Face of a Killer

Face of a Killer

3.1 9
by Robin Burcell

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Facts lie . . . Two decades after the murder that shattered her world, FBI agent and forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick confronts her father's killer face to face. But the inmate who's scheduled to be executed for the crime is not what she expected. Heightening Sydney's unease, she receives a photograph sent to her by a man just prior to his suicide, causing

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Facts lie . . . Two decades after the murder that shattered her world, FBI agent and forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick confronts her father's killer face to face. But the inmate who's scheduled to be executed for the crime is not what she expected. Heightening Sydney's unease, she receives a photograph sent to her by a man just prior to his suicide, causing her to question everything she believed about her father. Now she wants the truth—no matter where it's hidden, no matter how painful . . . or dangerous. But Sydney Fitzpatrick is about to trespass on sacred ground. And being a federal agent will offer her no security or shelter if it's her own government that wants her dead.

Editorial Reviews

Lee Child
“Big story + great character + relentless suspense + expert insider knowledge = one really terrific thriller.”
John Lescroart
“Robin Burcell kicks off a new series character with her trademark authenticity, wit, and pure story-telling prowess. Burcell scores big with this one—it’s a real winner!”
Jan Burke
“Robin Burcell is among the best writers of crime fiction. This book has it all—characters you care about, a complex plot, great pacing, and plenty of intriguing forensic detail. I can’t wait for the next entry in the Sydney Fitzpatrick series.”
Publishers Weekly

In this strong first in a new series from Burcell (Cold Case), San Francisco FBI forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick races to unravel the 20-year-old mystery of her father's murder before the upcoming execution of his convicted killer, Johnnie Wheeler. When Sydney interviews Wheeler in San Quentin against her mother's and stepfather's wishes, Wheeler's claims of innocence have a ring of truth. As Sydney begins to investigate her father's past, she uncovers unsavory secrets linking him and some old army buddies, including one who's now a high-powered U.S. senator, to a bank engaged in illegal activities. Sydney's dogged persistence and willingness to bend FBI rules endangers her family, but an 11th-hour meeting with Wheeler for a new forensic sketch points to the answers she's been seeking. Burcell, herself a former FBI-trained forensic artist, keeps her appealing heroine hopping just a step ahead of mortal peril in this intricately plotted page-turner. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

On the 20th anniversary of FBI forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick's father's murder, a rape victim describes an attacker who resembles Sydney's father's killer, now on death row. Sydney interviews the convicted man; other clues turn up that lead Sydney to believe that he is innocent. As she digs into her father's life, she realizes that she never really knew him and certainly does not understand the motive behind his death. An FBI-trained forensic artist and the author of the Kate Gillespie series (Every Move She Makes; Fatal Truth; Deadly Legacy; Cold Case), Burcell brings her own experience to the fore in creating her protagonist. With a dramatic, gasp-inducing finale, this is a terrific new police procedural series. It might also appeal to readers who enjoy Jonathan Santlofer's thrillers about an NYPD forensic artist. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ8/08.]

—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
An FBI forensic artist finally solves her father's homicide. Sydney Fitzpatrick has spent 20 years forgetting what she knew about her father's death, a robbery gone bad in his pizza parlor. But with just ten days to go before Johnnie Wheeler is to be executed at San Quentin for the crime, Sydney decides she wants to meet him face-to-face. Her remarried mother, appalled, asks family friend Senator Donovan Gnoble, now running for reelection, to dissuade her, but Sydney is undeterred. Soon thereafter, she receives a packet, sent by a Washington office-seeker just before he committed suicide, hinting that her father may have been a blackmailer who took part in Black Ops. Then her ex-fiance appears on her doorstep and warns her to butt out. But Sydney, more and more certain that Wheeler was framed and determined to uncover the truth, tracks down her father's old service buddies, setting herself up as an assassination target in the process. Meanwhile, her regular FBI caseload includes hunting down a serial rapist whose killing spree has led him across state lines. Before Sydney sorts out the good guys from the bad and ties her father's murder to global banking irregularities and coverups, she'll have to deal with bullets in Baja, arson in her apartment and a confrontation that endangers her mother, half-sister and stepfather. Burcell (Cold Case, 2004, etc.) will have conspiracy buffs salivating-as long as they skip the cutesy business with her neighbor's dog and her hunky FBI partner. Agent: Jane Chelius/Jane Chelius Literary Agency

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sydney Fitzpatrick Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Robin Burcell is an FBI-trained forensic artist who has worked in law enforcement for over two decades as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator. A two-time Anthony Award winner, she is the author of four Sydney Fitzpatrick novels—The Black List, The Dark Hour, The Bone Chamber, and Face of a Killer—as well as four novels featuring SFPD homicide detective Kate Gillespie: Every Move She Makes, Fatal Truth, Deadly Legacy, and Cold Case.

Read an Excerpt

Face of a Killer

Chapter One

Sydney Fitzpatrick eyed the bottle of scotch, watched the bartender pour the amber liquid into her glass, and wondered how much of it she'd have to drink to forget it had been twenty years since her father had been killed.

"Leave the bottle," she told the bartender.

"Don't think so."

"You're only going to have to come back."

"Maybe," he said, returning the whiskey to its place among the other bottles, all backlit, shining, each advertising its own brand of panacea.

All false advertising, she thought, finishing her second shot. She would've ordered a third...except her cell phone started vibrating an alert.

Only one sort of call comes in at one in the morning, never mind that Sydney recognized the number: her boss, Dave Dixon. "Fitzpatrick," she announced into the phone. "And I'm supposed to have the day off."

"Day being the operative word. It's dark out, which makes it night, which you didn't request off."

"And I've been drinking."

"Since when do you drink?"

"Since an hour ago," she said, and let him wonder.

Apparently he didn't wonder long. "We need you down here. A Seven matter," he said, giving the Bureau program designator for initiating a kidnap investigation.

Her stomach knotted. She did not need this. Not tonight.

"Did you hear me, Fitzpatrick? Got a kidnap-rape."

"You assigning me the case?"

"No. Just a sketch."

Sydney eyed the bottle of whiskey that seemed to beckon, thinking that even on a good day it was hard enough to interview victims for drawings, hard to get past the mental exhaustion of being inside her victims' heads,knowing the pain and terror they felt . . .

Maybe she should tell Dixon no, but that would require an explanation, and she wasn't sure she wanted to go into that. It wasn't that Dixon didn't know her history. They'd worked together in D.C., used to be friends, at least up until he was promoted and all friendships were checked at the door. The last thing Sydney wanted was for him to worry about her. "I'm just a few blocks away. I'll be right there."

She took some money out of her wallet, paid for her drinks, then walked to the door and opened it. What had been a light sprinkle when she'd left her car at home that October night to drink herself into oblivion, had now turned into a heavy downpour that hammered the sidewalk with a deafening blast. And lucky her, not a cab in sight.

With no umbrella, she'd be soaked, and she was tempted to see if the rain might slow. But then she thought of the waiting that her victim had already endured. In the grand scheme of things, getting wet was the least of her worries, and she stepped out into the driving rain. She hadn't walked more than half a block when the odd feeling of being watched came over her. She stopped, turned, eyed the street up and down, saw nothing but a few parked cars, seemingly unoccupied. Across the street, a couple of women huddled beneath an overhang, smoking a cigarette. Other than that, the streets seemed deserted.

Hearing nothing but the rain, the water sluicing down the gutters into the storm drains, she pulled her coat tighter against the autumn chill. But the farther she walked, the stronger the feeling came that she was being followed. It's only your imagination, she told herself. Even so, she quickened her pace and pressed her right elbow into her hip, wanting to feel the reassuring presence of her holstered Glock...then remembered she'd left it in her desk drawer.

She normally carried the damned thing night and day, but she'd intended to spend the night drinking in a vain attempt to erase not only the anniversary of her father's murder, but also the bitter fight she'd had with her mother over her plans for the upcoming day. It was the same fight they'd had last year and the two years before that. At thirty-three years old, a girl should be able to make up her own damned mind on how she spent her day. Her mother had nothing to do with this, she thought, as a movement caught her eye. Definitely someone back there. She doubled her pace, didn't get far, when a man stepped out in front of her, blocked her path.

She jumped back, her pulse slamming in her veins. The man towered a good eight inches over her, his craggy face barely visible beneath his knit cap and a scarf wrapped around his neck and mouth. A sharp smell of body odor, unwashed clothes, wet, stale, and sour, assaulted her nose.

"Got some change?" he asked, opening his hand, palm up. His other was shoved in the pocket of an army coat, ragged, buttons dangling, held closed with another scarf tied around his waist.

Recognition hit her. Private Cooper was a regular on this block, chased off by the cops on a continual basis, only to return the moment they left. Right now she was grateful for his presence. "Yeah," she said, digging into her purse. She handed him a few bills, then looked back, saw a figure darting into the shadows. Someone was following her, no doubt. The federal building was only two blocks away, and she crossed to the other side of the street, where the building facades were more modern, better lit. If whoever it was thought she was going to be an easy mark, he'd have to come out and get her.

A few minutes later, she waved her access identification across the pad, punched in her code, and with one last look behind her, entered the door of the San Francisco FBI field office. A purse snatcher had been hitting women in the area for a couple of weeks now, and she wondered if that was who'd been tailing her. Not that she could offer any description, she thought, walking down the hall to her office.

Face of a Killer. Copyright © by Robin Burcell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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