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Dead Line

Dead Line

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by Brian McGrory

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Lauded by critics and Washington insiders alike for his debut novel The Incumbent, and its national bestselling sequel, The Nominee, Brian McGrory returns with the third sensational thriller featuring intrepid newspaperman Jack Flynn.
For his entire career, Jack Flynn has been like a heat-seeking missile in pursuit of news, with the exclusive goal


Lauded by critics and Washington insiders alike for his debut novel The Incumbent, and its national bestselling sequel, The Nominee, Brian McGrory returns with the third sensational thriller featuring intrepid newspaperman Jack Flynn.
For his entire career, Jack Flynn has been like a heat-seeking missile in pursuit of news, with the exclusive goal of splashing his revelations on the pages of his beloved Boston Record. But now he comes across a story that might be the hardest -- and maybe the last -- of his life.
Jack is the recipient of an explosive tip involving Toby Harkins, the fugitive leader of an Irish mafia and estranged son of none other than Boston Mayor Daniel Harkins. Toby also happens to be the prime suspect in the heist of a dozen priceless treasures from the Gardner Museum -- the largest unsolved art theft in American history. But no sooner does the morning paper hit the newsstands with Jack's shocking story than a beautiful young woman, the mysterious whistleblower, is shot in the head. As Jack digs into a conspiracy that winds from the back rooms of City Hall to the genteel parlors of proper Boston, he must come to terms with the fact that he has caused an innocent's death, and that the FBI may be using him in a deadly game of cat and mouse in which the players involved aren't nearly who or what they seem. As a result, Jack begins to question the integrity of the job to which he has devoted his adult life.
Engaging, suspenseful, and crackling with newsroom energy, Dead Line once again offers the kind of explosive action that's all in a day's work for Jack Flynn, a hero whose dogged search for truth may not last him until press time.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
At its best, the novel calls to mind another Boston-based series, Gregory McDonald's irreverent Fletch novels. Most people who have been around the newspaper business for three or four decades will tell you it's not as much fun today as it used to be. In McGrory's Jack Flynn novels, despite the soul-searching, it's still fun. — Patrick Anderson
Publishers Weekly
In his third gripping political thriller (after The Nominee), McGrory-a columnist for the Boston Globe-brings back Jack Flynn, ace reporter at the fictional Boston Record as, once again, Flynn sniffs out corruption in high places. Young government lawyer Hilary Kane is fleeing an abortive alcohol-fueled tryst with Daniel Harkins, Boston's aging mayor, when she chances upon a file in the mayor's computer incriminating the mayor's infamous son, Toby Harkins, one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives. A few nights later, Flynn is clandestinely contacted at a Red Sox game by legendary FBI agent Tom Jankle, who feeds him an exclusive story that the Feds have evidence linking Toby Harkins to the 13-year-old unsolved art heist at the Gardner Museum, the biggest art theft in history. Shortly after the Record breaks the story, Flynn catches a fleeting glimpse of Jankle while watching a live telecast beamed from the parking garage under Boston Common where Hilary Kane has been found shot dead. Puzzled that the FBI is trying to take jurisdiction in what should be a local homicide, Flynn breaks into Hilary Kane's apartment and is discovered by her sister, Maggie, who tells him that his front-page story caused Hilary's death. Shortly afterward, Maggie calls Flynn saying she is being stalked. Flynn arrives in Copley Square just in time to save her from an assassin's bullet, but she disappears into the crowd. After one of the stolen paintings is delivered to Flynn at the Record, the trail leads to Rome and Paris before the sleuthing reporter locates Maggie and learns that the mayor has never lost contact with his hoodlum son and has knowledge of the art theft. Ending with a white-knuckle showdown between Jankle and bad seed Toby, this top-notch thriller is rich in newsroom atmospherics, wry humor and credibly flawed good guys. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
McGrory's third novel featuring Boston star reporter Jack Flynn (after The Incumbent and The Nominee) revolves around the actual theft of valuable paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. When Flynn writes a story that links the son of Boston's mayor to the crime, the woman who gave him the tip is shot to death. Jack's investigation is a mirror image of real-life journalism, full of revelations and scandals-not surprising coming from a onetime reporter and current columnist for the Boston Globe. The novel also reveals a fascination with the practicalities of the craft, e.g., "ledes," and the mysteries of editing, and readers will take pleasure in the robustly drawn Flynn and his sidekick, Vinny Mongillo. While Jack is the point man and takes the risks with the shadowy sources (and deals with the ladies), Vinny adds a surprising dimension to the pair's exploits. These two love their work and their city and tell great stories. McGrory's fast-paced, witty, and bold novel is a sure-shot choice for all public libraries.-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church City, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A storied real-life crime leaps out of yesterday's headlines to throw Boston Record reporter Jack Flynn (The Nominee, 2002, etc.) and those around him into danger. Thirteen years after thieves looted the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and made off with 11 paintings valued at $30 million (all a matter of historical record so far), government lawyer Hilary Kane, whose fiance's pat infidelity has already ruined her day, emerges from an impromptu tryst with Mayor Daniel Harkins with more than a glow. Files she's accidentally discovered on Harkins's computer link his son Toby, a notorious mobster, to the heist and to His Honor, who continues to maintain for the record that he hasn't seen his son in ten years. When Jack, acting on a tip from a shadowy yet famous FBI agent who's somehow come into possession of the secret, publishes an article that connects the dots, somebody exes out Hilary in record time. Overcome with remorse-perhaps intensified because his main squeeze, New York Times reporter Elizabeth Riggs, has just announced both her pregnancy and her departure from his life-Jack vows to get the whole story, even though (a) his best lead, Hilary's grief-stricken sister Maggie, wants nothing to do with him, and (b) the whole story is pretty obvious already. Fortified by his heroic determination, Jack steps out of his Clark Kent job into a hyperspace most closely associated with James Bond, rich in pointless side trips to the Eternal City and the City of Light and with dead lovelies replaced like soiled dinner plates by spare lovelies, all adorned with similes as well-worn, as Jack might say, as Dean Martin's taste for whiskey. It's all as predictably overscaled, and as syntheticallyexciting, as a summer movie. Readers surviving the gratuitously glam thrills may well agree with Jack's demurral: "Not that this has anything to do with the price of Spam in Kuwait." Agent: Richard Abate/ICM

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Friday, September 19

Life shouldn't be this complicated. That's what Hilary Kane was thinking as she took another sip of overpriced red wine at the bar at Jur-Ne, a pretentiously slick lounge in the newer Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Boston. Well, she was thinking of that and exactly what had made it so complicated.

On either side of her, two coworkers, Amanda and Erica, prattled on about the energy and emotions that go into raising only mildly maladjusted kids. Men in suits coming from their jobs with mutual fund companies and white-shoe law firms jostled past for much-needed drinks. The too-cool bartenders were taking their time serving $13 Dirty Martinis.

None of it had the slightest effect on Hilary, who continued to sip her wine at a rapid clip and stare out the movie screen-size windows at the fading light of the city streetscape.

She had become a bad cliché, she told herself, queuing up the scene yet again in the videocam of her mind. She had been in Phoenix the week before on a rare business trip, a legal conference that her boss had sent her to. She had called her fiancé, Chuck, at 11:00 P.M., Boston time, eight o'clock her time, to wish him good night. She had said she'd see him when she arrived home the next evening, Saturday, his birthday. They'd have a nice dinner at a restaurant where she had already made a reservation. She didn't tell him that she planned a morning surprise.

And that's what she did. A few hours after her call, she climbed aboard the redeye flight from Sky Harbor International to Logan Airport. She took a cab to their Beacon Hill apartment. As she walked into the building foyer with her luggage in her hand, she had this vision that she'd find him standing before the bathroom mirror, shaving, the stereo playing Clapton or maybe B. B. King. She could picture the wide grin that would break out across his handsome face, the deep, familiar hug, the I-missed-yous and the happy birthdays as the two tumbled into their king-size bed.

She put the key into the hole and turned the lock. She nudged the door open with her shoulder. She walked into a silent apartment, and immediately, she knew something was wrong.

The first thing she smelled was Chinese food, and she looked over to her left at her loft-style apartment and saw open containers sitting on the coffee table next to a pair of used plates and two empty wineglasses. When she moved closer, she saw one of the glasses was smeared with lipstick. One of Chuck's shirts was tossed haphazardly on the floor.

She looked slowly to her right, toward the rear of the apartment, her open bedroom area, her stomach churning so hard she thought she might throw up. She had known him a year and a half. When they first met, he was a high-flying software entrepreneur, about to sell his company to one of the giants for an obscene amount of cash. He was magnetic and charismatic and justifiably confident. It took him about an hour to have her completely charmed.

Then the sale fell through. His company washed out in the receding high-tech tide. He went from expectations of a hundred million dollars to barely having bus fare, so he moved out of his penthouse apartment and came to live with her.

He'd get up every morning, read the papers from front to back, then sit at her computer in the bay window and plot out the next big thing. She went off to her sometimes grinding job as a government lawyer. It wasn't great, but it was a life. They were due to be married in six more months.

As she walked toward the back of the apartment, she heard her cat, Hercules, crying for help. Someone, she saw to her disgust, had shut him inside his tiny airline carrier. She looked at the rumpled bed, at the shoes -- men's and women's -- that were tossed haphazardly around it, at the clothing that littered the hardwood floor.

Then she focused on the closed bathroom door and listened for a moment to the pale sound of cascading water that came from within. She moved toward it, slowly, quietly, steadily, as if she were sleepwalking. She allowed her hand to rest for a moment on the brass knob. Then she pushed the door open, not forcefully, but decisively.

Instantly, she was met by humidity, the sound of the streaming water, the smell of lathered soap. She stood in the doorway staring through the floor-to-ceiling door of the glass-paneled steam-shower at her boyfriend having sex with a woman she had never previously seen, the shower jets pelting against their hair, the big droplets of water streaming down their respective bodies.

She stood watching them for an awkward, agonizing moment, as if they were an exhibit at a zoo, not out of any curiosity, but because neither of them had noticed her enter the room. Finally, she picked up a tube of toothpaste from the vanity and fired it at the shower door. Chuck whirled around and, in a voice muffled by the glass and water, called out, "Honey, no!"

She heard the woman ask, "Is that her?" At least that's what she thought she heard. Chuck turned off the water. He flung open the door and grabbed two towels that were hanging on a nearby hook. He handed one to the blonde woman, who began unapologetically drying herself off as if she didn't have a worry in the world.

"We need to talk, Hil," Chuck kept saying as he tamped his body dry.

Standing in the doorway, she thought for a moment about retrieving the Big Bertha driver -- his birthday gift -- hidden in her closet and bashing in both of their skulls.

Instead, she looked at the floor and said, "Get out. Both of you." What else, she wondered to herself, could you say?

She watched the blonde wrap the towel around her body and step out of the shower. Chuck stood there in the middle of the bathroom giving Hilary a pleading stare. Hilary walked back into the apartment and toward the front, setting herself down on a stool at the breakfast bar in her kitchen. A few minutes later, the woman walked wordlessly out of the apartment, Chuck about two minutes behind her. Hilary dissolved into tears and fury, and hadn't seen him since.

"Over at the Whitney School, they make the parents take a psychological test. If your kid gets in, it's $18,000 for kindergarten. That's when they should give you the damned test, to figure out if you're crazy for paying it!"

That was Erica, the coworker, a chinless, thirty-something woman in a Talbots' suit who was racing uncontrollably toward an early middle age.

Amanda, who seemed to sport not only her chin, but Erica's as well, said, "Well, Hilary will live all this soon enough." She looked at their younger, far more attractive coworker and asked, "What is it, six months until the big day?"

The big day, Hilary thought to herself. Right. The big day was last week, the day that changed her life, the day that would forever leave her jaded.

But to them, she nodded halfheartedly and said, "Yeah, six months." She hadn't told anyone yet of her relationship's horrific demise.

As Amanda launched into another question, the young bartender in black delivered Hilary another glass of wine. At that moment, a familiar man in a dark blue suit approached the three women, and Amanda and Erica greeted him as if they were in junior high, the former even shrieking his title -- "Mayor!" -- as she placed both hands on his wrist. Hilary, no great fan of the mayor's, turned toward the bar and rolled her eyes. This was not shaping up to be the escapist cocktail hour she had hoped it would be.

At that point, the night became a case study of one thing turning into another. Specifically, two glasses of wine turned into six, Amanda and Erica eventually, reluctantly, turned and headed for the door. Mayor Daniel Harkins turned from a loathsome egomaniac into an emotional crutch, and still later, a potential conquest, someone who could make a tattered psyche feel whole again, even if only for a moment.

All of which explains how Hilary Kane and the mayor ended up at his apartment on the twenty-eighth floor of the Ritz-Carlton at 2:00 a.m., drunkenly and awkwardly pulling off each other's clothes. She wanted to be desired, to be able to look in the mirror the next morning and know that this man absolutely had to have her.

After fifteen minutes of remarkably mediocre, alcohol-inhibited sex, Harkins placed a meaty forearm across his eyes and began to snore. Hilary climbed out of his bed, slowly and delicately, not out of any sense of courtesy, but for fear that if she woke him up, she'd have to spend another minute in his conscious presence. She pulled on her clothes -- far quicker, she thought to herself, than the slutty blonde the week before.

She tiptoed outside his bedroom with her shoes in her hand, then sat on a high-back leather chair at a desk in his living room and looked at the blinking light on his computer. On the walls all around her were pictures of the mayor with various governors, senators, presidents, movie stars, and heads of state. She felt cheap in a way that she had never felt before: pathetic, insecure, and needy. She thought for a moment about quickly logging on to her email account to check one more time if Chuck had sent her a note of apology and explanation. She thought better of it, slipped her clogs on, and swiveled away from the desk.

But in a moment of weakness, standing before the desk, she flicked the computer mouse with her hand and the monitor came alive with light. Rather than a desktop, she was staring at a Word document, a file called Toby. She began scanning, and her hand instinctively rose to her mouth in fascination. She scrolled down, gripped by its contents, listening intently for any sounds from the bedroom. As she reached the second of what looked to be several pages, she struck the Print button.

The printer emitted the labored sounds of warming up, then began slowly churning out pages. As it did, Hilary clicked the Window field, saw another file called TOBY 2, and clicked on it. A new document, loaded with facts and names, filled the screen. She hit Print again.

She began collecting pages from the printer, when it suddenly froze up. A box appeared on the computer screen telling her she was out of paper. She looked in the printer basket and estimated she was about one page shy. A sound came from the bedroom, Danny the dolt rising to his drunken feet. She rolled the papers up in her hand, clicked on "OK" on the "Out of paper" box, and made for the door. The lights on the printer continued to blink a warning.

She pulled the door slowly shut behind her and bolted down the long hallway. What she needed was a taxicab. What she wanted was a shower. What she didn't know was that the beginning of the end was upon her.

Copyright © 2004 by Brian McGrory

Meet the Author

Brian McGrory was a roving national reporter for the Boston Globe, as well as the Globe's White House correspondent during the Clinton administration. He is now a columnist in the newspaper's Metro section. The author of three bestselling thrillers -- The Incumbent, The Nominee, and Dead Line -- he lives in Boston. Find out more at

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