Devil's Night
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Devil's Night

5.0 3
by Todd Ritter
     
 

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Two things Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell never thought she would do again: Enter a burning building, and lay eyes on Henry Goll, the man who was trapped inside with her the last time she was in one. So Kat's on high alert when, barely a year after the dust settled around the Grim Reaper killings, both happen on the same day.

She's jolted awake at

Overview

Two things Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell never thought she would do again: Enter a burning building, and lay eyes on Henry Goll, the man who was trapped inside with her the last time she was in one. So Kat's on high alert when, barely a year after the dust settled around the Grim Reaper killings, both happen on the same day.

She's jolted awake at 1a.m. by a desperate phone call telling her Perry Hollow's one and only museum—home to all the town's historical artifacts—has been set on fire. Arriving at the scene, Kat catches just a glimpse of Henry's face among the crowd before she's rushed into the charred building, only to find the museum curator dead…bludgeoned, not burned. Kat has lived through some tense moments and seen some gruesome crimes, but the next twenty-four hours will be the most dangerous of her life as she and Henry seek out a killer and the motivation behind these terrifying crimes.

Todd Ritter returns to the beloved town of Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania with Devil's Night, his most poignant, cleverly plotted novel yet.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Working late one night at her beloved historical museum in Perry Hollow, PA, gets Constance killed when an arsonist targets the building. Her body is found shielding a bag of old bones. Police chief Kat Campbell knows she needs outside help fast. Without warning, the elusive serial arsonist strikes just a few hours later, torching the local bed-and-breakfast. Then a mysterious stranger who claims to be a witch tells Kat that Constance had been researching a possible case of a witchcraft trial in this area. With no time to think or sleep, Kat despairs of getting ahead of this maniac as another fire ignites. Hour by hour, Halloween day passes, and the evening threatens to culminate in a fiery fashion. VERDICT Ritter's thriller series is just right for those who love a story told in a 24-hour frame in which tons of improbable deeds transpire. Readers will be totally wrung out, left wondering how beleaguered Perry Hollow ended up being the sort of town described in Stephen King's horror novels. Don't miss this action-saturated series, now on entry number three (after Bad Moon).
Publishers Weekly
An early-morning fire at the Perry Hollow (Pa.) Historical Museum and Exhibition Hall turns out to be the work of an arsonist, in Ritter’s satisfying third mystery featuring big-hearted police chief Kat Campbell (after 2011’s Bad Moon). Whoever set the fire also appears to have murdered Connie Bishop, the historical society’s president, whose bludgeoned body is found in a crawl space below the museum’s gallery. Written on the victim’s hand in black marker are the words: “this is just the first.” A stranger Kat encounters at the scene may be a suspect. Meanwhile, Henry Goll, who was disfigured in the last major fire in Perry Hollow, a year earlier, unexpectedly reappears from Italy. A sack of old bones adds another puzzle, and an international developer has ambitious, unspecified plans for the town. Ritter smoothly blends history and mystery, tragedy and near-tragedy, as Kat courageously tracks down the culprit. Agent: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“Kat's third shakes up her love life and offers a twisty mystery with enough suspects to keep you guessing to the bitter end.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A series well worth recommending.” —Booklist

“Draws you in irresistibly and doesn't spit you out till the very end, your head spinning with surprising revelations.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred) on Bad Moon

“The ending sets things right in a storm of violence and revelations. An adroit puzzler with a genuinely surprising ending.” —Booklist on Bad Moon

“The sophomore entry in the Kat Campbell series is steeped in deception and lies. Ritter sets the scene using the moon landings as the basis for a succession of crimes and keeps the reader guessing about the final outcome. His fully developed characters complement the flawless pacing.” —RT Book Reviews (4.5 stars) on Bad Moon

Kirkus Reviews
Who's burning down the historical buildings in Perry Hollow, Penn.? Police Chief Kat Campbell is awakened by a call notifying her that the Historical Society building is ablaze. As she arrives, she thinks she sees former local reporter Henry Goll, who almost died with her while investigating the Grim Reaper murders (Bad Moon, 2011). Inside the badly damaged building, Kat discovers the body of curator Constance Bishop. Whoever killed Constance with a blunt instrument left her body resting on a trunk filled with old bones. Kat and her little police department have no dearth of help from the state police and her old pal, former state police officer Nick Donnelly, who produces his girlfriend, a forensic pathologist, to help identify the bones. They discover that Constance had been researching the case of a woman burned for witchcraft 300 years ago and had found the resting place of her body. In the meantime, Henry, who tries to avoid Kat, is in town trying to find out more about the flamboyant Italian financier who just bought a local tract of land for unknown purposes. The next building to attract the arsonist's attention is the inn where Henry is staying. He barely escapes with his life as the building collapses. Nick, less lucky, is hospitalized in critical condition. An exhausted Kat continues to drive herself to identify the killer and the motive for what seem like senseless crimes before the town loses all its historical buildings. Kat's third shakes up her love life and offers a twisty mystery with enough suspects to keep you guessing to the bitter end.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250028549
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/20/2013
Series:
Kat Campbell Mysteries , #3
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
594,061
File size:
683 KB

Read an Excerpt

Devil's Night


By Todd Ritter

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Todd Ritter
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-02854-9



CHAPTER 1

1 A.M.


Kat was dreaming about Henry when she heard the sirens. She had no idea why. It's not as if she dwelled on him so much during her waking hours that it invaded her subconscious at night. In fact, it had been weeks since she thought about Henry, months since she had heard from him, and a full year since she last saw him.

Yet there he was, front and center in her dream. They were in a nondescript room so dim and vast that Kat wasn't sure if it was a room at all. Dreams were like that. Ceilings not supported by walls. Floors as malleable as wet sand. The only thing concrete about their surroundings was the table in front of them — white Formica as bright as a smile in a toothpaste commercial.

On the table were two large sheets of paper, thin and translucent. Henry, staring at his swath of paper, frowned.

"I don't know how to do this."

"It's easy," Kat said. "I'll show you."

She lifted a corner of her sheet to the center, cementing the fold with a crease. Henry followed suit. They did it again, this time simultaneously, with an upper fold.

"See," she said. "I told you it was easy."

Then the sirens started, so distant and muffled that Kat at first thought they were just another part of the dream. But they continued, even after Henry, the table, and the paper all vanished. That's when she knew they were real.

Kat listened without opening her eyes. Although they were far away, she could tell the sirens belonged to the fire department and not her police force. The ones on the fire trucks were louder and deeper — the baritones to her patrol cars' tenor.

Sliding out of bed, she went to the window and saw the reason for the sirens — a fire, glowing orange and eerie in the distance. She couldn't tell how large it was or pinpoint its exact location. All she knew was that she needed to be there, no matter how much she wanted to crawl back into bed. Pausing only long enough to yawn, she started to put on her uniform a mere hour and a half after taking it off.

She was mostly dressed by the time her phone rang. As expected, it was Carl Bauersox, her deputy, sounding much more energetic than she did. On the night shift, he was used to being alert at this hour. Kat was not.

"We've got a fire, Chief."

"I know," Kat said. "I hear the sirens. What's burning?" "The museum."

He was referring to the Perry Hollow Historical Society and Exhibition Hall, a collection of documents, artifacts, and photographs that dated back to the town's founding and beyond. Because of its unwieldy name, and because most of the town's history resided within its walls, people simply called it the museum.

"Is it bad?"

"Looks like it," Carl said. "It's a big draw, too. We're going to have a crowd control problem on our hands in a minute."

This didn't surprise Kat. Fires weren't common in Perry Hollow, and she was sure a good portion of the town would come out to gawk. They certainly couldn't sleep. Not with all those sirens echoing down the streets.

"Hold them off as best you can. I'll be there soon."

When she was finally on the road, her own sirens blaring, Kat noticed that the fire was visible from all over town. Even from six blocks away, she could see the licks of flame flashing over the rooftops of neighboring buildings. A thick column of black smoke, rising straight up into the night sky, punctuated the blaze like an exclamation point.

Crossing Main Street, she noticed plenty of residents staggering along the sidewalk in tossed-on sweatpants, sneakers, and robes. All of them were headed in the same direction she was, drawn mothlike to the flames. Crowd control problem, indeed.

She brought her Crown Vic to a stop a block away from the museum, parking sideways in the middle of the street. It wasn't much of a roadblock, but it would be enough to keep any cars from trying to come through. Plus, it was easy to move out of the way to let in fire trucks from neighboring towns, if it came to that.

Kat hoped it wouldn't.

Leaving her patrol car, she hurried down the street, finally getting a good look at the blaze. It wasn't as big as she first thought, but still bad by Perry Hollow standards. It looked to be contained to the front of the building, a three-story Queen Anne with all the frilly trimmings. Fire ate away at the steeply pitched roof and munched swiftly toward the ornate turret in its center. Flames leaped from the front windows and curled in the crisp autumn air, making Kat think of Satan's fingers beckoning a group of sinners to Hell.

Filling the street in front of the museum were two of the Perry Hollow Fire Department's three fire trucks. A ladder truck and a standard pumper, they formed a wide V on the lawn. In the center, members of the volunteer squad — all five of them — had already unfurled their hoses and were now blasting away at the blaze. The jets of water rose high into the air, arching over the front lawn before diving into the flames.

The squad's third truck, trusty Engine 13, was a 1973 Ford used for brush fires. Despite its age, it was the truck that saw the most action. Brush fires were the norm in Perry Hollow. House fires were not — a fact made noticeable by the sheer amount of onlookers standing on the other side of the street. While Kat had overestimated the force of the blaze, she had underestimated the size of the crowd. Half the town, it seemed, was there, huddling together and gazing at the flames.

Carl tried his best to keep them at bay, but they were an unruly lot. The young men and teenage boys in the crowd were especially eager to get closer to the fire. Kat intercepted two boys, the same age as her son, who had slipped past Carl and made it halfway across the street.

"Where you headed, boys?"

One of them — a freckle-faced kid with a snide smile — answered. "To see if the firemen need our help."

"They don't need anything but for you two to keep at a safe distance."

Kat ushered them back to the curb, yelling to get the attention of the rest of the crowd. "Everyone take a step back and stay there. This isn't a basketball game, people. Courtside seats are not available."

She sidled up to Carl, who was visibly relieved to have reinforcements.

"Just in time," he said, wiping sweat from his perpetually clean-shaven face. "They were starting to overrun me."

"They're just excited. There hasn't been a fire in town since —"

She cut herself off. Not that it mattered. Carl knew what she was going to say anyway. The last major fire in Perry Hollow was at the sawmill the town had been built around. Abandoned for more than a decade, it had gone up in flames a year earlier, with Kat and two others still inside. One of them had been Henry Goll, the unexpected costar of her dream. He and Kat almost died in the blaze. The person with them perished, although that wasn't such a bad thing, considering that he had been trying to kill them.

Feeling the heat of the current fire on the back of her neck, Kat realized that it was the one-year anniversary of the mill blaze. No wonder Henry had been in her dream. Her brain was trying to remind her that it was now October 31. Exactly a full year since the great Halloween fire that destroyed a piece of Perry Hollow history.

Kat faced the burning museum. Although she hadn't been inside it since grade school, seeing yet another part of the town's past go up in flames saddened her. At least she wasn't trapped inside this time. If there was a silver lining to be found, that would be it.

Another bright spot was the fact that the blaze already seemed to be under control. The fire on the roof had receded, leaving the museum's grand turret untouched. The flames at the windows, those devilish fingers, had retreated indoors, allowing the firefighters to march closer and focus on the hot spots.

But as the fire got smaller, the crowd on the other side of the street grew larger. There must have been fifty people there, with still more on the way. They stood in a tight pack, eyes on the fire, murmuring to each other with a combination of concern and excitement that always seemed to occur at scenes of public chaos. Kat spotted a lot of familiar faces in the crowd and nodded or waved. She saw Burt Hammond, Perry Hollow's mayor, sporting a black suit and a face so pale it made him resemble a wax statue. Standing with him was Father Ron, who had been the priest at All Saints Parish for as long as Kat could remember. Nearby were Jasper Foxx and Adrienne Wellington, both of whom owned stores on nearby Main Street. Dave Freeman, whose lawn bore the brunt of the onlookers, passed out Styrofoam cups to the crowd. His wife, Betty, followed, filling the cups with coffee she poured from a thermos.

Pushing past them was a tiny woman with a big perm, a parka thrown over her pink nightgown. Kat recognized the parka — not to mention the hair — as belonging to Emma Pulsifer, vice president of the Perry Hollow Historical Society. Seeing Kat, Emma rushed forward with a manic energy that verged on hysteria.

"Chief Campbell, have you seen Connie?"

Kat knew of at least four Connies who lived in town. "Could you be more specific?"

Emma sighed with impatience. "Connie Bishop."

"Constance?"

"Yes," Emma huffed. "I've been looking for her everywhere."

Constance Bishop, a prim but eminently friendly woman, knew everything there was to know about Perry Hollow. Accordingly, she served as president of the historical society. Kat wasn't sure what that entailed, but she assumed the museum fire was something that would concern her.

"I haven't seen her," she said. "Have you tried calling her?"

Emma held up her cell phone. "Four times. No answer."

She looked up and down the block, head bobbing wildly. With her puffy hair and unfortunately pointy nose, she brought to mind an exotic bird, like something from South America you'd see on the Discovery Channel. The resemblance was only heightened by the way she flapped her arms helplessly.

"I don't know what to do. I thought Connie would be here and have a game plan."

"For what?"

"Saving the artifacts, of course," Emma said. "There are priceless items in that building. We can't just watch them burn."

Kat told her they didn't have much choice in the matter. As long as there were still flames inside the museum, no one but members of the fire department would be going inside. That didn't sit well with Vice President Pulsifer.

"But the deed for the land Perry Mill was built on is in there," she said. "Signed in 1760 by Irwin Perry himself. And rare photographs of the town. And maps. We have items dating back to before the mill. Before the town was even called Perry Hollow. If we don't do something right now, all of it could be destroyed."

Kat looked to the museum again. Two firefighters had used the ladder truck to climb onto the roof, which they sprayed down with foam. Two others were in the process of knocking down the front door. When it gave way, they had to jump back to escape the flames rolling out of it. But they recovered quickly and ventured inside, hose blasting. Next to her, Emma Pulsifer cringed, no doubt imagining all that water damage.

"There's a back door," Emma said with noticeable desperation. "I know the fire's not out, but the town's entire history is in there. If we go through the back, we can try to salvage something."

"This is a tragedy," Kat told her. "It truly is. But I can't let you in there until the fire is completely out. I'm sorry. It's too dangerous."

Emma replied with a short, sad nod, the distant firelight reflecting in the tears that formed at the corners of her eyes. Quietly, she dialed her cell phone, pressed it to her ear, and turned away from Kat.

"Connie? It's Emma. Where are you? Call me back immediately."

Kat looked over Emma's shoulder, checking to see if the crowd was still behaving. They were, although one man near the back was on the move. He towered over the rest of the crowd, showing less interest in the fire than in getting past those who were watching it. Kat only caught a brief glimpse of his face — as pale as a full moon — but it was all she needed. She'd recognize those scars anywhere.

"Henry?"

The man didn't hear her. He continued working his way through the crowd, carrying what looked to be a small suitcase. Kat tried to follow him, practically shouting his name.

"Henry Goll? Is that you?"

She was in the thick of the crowd now, surrounded by people far taller than her five-foot frame. Kat cursed her shortness while squeezing between the two boys she had forced back onto the curb earlier that night.

Exiting on the other side of the crowd, she looked in all directions, seeing no sign of Henry. If it was even him. Kat had her doubts. The last time she had heard from him, he was living in Italy, making it unlikely he'd be walking the streets of Perry Hollow at one-thirty in the morning. Perhaps she had spotted someone who merely looked like him. Maybe it was a trick of the fire-lit night. Or maybe she was simply seeing things. It was late, after all, and her dream had put Henry back into her thoughts.

Concluding that the dream was to blame, Kat whirled around, ready to return to Emma Pulsifer. She instead collided with a man standing on the edge of the crowd.

For a brief moment, she again thought it was Henry. The man was as solid as she remembered Henry being. Bumping into him felt like smacking into a brick wall. Kat almost said his name again, so certain was she that the man she had collided with was the long-lost Henry Goll.

Yet when the man spoke, she immediately realized her error. Henry's voice was deeper and more halting. The voice of the man she had bumped sounded high-pitched and startled.

"Whoa," he said. "Sorry about that."

"It was my fault." Kat wiped a strand of hair away from her face. "I should have been watching where I was going."

"Look before you leap, right?" the man said.

"Exactly."

Kat studied the man a moment, certain she had never seen him before. Since she knew practically everyone in Perry Hollow — if not by name, then by sight — she assumed he was a recent arrival. Or else a visitor. He had the appearance of someone who didn't belong. Although his voice contained no hint of an accent, he looked vaguely foreign, with deep-set eyes the color of coal, sharp cheekbones, and blond hair pulled back in a ponytail.

His clothes, too, were out of place in a jeans-and-T-shirt town like Perry Hollow. His collared shirt was buttoned all the way to the neck. His black pants were too tight and too short. An extra inch or two of white socks poked out from the cuffs before vanishing again into pointy shoes fastened by silver buckles. Over it all hung a black trench coat that was slightly frayed at the sleeves.

Kat introduced herself, hoping the stranger would do the same.

He merely nodded politely. "Nice to meet you, Chief. Have a good night. Don't stay up too late."

He departed, his trench coat fluttering behind him. Kat watched him walk toward Main Street, still unable to shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right about the guy. And it wasn't just because he refused to give a name. It was the whole package — his face, his clothes, his whole manner — that unsettled her. Had the circumstances been different, she would have tried to follow him, just to find out where he was going.

Behind her, the crowd on the Freemans' front lawn erupted into cheers and applause. They were clapping for the firefighters, who had started to emerge from the cloud of smoke still pouring out of the museum.

The fire had been conquered.

* * *

Kat waited to approach the ladder truck until the firefighters had peeled away their turnout gear, their cast-off boots, coats, and helmets littering the grass. She then thanked each of them, doling out a few high fives in the process. She was in the midst of being taught an elaborate handshake by Danny Batallas, the youngest member of the squad, when the fire chief beckoned her over.

Even in his younger days, Boyd Jansen had looked so much like a fire chief that it was inevitable he'd become one. Strong upper body. Thick around the middle. He kept his mustache neatly trimmed, although, like his sandy hair, it gathered more gray with each passing year. Joining him at the front of the ladder truck, Kat greeted him by his nickname.

"Great job, Dutch. You and your boys knocked that fire out in a hurry."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Devil's Night by Todd Ritter. Copyright © 2013 Todd Ritter. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

TODD RITTER, author of Death Notice and Bad Moon, is a career journalist and currently works at The Star-Ledger. He lives in Belle Mead, New Jersey. Devil's Night is his third novel.
Todd Ritter has been a journalist for fifteen years and is currently at the New Jersey Star-Ledger. He has interviewed celebrities, covered police standoffs, and even written obituaries. He lives in suburban New Jersey. He is the author of the mystery novels Death Notice and Bad Moon.

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Devil's Night 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
JerseyBoy More than 1 year ago
Great series. It is a shame it's not continuing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are characters and events mentioned in Devil's Night that are from the author's earlier releases. Highly recommend reading them, as they are just a good as this one, and provide background for this most recent release. Hated to have the book end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful series. Too bad it is ending with Devil's Night. What a shame. I really hope Minotaur Books brings this series back. This is a really sad day in publishing.