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False Accusations
     

False Accusations

4.0 85
by Alan Jacobson
 

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False Accusations is a twisting psychological thriller, a tale of deadly revenge where the assurance of "innocent until proven guilty" is not what it seems.

In the predawn hours of a quiet Sacramento suburb, respected orthopedic surgeon Phillip Madison is charged with double homicide--a cold-blooded hit-and-run that has left a young couple dead. Blood evidence

Overview

False Accusations is a twisting psychological thriller, a tale of deadly revenge where the assurance of "innocent until proven guilty" is not what it seems.

In the predawn hours of a quiet Sacramento suburb, respected orthopedic surgeon Phillip Madison is charged with double homicide--a cold-blooded hit-and-run that has left a young couple dead. Blood evidence ahs brought the authorities to his door. An eyewitness has placed him at the scene of the crime. And Madison has no alibi.

As his privileged world is brought crashing down by a psychotic seductress, as family and friends abandon him, Madison's only hope for vindication rests in revealing a truth at the heart of a lie. It's a disclosure that could cost him more than he ever imagined.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
A good doctor is slapped with vehicular manslaughter charges after two bodies are found twisted, bloody, and bent on the side of a Sacramento road in Alan Jacobson's debut thriller, False Accusations. But is Dr. Phillip Madison really to blame? Or is it a vindictive, psychotic ex-colleague who'll stop at nothing to reap her revenge?
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An apparent hit-and-run accident involving a car he owns results in a charge of vehicular manslaughter against an orthopedic surgeon in this laborious debut by California medical evaluator Jacobson. Two people die in what turns out to be a deliberate killing in a minority neighborhood in Sacramento, and Philip Madison's Mercedes is sighted as the vehicle, although he claims he was home in bed asleep, an alibi he can't prove. After he is arrested, Madison's attorney hires PI Ryan Chandler, an ace forensic investigator who will turn out to be the white knight of this narrative. Madison is already in trouble up to his neck: a beautiful but unstable volunteer worker for a mental health organization that Madison serves as president has suddenly and illogically accused him of rape. In the fallout from Brittany Harding's accusation, Madison's wife leaves him, taking the kids. It becomes clear quickly, as Brittany's emotional problems are drawn in large and stereotypically shrill outline, that she is the real killer. With all tension thus removed from the story, the author trots out some recent technological gains in forensics--saliva from the rim of a beer can for DNA sampling, retrieving and comparing Brittany's lip prints from a cigarette. There is far too much information about the novel's myriad cast of minor characters; numerous subplots add little to the main story; and a smattering of pharmaceutical and medical jargon essentially extends the slim material but does not enliven it. Moreover, Brittany's vindictive behavior is never explained; she merely acts out of female delusional fantasies. The trial is flat and predictably melodramatic. Jacobson's prose can best be described as wooden and graceless. This clunky attempt proves that forensic knowledge does not a writer make.
Library Journal
The evidence leaves no room for doubt that it was Dr. Phillip Madison's car that struck and killed two people in a bad part of town late at night. Madison, a Golden Boy surgeon, has no alibi but insists that he was framed by Brittany Harding, who has an unsavory history of extorting her employers with false accusations of sexual harassment and rape. She had tried to do this with Madison, though her plan fell through. Ryan Chandler, detective and friend of Madison, turns the case around, uncovering some forensic clues that would make Kay Scarpetta proud, including DNA samples from saliva on beer cans found in the car's back seat that incriminate Harding. This reversal sets up a surprise ending, which comes rather late in the game. Even abridged, the story seems padded, as we witness events happen, then go over them again as Chandler finds evidence, and then again during the trial. Jacobson, through reader Zeljko Ivanek, handles aspects of the investigation well, even expertly, but his characters, given to huge chunks of expository speech, are too often simply interchangeable. A marginal purchase.--John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Mystery Reader
A slick thriller...You may think you know what's going on, but there are several suprises in store. Likely to appeal to fans of Grisham and Crichton, False Accusations measures up well.
Kirkus Reviews
A debut suspenser that takes something from Patricia Cornwell, something from John Grisham, and manages a bland blend of both. Like E.A Robinson's Richard Cory, Dr. Phillip Madison, orthopedic surgeon, glitters when he walks. A talented, caring physician-they don't call him "King of Sacramento General Hospital" for nothing-he is, in fact, a medical golden boy. At home, he has a beautiful, appreciative wife and two adorable children. But thriller writers specialize in turning gold into dross, and in a blink there's poor Phil arrested, charged with vehicular homicide, and hauled off to jail. Two people have been run down and left for dead-and there's not much doubt that the killer car belonged to Phillip. Moreover, he has no alibi. A worrisome situation, Jeffrey Hellman, his friend and lawyer, tells him, while proclaiming enduring belief in Phillip's innocence. If Phillip is innocent, though, then he must have been framed. But by whom? To Phillip the answer is obvious: Brittany Harding. Hired by Phillip to fill a key hospital job, Brittany seemed at the time a perfect fit. The braininess, however, is merely packaging-for a female viper. Complaints about her arrogance and rudeness mount, and soon Phillip has to tell her the hiring might have been a mistake. She goes ballistic. Faster than you can say Catherine de Medici, she becomes a stalker, degrades his life, accuses him of rape, and ends, he insists, by planting the evidence that has him facing 20 years. Beleaguered, he enlists the aid of forensic investigator Ryan Chandler (that's the Cornwell part). Ryan finds the critical DNA evidence that results in Phillip's release and Brittany's jailing. She goes on trial big-time (theGrisham part). Will she be convicted? Will she walk? What is justice in Brittany's case?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671026790
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
01/21/2000
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 4.26(h) x 1.26(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

DECEMBER 1
11:26 P.M.

The dark blue car snaked around the curve, its headlights slicing like razors through the dead air. It slithered through the neighborhood, hunting for food, sniffing out its prey. With one punch, the large engine muscled up from thirty-five to sixty in less than three seconds, its hunger for speed ravenous.

The man crossing the street caught a glimpse of the looming vehicle and twisted backward, shoving his companion toward the sidewalk --

But there wasn't time.

The car's bone-crushing impact threw the woman onto its hood, then tossed her aside...while the engine yanked the man underneath its front end, swallowing him whole.

The dark vehicle lurched slightly as its tire ran over the fallen prey. It then sped off down the street, hung a sharp left, and slipped into the pitch of night.


11:59 P.M.

The man's torso was twisted, his head a bloody mess, with bits of brain tissue scattered around his crushed skull. The woman's body was much more intact, having slid off the side of the car's hood after being thrown up into the air by the initial impact. Her legs appeared to be broken and were bent into an unnatural position, the way a rag doll sometimes lands when a child tosses it aside after she has finished playing with it.

Most of the available officers in the City of Sacramento that night had been diverted to the minority neighborhood of Del Morro Heights to contain an escalating battle sparked by a broad crackdown on gang-related activities. When the call came in to investigate the discovery of a possible hit-and-run several blocks away, the twoofficers who responded anticipated more of the same, an offshoot of the hostilities.

But they were wrong.


Officer Larry Sanford slammed his car door and ran over to the woman, who was lying faceup in the street; the other victim was obviously deceased. Both were black, he noticed. Sanford pulled a hand out of his leather glove and felt her neck for a pulse. "Shit," he said, the vapor that emanated from his mouth tailing off into the cold night air. He looked up and down the street, but saw no one. He glanced over to his partner and shook his head.

"Dispatch, this is Unit Nine," the other officer said. "We've got a Code Twenty on San Domingo Street. Notify homicide. Securing crime scene."

"Roger, Unit Nine."

"She's still warm," Sanford said. "Let's get this area secured." Using a roll of yellow warning tape, he established the boundaries of the crime scene while his partner blocked off the street and its adjoining arteries with traffic cones. Although out of the academy only six months, they both knew the routine: quick response, safeguard and preserve. That is, secure the crime scene to protect all materials in the vicinity because everything was considered evidence until proven otherwise. No one -- not even another police officer -- was to enter the crime scene until the detectives arrived. One of the most significant threats to a homicide investigation was the disruption of physical evidence: nothing in the scene was to be disturbed, moved, stepped on, or contaminated in any manner.

With the thermometer at 33 degrees, Sanford rolled up the fur collar on his standard-issue blue nylon jacket and shoved his hands into his pockets. He sucked a mouthful of damp air into his lungs: rain was on the way. He sent his partner back to the gang-related conflict while he stood watch over the crime scene.


In his boxing days, Detective Bill Jennings had a flat, rock hard gut. Some thirty years later, the musculature was stretched thin by the ravages of abuse, resulting in a bulging beer belly. Nevertheless, he carried his weight well and never hesitated to throw it around, both literally and figuratively...sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.

By the time Jennings arrived at San Domingo Street, his partner, Angela Moreno, was already there surveying the scene. Moreno, thirty-five years old with short-clipped brown hair, nodded at Jennings as he approached.

"Long time no see," he said.

"Yeah, what, three hours?"

"What've we got here?" he asked as they walked over to the two bodies.

"Looks like a hit-and-run. Got two of 'em," she said, kneeling down in front of one of the victims. "And we've got some broken glass. A headlight," she said, turning over a large fragment and looking through it.

"Don't touch it," Jennings said, grasping her arm. "Saperstein should be here in a few minutes."

"You called Saperstein again?"

"He was the one on call."

"You haven't even looked over the scene. It's just a hit-and-run. We don't need a criminalist poking his nose all over the damn street to tell us what we already know."

"The man single-handedly saved my career, Angela."

Moreno waved a hand. "I read the reports, Bill. It was a clean shoot."

"Of course it was. But a white cop had just shot and killed a black kid. The media had a juicy story and took it for a ride. And with the election and all, I was a fucking political hot potato...people were tossing me around like I had the plague or something." Jennings shook his head. "I was guilty before the body was cold. Everyone bailed out on me except Saperstein."

"I heard all about it. Don't you think I checked you out before I took this assignment?"

"You never told me that," he said. "You checked me out?"

"I vaguely remembered reading something in the paper about it. Then my Vice partner started getting on my case, telling me I should look into it." She placed the glass fragment back where she had found it. "The comments you'd made back in eighty-seven with Stockton PD didn't help any."

"Yeah, well those were taken out of context -- "

"You don't have to explain," Moreno said. "I checked into it."

Jennings stood up, his five-nine frame putting him eye-to-eye with his partner. "When Saperstein took the stand and started explaining that the shoot happened the way I said it did, I felt vindicated. He had all these formulas that showed I was standing where I said I was, and that the perp had turned to fire on me." He pulled a pair of crumpled leather gloves from his pocket and struggled to insert his pudgy fingers. "Without Saperstein's analysis of the physical evidence, those accusations would still be hanging over my head. So don't give me shit about using a criminalist. I'm gonna use one anytime I can. And if you're smart, when you're primary, you will too."

"But this just looks like a simple hit-and-run," Moreno said.

"I don't care. What it looks like and what it turns out to be may be two different things. I'm not taking any chances."

With the assistance of several other officers who had just arrived on the scene, they quickly canvassed the surrounding blocks to try to ascertain if anyone had seen or heard anything relative to the murders. Thirty minutes had passed when a car drove up to the yellow police tape half a block away. Out stepped a man in his mid-forties, his hair an uncombed mess, his suit coat creased and covering a severely wrinkled shirt.

Stuart Saperstein exchanged pleasantries with Jennings and received a cold reception from Moreno, who was apparently silently protesting his need to be there. No doubt sensing the tension, the criminalist excused himself and began the task of documenting the scene by arranging a handful of halogen floodlights a short distance from the bodies.

He opened his field kit and within a couple of minutes was on his hands and knees, examining each of the bodies. He measured distances and calculated angles, dictating his findings into a microcassette recorder. Steam was rising off the hot floodlights against the cold, damp December air.

Squinting at the ruler through his reading glasses, he motioned for the identification technician who had just arrived to photograph and document the scene. "As soon as I mark this, let's get a series of shots. When you take the midrange shot, I want to be in it."

"You're so vain," Jennings said, leaning over his shoulder.

"It helps for the jury to see me at the crime scene examining the physical evidence. It gives me an advantage over the defense's expert -- "

"I know, I know. Just giving you shit."

Moreno shook her head and walked off down the block in the direction of an officer who was approaching with a man at his side.

Saperstein stood up and faced Jennings. He tilted his head back and looked at the detective through his reading glasses, which were resting on the tip of his bulbous nose. "You look like shit."

"Thanks. So do you."

Saperstein smiled. "Yeah, but I always do." He motioned to Moreno, who was nearing the officer down the block. "She doesn't like me."

"Nothing personal. She just didn't think a criminalist was needed here."

"She's new to Homicide, huh?"

"Transferred in from Vice three months ago."

"Well, I guess I'll have to prove her wrong. Teach her a lesson." Saperstein bent down to measure again. He was a perfectionist, and with good cause: when there were no obvious suspects, homicide detectives often relied heavily on the criminalist's interpretation of the scene. If he could accurately ascertain what had happened, he could then surmise why it happened -- which could help determine the sequence and mode of death, the victim's position at the time of the deadly blow, or how many shots were fired in a gun-related homicide. Often, the physical evidence the criminalist gathered at the crime scene was enough to narrow the field of suspects, help locate the perpetrator, or obtain a confession from him.

Jennings looked up and saw that Moreno was talking to the man the officer had brought over: a witness. As he made his way toward his partner, he rubbed his gloved hands together to bring blood and warmth to his numb fingertips.

"What do we got?" he asked as she flipped her notepad closed.

Moreno nodded at the man to her left. "This is Clarence Hollowes. Says he heard a big bang around eleven-thirty, ran out into the street, and saw a car leaving the scene."

"I don't want to get involved with no po-leece," Hollowes said, jawing on a piece of gum. He was dressed in clothing that was even more wrinkled than Saperstein's. He was unshaven and his hair was peppered with gray.

"Is that right," Jennings said. "Why not? Got something to hide?"

"Po-leece mean trouble. That's just the way it is. You get involved, you get in trouble."

"We're not going to cause you any trouble, are we, detective?" Jennings glanced at Moreno, who frowned at him. More fallout from having called Saperstein. He turned back to his witness. "What can you tell me about the car?"

"Well, as I was telling this lady here, it was dark colored. A fancy one, real shiny, kind of like a Mercedes."

"Was it like a Mercedes, or was it a Mercedes?"

"I'm not an expert or nothing on fancy cars, but it was a Mercedes. I'm pretty sure."

"He got a partial plate," Moreno said.

"Oh. You saw the license plate, sir?"

"Yeah, like I told her, I saw two numbers. A two and a C."

"Did you get a look at the driver?"

"Looked like a white guy. Wearing a baseball hat."

"Did you see a logo or anything on the hat?" Jennings asked. He hesitated a moment. "Maybe there was something on it, I don't remember."

"What'd the driver look like?"

"You know, a white guy."

"Old or young?"

"Neither."

"Beard?"

"Uh, no beard, I don't think."

"Any distinguishing marks?"

"Just a white guy. Didn't see his face. Drove by me real fast."

"Did you see what color hair he had?"

Hollowes shrugged. "Nah, too dark. Too fast."

"What about the car? Any dents, broken lights or windows?"

"Man, I don't know. It happened fast, you see? Bang, boom, I ran over and saw the car leaving. Then I saw them bodies in the street."

"I'm gonna give you my card," Jennings said as he pulled a wallet out of his jacket pocket. "Call me if the car comes by here again, or if any of your friends say they saw something, okay?" He looked at Moreno. "You got his address?"

"Ain't got no address," Hollowes said.

Jennings had already guessed the man was homeless -- which made him very grateful for the information he had provided. In his experience, the homeless tried not to get involved, preferring to function outside of society.

"In that case," Jennings said, "call us collect."

Hollowes took the card and studied it.

"Oh," Jennings said. "One last thing. Did you touch the bodies?"

"Touch them?" he asked, looking down at the ground. "Now why would I do something like that?"

"You know, to get some change, a buck or two for food."

"I just took the cash, that's all. Gotta eat, you know?"

"Did you take anything else? It's important that we know," Jennings said.

"You see? Talk to the po-leece, get in trouble."

"No trouble, Mr. Hollowes. We're not gonna arrest you. It's just that we have to know if you took a wallet, or anything like that. We'd need the identification to tell us who these people are."

"No. Just the money. There was eight bucks in his wallet, twelve in hers. They were dead. They ain't gonna miss it."

"Did you move the bodies in any way?"

"No. I didn't touch no dead bodies. Just took their money."

Jennings nodded. "Thanks again for your help. We'll be in touch."

"They good people," Hollowes said.

"Who are?" Moreno asked.

"Them," Hollowes said, nodding at the bodies.

"You know who they are?"

"Can't remember their names. They help us get a place to stay on nights like this when the cold go way down to your bones."

"You mean they did this for the homeless, like it was their job?" Moreno asked.

Hollowes nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"Is there anyone who'd want to hurt them?" Jennings asked.

"None of us, that much I can tell you. They been good to us."

Moreno nodded. "If there's anything else you think of, please give us a call."

Hollowes turned to walk away. "Them rich people think they can flash them fancy cars in our neighborhood..." he said as he walked off out of range of the streetlight's glow and into the shadows of a nearby tree.

"I was wondering the same thing," Jennings said to Moreno. "What the hell is a white guy doing driving a Mercedes in Del Morro Heights at eleven-thirty at night?"

"Taking a shortcut?"

"A shortcut on life, you mean. The guy's lucky they didn't catch him."

"They?"

"The neighbors," Jennings said as they walked back toward Saperstein. "It would've made our job easier."

"How so? We'd have three murders to write up." They exchanged a smile as Jennings fastened the top button of his overcoat.

"You know, this could've been personal," Jennings said. "Something related to their work with the homeless."

Moreno nodded. "Possibly."

"Detective!" yelled an officer who was jogging down the street toward them. "We just got a call from someone with a partial plate on the car."

"Another witness?" Moreno asked.

"Don't know," said the man, who was heaving mouthfuls of fog into the air. "It was an anonymous call. The desk sergeant thinks it was a female voice. She said she saw a dark Mercedes sports sedan," he said, looking down at his notepad, "with a license of two, C, and O or U. Couldn't see the driver's face. Driver was wearing a baseball hat, and was weaving a bit about a block away from where we found the victims."

"Did she say where she witnessed it from?" Moreno asked.

"No."

"Have them run a voice print analysis on the tape. I want to know more about this caller," Jennings said. "Anonymous tips are bullshit."

"Can't get a voice print."

"Why the hell not?"

"Call didn't come in on the 9-1-1 line. She called the division directly. They don't record incoming calls. She was in a real hurry to get off the line. Didn't want to get involved."

They headed back toward the bodies as a light rain began falling.

"So what's the story?" he asked Saperstein, who was placing a couple of plastic bags filled with specimens into a nylon duffel bag, out of the drizzle. "Hit-and-run. The car left with a broken left headlight."

"That's it? A broken headlight?" Moreno shook her head. "I already knew that."

Jennings, ignoring Moreno's comment, reached into the male victim's coat and removed a wallet. "What about the speed of the car?" he asked Saperstein.

"Judging by the damage to the bodies and the tire marks down the street, the driver must've been accelerating. He came off that curve," he said, nodding to the area down the street, "and brought it up to, oh, about fifty, maybe sixty, would be my preliminary estimate, at the time of impact."

Jennings looked over at Moreno, as if to say You wouldn't have known that. She threw him a look that had daggers attached to it.

"What else can you tell us?" Jennings asked, moving over to the woman's purse and examining its contents.

"It doesn't appear as if the windshield was broken," Saperstein said. "But I bet there'll be clothing fibers on the wipers, and probably on the bumper or fender area."

Jennings nodded.

"Oh, there's something else. We can probably get a partial tire print for you off the blood around the male victim."

"What about the woman?"

"Judging by the position of her body, it appears that she was thrown onto the hood of the car. Probably died from internal hemorrhage."

"Are there any other tire marks in the street?"

"Aside from the one around the male and the one down the block, none that I've seen, but I haven't had a chance to fully survey the entire roadway yet. Judging by the bloodstain patterns around the male victim, I'd expect to find some blood on the underside of the suspect's car, near the left front wheel."

"So it doesn't look like the driver made any attempt to avoid them," Jennings said.

Saperstein removed his glasses. "Based on what I've seen so far, I'd say he wasn't trying to get out of their way. If he had, we'd see tire marks consistent with a swerve or intense braking. No, your driver either never saw these people step off the curb, or -- "

"He meant to hit them."

"Exactly."

Jennings nodded, thanked him, and asked for his report as soon as possible.

As they walked away, Moreno was the first to speak. "I still don't see his conclusions helping us much."

"We'll see. We know more about what happened now than we did before," he said. "Maybe the fact that the guy was accelerating and there are no skid marks supports the theory that it wasn't an accident. Let's do a background check on the victims. Could be there was someone who had something to gain if either of them wound up dead. Maybe there's no homeless connection at all. Maybe one of them had a kid in a rival gang. Maybe the driver never did see them until it was too late, and it was just an accident."

"All right, all right," she said, followed by a slight pause. "Maybe Saperstein was helpful."

Jennings walked over to his car and spoke to the desk sergeant via radio, requesting assistance on locating the Mercedes with the partial license plate they had obtained.

"I also need a background check on two people." He opened the victims' wallets. "An Otis Silvers, and an Imogene Pringle." He removed a small piece of paper and studied it. "Pringle was carrying around a pay stub for the Homeless Advocate Society. It's possible Silvers was with them too. See if we've got anything on this homeless group while you're at it."

"Anything else?"

"Yeah, which judge is on call tonight?"

The sergeant leafed through some papers on a clipboard. "You're not gonna be happy."

"Don't tell me it's Ferguson."

"I hear he's a bear when he gets called in the middle of the night."

"Just find me the owner of the car and I'll worry about the damn warrant."

Jennings hung the mike on its receptacle in his car and turned to Moreno. She threw a hand up to her mouth to stifle a yawn.

"Oh, c'mon, these hours can't be worse than Vice," he said.

"No, Vice is worse. A couple all-nighters a week. But I haven't been on Vice for three months. My body's not used to it anymore."

"Better snap out of it. It's gonna be a long night."

Copyright © 1999 by Alan Jacobson

What People are Saying About This

John Saul
A riveting story with a truly frightening villainess...A terrific book!

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False Accusations 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 85 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was fabulous. I could hardly put it down and even though I had a gut feeling about how it would end, was still caught off guard as I read the last page. I had to keep reading and was still shocked by the last page. It is definitely worth reading for those who enjoy a good suspenseful mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up at my local library and didn't pick it up again for a week. When I finally started it I just couldn't put it down. Looking forward to the next one! I finished it in just 4 hours! Just great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great page turner...gotta get to the end!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very absorbing.. It was difficult to put down because it was so very suspenseful. The ending was a total surprise, and you really don't get the full impact of the book until the very last sentence... Would love to read more of this type of book. Keep them coming!.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought the last sentence ending left alot of "unexplained" things. Which I wasn't crazy about.
CL-B More than 1 year ago
I'm afraid that as much as I hate to do this, I am going to have to sue you for Alienation of Work Ethic. No matter that I'd read this before and I knew how it ended, I still couldn't put it down. The twists and turns you manage to put in the way of any logical guess work on your readers part started with your first book and has continued through this one and into and through all of the Karen Vail books. (Note to new readers ~ don't miss those, they are fantastic!) Now that I've turned the last page and can no longer ignore the fact that I've ignored my reality for far too long and that no matter how much I want to open The 7th Victim again, I know I have to find my Work Ethic somewhere. So, it's back to work for me and for anyone reading this 'review', drop whatever you are doing and treat yourself to any and all of Alan Jacobson's impossible to put down books! They could be the best gift you give yourself this holiday season! PS: Don't leave me alone with nothing to do but what has to get done, please get your next book into the stores soon! Thanks Alan!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was very suspenseful and hard to put down. The ending was a total surprise! Looking foward to reading more of the same from Mr. Jacobson.
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Sonfollower More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Interesting, believable characters and lots of fascinating plot twists.
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It was hard to put this book down, a real page turner!
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