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The Dying Game

( 38 )

Overview

Play To Win...

It's the ultimate game--the adrenaline surge of the hunt, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. For in this game, the rules are simple: To win, you only have to kill. To lose, you will have to die...

Play To Scream...

The victims are former beauty queens found with a single rose beside their bodies. Lindsay McAllister has seen this signature before, when she was a rookie detective with the...

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The Dying Game

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Overview

Play To Win...

It's the ultimate game--the adrenaline surge of the hunt, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. For in this game, the rules are simple: To win, you only have to kill. To lose, you will have to die...

Play To Scream...

The victims are former beauty queens found with a single rose beside their bodies. Lindsay McAllister has seen this signature before, when she was a rookie detective with the Chattanooga PD investigating the death of Judd Walker's wife, a murder that sent the handsome lawyer off the deep end. Now, Lindsay has the brutal task of telling Judd that his wife's killer has struck again, and she's going to need his help to outplay their opponent--because the killer is getting bolder, faster, and more ruthless. The game is escalating, and no one is safe.

Play To Die...

Now as the body count rises, the rules are changing. A killer will do anything to win. And the only way for Lindsay to stop a madman's twisted game is to play it herself...

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Judd Walker is still suffering from the brutal murder of his wife almost four years earlier, so the last thing the bitter, reclusive attorney wants is to become involved once more with the Beauty Queen Killer. Still, when Detective Lindsay McAllister informs him that the killing cycle has started again, and this time the murderer has left one victim alive, Judd's quest for vengeance sparks him to action-and back into the land of the living. Romance blossoms reluctantly between Judd and Lindsay as they track a killer who sees murder as a twisted game in this latest chiller from the popular Barton (Most Likely To Die), noted for delivering fast-paced, serial-killer thrillers. She lives in Alabama.


—Kristin Ramsdell
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821776896
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Series: Zebra Romantic Suspense Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 690,734
  • Product dimensions: 4.24 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author BEVERLY BARTON has written over fifty contemporary romance novels and created the popular "The Protectors" series for Silhouette's Intimate Moments line. This sixth-generation Alabamian is a two-time Maggie Award winner, a two-time National Reader's Choice Award winner, and a recipient of a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Adventure. She is currently working on her next novel of romantic suspense for Zebra Books.
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Read an Excerpt

The Dying Game


By Beverly Barton

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2007 Beverly Beaver
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780821776896


Chapter One

There are some things far worse than dying. Judd Walker knew only too well the agony of simply existing, of being neither dead nor truly alive. For the past three years, eight months, and two days, he had lived in a world without Jennifer. In the beginning, the pain had been unbearable. His anger and rage had nourished him, keeping him breathing, allowing him to continue from one day to the next in a fog of torment. And then a few months after his sweet Jenny's funeral, the fog had lifted and his one goal in life had become clear-to find and destroy his wife's killer.

A part of him-some far removed, distant part-still loved Jennifer. Except for that faint, lingering emotion, he felt nothing, only a goddamn, blessed numbness. Even the anger and rage had burned out, leaving him little more than subhuman, caring for nothing and no one. Wanting-needing-only one thing from life: Revenge! His goal of tracking down his wife's killer had become his only reason for living.

Judd dropped to his knees beside the snow-covered grave. He hadn't wanted to come here, had tried his best to stay away; but the overwhelming need to be near Jennifer on their anniversary controlled his actions. February the fourteenth. Valentine's Day. Jennifer had been a hopeless romantic, a trait that he'd thought silly in other women, but had found utterly charming in the woman he loved.

The woman he loved ...

Judd reached out and ran a shaky hand over the chiseled letters on his wife's headstone. She had been laid to rest here in the Walker private cemetery, in Hamilton County, alongside his parents, his older sibling who'd died as an infant, and countless noteworthy ancestors who were a part of southeastern Tennessee history.

As his father before him, Judd had been one of the most sought-after bachelors in the state. A real catch. A former Chattanooga district attorney with a reputation as a man who genuinely cared about the welfare of the citizens of his county. The only surviving child of parents who had each inherited an ungodly fortune, Judd had known wealth and privilege all his life. But he'd wanted more-more than being Judge Judson Walker IV's son, more than being Senator Nathaniel Chisholm's grandson. And more had been expected of him. He had been brought up to believe that he was, and always would be, one of the good guys, a man destined to help his fellow man.

"Why you, Jenny? Why did it have to be you?" Judd shivered as the damp and cold seeped through his jeans, the slushy, wet snow dampening his knees. The winter wind whipped through the old, battered, leather jacket he wore.

In his mind's eye, he could still see Jennifer, the way she had looked the last time he'd seen her alive. Beautiful. Vibrant. Happy.

God help him, he should feel something-anything. He should be crying ... ranting ... raving. Or at the very least, his wife's memory should evoke a sentimental melancholy.

Nothing.

Dry-eyed, cold, and somber, Judd rose to his feet. Before leaving the cemetery, he gazed down at Jennifer's grave one final time. He wouldn't come back again, not even next year on their anniversary. There was no point in pretending to mourn, not when there was only emptiness left inside him, only embers of his once fiery emotions.

"You deserved better, Jenny." Judd's voice blended with the howling winter wind. "If it takes me the rest of my life, I promise that I'll find him, and I'll make him pay for what he did to you."

Judd walked down the narrow path that led to the arched wrought-iron gates guarding the family cemetery. Gazing up at the night sky, he blinked as the melting snow hit his face. With moisture coating his beard stubble and shaggy hair and beading on his leather jacket, he yanked open the driver's door on the old Mercedes that had belonged to his father. He glanced over his shoulder and took a deep breath.

"Happy Anniversary, Jenny."

He slid behind the wheel, inserted the key into the ignition, started the car, and drove away.

The only reason Griffin Powell had accepted Jillian and Gil Russell's invitation to their dinner party was a long, lean, luscious redhead named Laura Barrett. Laura and Jillian had been best friends since their sorority days at Vanderbilt, and Griff and Laura had become casual lovers when he'd invested in her father's faltering horse-breeding farm several months ago. He found Laura, as a person, mildly interesting; as a lover, she was quite talented. Even though she might have originally had a misguided idea that their relationship would lead to marriage, Griff had set her straight, in his own subtle, gentlemanly way. They both understood that this trip to Knoxville would be her last, that their affair was coming to an end.

Laura tightened her grip on Griff's arm. "There's someone you simply have to meet."

"Is there?" Griff replied.

"Yes, darling. It's Royce Palmer." Laura all but dragged Griff across the crowded room.

"Who's Royce Palmer?"

"My ex-fiancé."

"Oh."

"You're not the least bit jealous, are you?"

Before Griff could think of a diplomatic response, Henry Lewis waylaid them. The UT professor placed his thin, bony hand on Griff's shoulder. "Still getting all the pretty girls, I see."

Griff smiled at Hank despite the fact that the feel of the man's hand on his shoulder made him slightly uncomfortable. Even when they'd been students together at the university, Griff had sensed something a little off-center about the guy. They had never been friends, but now ran into each other occasionally at various functions because they both belonged to the alumni association and traveled in the same social circle. The only difference was that Hank had been born rich and thus entitled. Griff had come by his vast wealth through a combination of blood, sweat, and tears.

"Laura Barrett, may I introduce Hank Lewis." He eyed the lanky, slightly balding man. "Or would you prefer to be introduced as Professor Henry Lewis?"

Laura faked a smile. Hank removed his hand from Griff's shoulder and grasped Laura's hand, much to her surprise. She gasped softly.

While Hank babbled his way through what he probably thought was some witty repartee, Griff zoned out and leisurely scanned the Russells' massive living room. The crème de la crème of Knoxville society was in attendance, along with several out-of-towners. Interior designer Mark Crosby spied Griff, raised his hand and waved. Mark was the best in the state, and that was the reason Griff had hired him to decorate both his office suite and his home.

Who was the man talking to Mark? Griff wondered. He looked vaguely familiar, but Griff couldn't quite place him.

"Who's the fellow with Mark?" Griff interrupted the going-nowhere conversation between Laura and Hank.

Gazing up thankfully at Griff, Laura said, "That's Cary Maygarden, from Nashville. We met him at the Fentons' New Year's Eve Ball in Atlanta. Don't you remember?"

"Is he in the country music business?" Hank asked.

"Goodness, no." Laura laughed. "The Maygarden family is one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most prestigious in Nashville. Cary's great-great-something-or-other was a contemporary of Andrew Jackson."

Griff grunted.

"Please excuse us, Hank." Laura tugged on Griff's arm. "We simply have to say hello to an old friend before we leave."

"We're leaving?" Griff grinned. Nothing would please him more.

"Of course we are. I'm returning to Louisville in a few days. I want you all to myself for a little while this evening."

Hank choked on his own saliva and awkwardly excused himself.

"Very effective," Griff said, once Hank was out of earshot.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You as good as told old Hank that you intend to have your way with me tonight."

"I do," Laura said, a wistful expression on her lovely face. Then her expression changed, hardened; and she laughed. "Let's call it what it is, shall we?"

"And that would be?"

Still smiling, she lowered her voice ever so slightly. "A farewell fuck."

Never let it be said that Laura didn't know how to make a point. Griff placed his hand on her back and let it trail slowly downward, stopping just below her waist. When she started to speak, he grasped her elbow and maneuvered her forward, directly toward her former fiancé. Before they reached Royce Palmer, Griff leaned down and whispered in Laura's ear.

"I think a farewell fuck should always be memorable, don't you?"

As if she hadn't even heard him, Laura held out her hand to the man she had once been engaged to. "Royce, darling, how good to see you." She turned to Griff. "Sweetheart, this is Royce Palmer, an old and dear friend." She hugged closely to Griff's side as she zeroed in on the other man. "You know Griffin Powell, don't you? The Griff Powell, UT legend, and one of the most sought-after bachelors in the state of Tennessee."

Shortly after three in the morning, Pinkie removed his tuxedo jacket and hung it in the closet, then removed the diamond cuff links from his white shirt and placed them in the jewelry case. He'd left the party rather early because he'd been bored.

Pinkie hated being bored.

But a man in his position had to attend a certain number of these mundane affairs. It was expected.

After removing his shoes and stripping out of his other clothing, he retrieved a pair of silk pajamas from the wardrobe drawer. He stroked the luxurious fabric. Pinkie bought only the best.

Once attired in his pajamas, leather house slippers, and quilted satin robe, Pinkie went downstairs and entered his study. After pouring himself a small nightcap, he walked straight to the wall of bookshelves on the right, removed a specific book, pressed the button on the wall, and waited for the secret compartment to open. That's what he loved about this old house-the secret chambers. Like something out of a 1930s movie. How utterly delicious. There was one chamber between the study and the front parlor and another in the basement. Since he seldom went down to the basement, except when he personally retrieved a bottle of wine, he preferred the small, private, upstairs chamber.

Entering this room transported Pinkie into another world, a realm of pleasure and satisfaction that he had created for himself four and a half years ago. He flipped on the light switch. Soft, mellow illumination filled the eight-by-fourteen-foot room. He moved slowly along the back wall, studying the photographs mounted side by side. Thirty-two enlarged photos of sixteen different women, each one a true beauty. Pinkie paused in front of the most recent addition to his collection: Gale Ann Cain-before and after. The before photograph had been taken years ago when she'd won the Miss USA contest and gone on to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant. The after snapshot had been taken with Pinkie's tiny digital camera moments after he had killed her, less than forty-eight hours ago.

"Thank you, my pretty flower," Pinkie said. "You were worth twenty points."

After months of searching, he had specifically chosen Gale Ann because of her fabulous red hair. Redheads were the most rare and therefore worth more than a blonde or brunette.

His fingertips traced his handiwork, gliding smoothly across the snapshot, pausing on her slender ankles.

The sound of her screams echoed inside Pinkie's head.

The first kill had been the most difficult. He had hated the woman's screams. But with each kill, the act itself had become easier, and eventually, he had begun to enjoy hearing their screams.

* * *

"The Beauty Queen Killer has struck again."

The words were no sooner out of Sanders's mouth than Lindsay McAllister shot out of bed and ran barefoot to the open doorway of her bedroom where her boss's personal assistant stood. He had awakened her moments before with a loud knock and an urgency in his voice when he called her name.

"Have you gotten in touch with Griff?" she asked, knowing their employer had probably spent the night with his latest lady friend, a Kentucky divorcée who was visiting her sorority sister in Knoxville. The woman's family raised thoroughbred Derby winners, and Griff had invested in the faltering horse-breeding farm last fall. She often thought her boss had a white knight complex. He seemed to like nothing better than rushing in to save the day.

"Yes," Sanders replied. "He's on his way home. He should be here soon."

"Give me fifteen minutes to shower and dress," Lindsay said.

Sanders nodded. Not for the first time, she noticed the man's military bearing. Although she had worked with him for three and a half years, she knew absolutely nothing about his past, but she suspected that at sometime in his life, he had been a soldier. She had no idea how old he was, but guessed his age to be somewhere between fifty and sixty. At five-ten, he was not a large man, but stocky-built, and with his head shaved as slick as a billiard ball, he looked like a muscular, physically fit fireplug. But what set him apart more than anything else were his eyes. An intense brown so dark that they appeared black. And there was an emptiness in those hypnotic eyes that perpetually puzzled Lindsay.

"I'll have coffee ready for you when you come down." Sanders turned to leave.

She called to him, "Who, where, and how?"

Sanders paused, but kept his back to her. "Gale Ann Cain. Williamstown, Kentucky. He chopped off both of her feet."

"She was a dancer." Lindsay voiced the comment more to herself than Sanders. The killer that the Powell Agency had been tracking for nearly four years murdered his victims in various ways, each specific to the former beauty queen's talent in her pageant's contest.

Sanders's shoulders tensed ever so slightly. "Lyrical dance. She's a former contestant in the Miss Universe Pageant."

"You mean she was," Lindsay corrected.

"No, I mean she is. Ms. Cain is still alive."

"What!"

"She didn't die. Her sister found her before she bled to death."

"My God! Do you know what this means?"

Sanders nodded, then walked away.

Lindsay's heartbeat accelerated. Her pulse pounded loudly in her ears. After over three and a half years of searching for a manically clever killer, they had finally gotten a break. If the victim was still alive ...

Lindsay closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for a woman she had never met, for a woman lying in a Kentucky hospital, missing both of her feet, the victim of a man to whom murder was some sort of sick game.

After closing her bedroom door and heading to the bathroom, Lindsay shucked off her oversized orange Vols T-shirt and slipped out of her white lace bikini panties.

When she had first moved from Chattanooga to Knox County to take a job with the Powell Private Security and Investigation Agency, she'd taken Griffin Powell up on his offer to stay at his sprawling twenty-room mansion situated on a hundred acres bordering Douglas Lake, near the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She had intended to stay only until she'd found an apartment of her own, but what should have been a one-month stay had turned into three years and counting.

Lindsay turned on the shower, then gathered up a couple of towels and a washcloth. After placing the towels on the mat outside the ceramic-tiled shower unit, she stepped beneath the warm water and quickly lathered her short hair.

Some people assumed that because she not only worked closely with the big man himself but she was the only Powell agent who lived in Griff's home, the two were lovers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Through their years together-each of them having their own agenda for being obsessed with the beauty queen murders-she and Griff had formed a bond of friendship. He had become more like a protective big brother than anything else.

Stepping out of the shower, Lindsay towel-dried her short, curly hair and hurried through her daily morning routine. She was a low-maintenance kind of woman. Short hair, short nails, a little blush on her cheeks, light lip gloss, and a whiff of fresh linen body spray. On her downtime, she dressed for comfort. On the job she preferred a casual look-slacks, shirt, and jacket, all in neutral shades. Her only jewelry, other than a sensible Fossil wristwatch, was a pair of diamond ear studs. A Christmas present from Griff.

After dressing hurriedly, Lindsay ran down the backstairs that led to the massive kitchen. Sanders stood behind the granite-topped bar, a glass coffeepot in his meaty hand. Griffin Powell, his unbuttoned overcoat hanging apart to reveal his rumpled white shirt and tuxedo, halted in the doorway leading into the kitchen from the mudroom, and wiped his snow-smeared dress shoes off on a sturdy floor mat.

Lindsay paused on the bottom step as her gaze zipped from Sanders to Griff. A silent understanding passed between her and her boss. They were both thinking the same thing-how will this affect Judd?

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Dying Game by Beverly Barton Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Beaver. Excerpted by permission.
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.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 38 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    action-packed cat and mouse thriller

    In Chattanooga though her husband Judd would object to her showing off a house at night, realtor Jennifer Walker agrees to take a potential customer and his wife to see an expensive mansion. However, instead of a sale that she would use to furnish a nursery, the man slices off her hands before killing her. He leaves behind a rose and a devastated spouse, who hires his friend¿s Powell private investigative firm to uncover the identity of the killer. --- Over the next three years and eight months, twenty-nine beauty queens starting with Jennifer have been butchered by the Beauty Queen Killer, but so far there is no progress in apprehending the culprit. Judd has stopped living except for his obsession to wrap his hands around the killer¿s neck. That is until now. Apparently in Williamstown, Kentucky Barbara Jean Hughes visiting her sister saved Gale Ann Cain¿s life after the killer sliced off her legs. Griff Powell sends former Chattanooga detective, employee Lindsay McAllister to see Judd, whom she fell in love with when she was still a cop while he grieved his loss then but now Judd shows interest as he demands to join the hunt for a deadly deranged predator. --- THE DYING GAME is an action-packed cat and mouse thriller with several incredible yet plausible twists that will shake readers into leaving the lights on all night. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the psychologically damaged survivors like Judd and the sisters who make the tale real. A romantic subplot is deftly interwoven into Beverly Barton¿s tense thriller and readers will look forward to the sequel starring Griff and his FBI enemy combatant. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2014

    Wow

    Wow! Excellent romantic suspense book! I couldn't put this book down until I was finished! And what a finish it was! Fantastic plot and I loved the characters! Can't wait to read more! Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2014

    Wow

    Wow! Excellent book! I really enjoyed this romantic suspense thriller! Fantastic plot! I loved the characters! Can't wait to read the next book! Loved it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 20, 2013

    This is an awesomely scary book that will keep you guessing almo

    This is an awesomely scary book that will keep you guessing almost until the end. I was completely unable to guess the identity of the killer and had to wait until the author was ready to reveal whodunnit. There appears to be another book with the same characters. I will definitely be looking it up, because I thoroughly enjoyed The Dying Game. Read it. It's good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    great book

    This book kept me on the edge of my chair, I didn't want to put it down. I am looking forward to reading the next one, The Murder Game.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Maybe 3.5 stars...

    I have read several of Barton's books now and was a bit disappointed in The Dying Game. I didn't really like Lindsay's obsession with Judd, but kept reading hoping the story would overshadow it. Unfortunately, the story never really got past it. I would only recommend this if you are reading Barton's books in order that involved the Powell Agency, as this book leads straight into The Murder Game.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    A Good Read! xD

    This is a very good read. I recommend for those who like suspense/romance/mystery packed. Lindsay was always there to comfort Judd because she understood and wanted to relieve him even when she knew he didn't care for anyone/anything than revenge. He's thought that getting drunk and waiting for results of his killer's wife and living remotely truly is his life, and he had thought that his friends, even his best friends, had given up on him, but Lindsay had pulled them back and gave this big rich stubborn man a hug. haha

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  • Posted November 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Thrilling

    A page turner. I could not put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2007

    Really hard to get through

    I¿ve tried to figure out who disgusted me most in this book, Judd or Lindsay and it¿s too close to call. When Jenny Walker is murdered and her hands cut off, Lindsay McKenna is the first detective on the scene. She witnesses Judd arriving and holding his dead wife in his arms while pouring out his grief. She supposedly falls in love with him right then. She even quit her job and took one at the Powell Agency so she could be near, and help, Judd. Judd was a self-pitying, obnoxious, entitled, arrogant, mean drunk. If I¿d heard one more ¿my Jenny¿ from Judd I would have screamed. He and ¿his Jenny¿ seemed to have had nothing in common except that they looked good together. They didn¿t like to do the same things so Judd always caved and did what she wanted. Jenny was constantly flirting with other men in front of Judd and had dated both Griff and Cam before she ¿honored¿ Judd by selecting him. Judd used Lindsay as his whipping post, abused her, used her love against her and she kept coming back for more. Lindsay was pathetic, whiny, and masochistic, following Judd around like an adoring puppy for FOUR YEARS. For all that time she makes no secret, to anyone, how much she loves him, even though he¿s treated her with complete contempt from the beginning. Six months earlier when making one of her visits to ¿poor Judd¿ at his hunting lodge, he nearly rapes her, shoves her out of bed, laughs at her and tells her when he ¿screws¿ her he¿ll be pretending she¿s Jenny just like he has with all the other women since Jenny¿s death. He constantly hurt and humiliated her in public and out but she kept making excuses for him. Lindsay had no self respect, no pride, no dignity and continues to make a complete fool of herself for the entire book. She¿s an embarrassment to women. I rolled my eyes so many times it¿s a wonder they¿re not stuck to the back of my head. Griff is no prince either. He¿s an arrogant, chauvinist user who thinks his money entitles him to anything, legal or illegal. I liked him in other books but not crazy about him in this one. Why did I give this a three instead of a two? The plot was unique and riveting. I liked the characters of Sanders and Nic. Hopefully Griff will improve in the next book and Judd & Lindsay will be nowhere around!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2007

    book lover

    This book was not good as the last book she wrote last year. It was very boring and I have to skim some pages. This is my 2nd time reading her book. It was horrible as much as stephen king. She should be the next Stephen king.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2007

    very good

    this is my first book from this author, and i highly recommended it. it was such an easy read and well written.

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    Posted July 5, 2011

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    Posted January 9, 2013

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    Posted June 25, 2011

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    Posted November 23, 2008

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    Posted June 4, 2011

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