways some more well published authors don't. The main and supporting characters in this series are all realistic and the main characters very likeable. This book has edge of your seat suspense and sizzling romance. Ms. Novak can definitely inspire many emotions in the reader. Can't wait to get started on Dead Right.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    A reviewer

    Talented author Brenda Novak weaves yet another tale of romance, suspense and deception in this the second book in the Stillwater trilogy, Dead Giveaway. After a painful divorce, detective Allie McCormick comes back to her childhood town of Stillwater to start a new life with her six-year old daughter. Of course, it doesn¿t hurt that her father happens to be the chief of police and offers her a job. Immediately, Allie begins to work on a cold case¿the strange disappearance of Reverend Lee Barker nineteen years ago. But the time factor is not the problem. The main problem is the chief suspect, handsome and brooding Clay Montgomery, who everybody in the town hates and believes to have murdered the Reverend. As the investigation unfolds, and Allie falls deeper into her relationship with Clay, she realizes the man she has fallen in love with could not be capable of murder. She decides to help him to the end, even if that means putting herself in danger and fighting the whole town and its most important family. Will she succeed? And what if the famous Reverend, who everyone respected to much, turns out to be the most despicable of criminals? Surprising twists and turns and a couple of interesting sub-plots keep the story moving at a fast pace until the very startling ending. Novak has a keen gift for combining suspense and romance, as well as for creating real, sympathetic heroines and darkly mysterious heroes that beautifully stand out from the typical stereotypes of the genre. The way Allie `solves¿ the case at the end is smart and unexpected. Dead Giveaway will draw the reader in different levels--both intellectually and emotionally, making this a very compelling read. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A fast-paced romantic suspense thriller

    In Stillwater, Mississippi almost two decades ago highly regarded Revered Lee Barker vanished without a trace. His family with one noted exception and the townsfolk believe that either his second wife or his then teenage stepson Clay Montgomery killed him. However, no proof or corpse was ever found so no one was arrested for the crime.------------ Former Chicago cold case Detective Allie McCormick accompanied by her six years old child Whitney has come home to work for her father, the Stillwater police chief following a divorce from a person who detested their daughter for no reason except her ¿intruding¿ on their lifestyle. Allie plans to uncover the truth behind the Barker disappearance, but also finds herself attracted to the prime suspect Clay, who she thinks knows what happened but is protecting someone probably his mom, his two sisters or his stepsister. ------------------ Noted for her fast-paced romantic suspense thrillers, Brenda Novak heats up Mississippi with this cold case investigation. The fascinating twist to the tale is that fans know early on that Clay knows what happened to the missing Reverend and Allie believes he is innocent, but protecting someone. The support cast is top rate as each has a reason to either conceal the truth or want the truth revealed. The romance adds fun as Allie begins to doubt her professionalism as she falls in love with the townsfolk only suspect. As with DEAD SILENCE and BIG GIRLS DON¿T CRY, Ms. Novak writes a tense suspense laden tale.---------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    Dead Giveaway-A Joyfully Recommended Title

    Everyone in the small town of Stillwater, Mississippi believes that Clay Montgomery had murdered his stepfather. No one knows the real truth except for Clay, his mother and sisters. The ugly truth is something that Clay is determined to keep hidden and for more reasons than just keeping himself out of jail. Allie McCormick is a cold-case detective from Chicago who returns home to be with her family after her divorce. Trying to carve out a new life for her and her daughter, she takes a job with the local police department, a job that makes her father her boss and puts her in direct conflict with Clay. Even though everyone believes Clay is a murder, Allie sees a different side of him. A side that makes her rethink that long held belief and as she starts investigating she discovers that things are nothing like they appear. As she and Clay grow closer, so do many truths, truths which will devastate more than Clay and his family, but also Allie's family as well. I had been waiting for Dead Giveaway since the moment I finished the last page of Dead Silence and as soon as it arrived I drove in! Murder, small town secrets, love and passion grabbed me, and I was unable to stop reading. I found it difficult to like or come to care for Allie's father or Clay's mother, however Clay and Allie drive this story with the love that neither were looking for. Brenda Novak is a storyteller that keeps the twists and turns coming so that you don't know what's going to happen from one moment to the next. I don't know how I'm going to wait for Dead Right, the last book in this trilogy! Melissa Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed

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    Posted July 21, 2009

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    Posted December 29, 2010

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    Posted October 25, 2012

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    Posted December 28, 2011

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    Posted November 14, 2008

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