Favors and Lies

Favors and Lies

4.5 17
by Mark Gilleo

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Dan Lord is a forty-year-old private detective with a law degree working the blurred line between right and wrong in the Nation’s Capital. As a self-employed solutions broker and legal consultant, he works for a very select clientele. He doesn’t advertise and only takes cases on referral. But when two people close to him are murdered, Dan's work becomes

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Dan Lord is a forty-year-old private detective with a law degree working the blurred line between right and wrong in the Nation’s Capital. As a self-employed solutions broker and legal consultant, he works for a very select clientele. He doesn’t advertise and only takes cases on referral. But when two people close to him are murdered, Dan's work becomes very personal.

With the assistance of a newly hired female intern, extracting clues from a ladder of acquaintances, Dan bounds through both the underbelly and elite of society, each step bringing more questions and yet ultimately taking him closer to the answer he seeks. A bail bondsman, a recluse hacker, a court clerk, a university student, an old-school barber, a high-class madam, an intelligence officer, a medical doctor, and a police detective are among the list of people Dan must cajole for help. His quest will lead him to discover things he never wanted to know, and put him in the position to reveal things that important people would prefer remain unrevealed.

Tense, ingenious, and filled with the unforgettable characters that have become a Mark Gilleo trademark, FAVORS AND LIES is the most thrilling novel yet from one of the great new voices in suspense fiction.

Winner: 2014 Beach Book Festival
Winner: 2014 USA Best Book Award
Runner-up: 2014 San Francisco Book Festival Awards
Runner-up: 2014 New York Book Festival
Finalist: 2014 International Book Award
Finalist: 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Because of his intriguing plots, quirky characters and a mind that just keeps racing, Gilleo is becoming one of the favorite new American mystery writers.”
– Readers’ Favorite
Kirkus Reviews
When private detective Dan Lord's nephew and sister-in-law die under mysterious circumstances, he must call on all his resources to bring evildoers to justice in Gilleo's (Sweat, 2012, etc.) third novel.Lord is a Washington, D.C., private detective who specializes in brokering extralegal solutions to the problems of the powerful. Readers meet him as he blackmails an abusive federal judge into signingdivorce papers and withdrawing threats against the judge's wife. Once Gilleo establishes Lord's character and modus operandi, he gets into the meat of the story: the apparent death-by-overdose of his college-age nephew, Conner, and the subsequent suicide of Lord's widowed sister-in-law, Vicky. The detective believes that the deaths aren't what they seem, and he sets out to investigate. Along the way, he calls on a new intern with a surprising array of information at her fingertips, a Russian intelligence contact, a paranoid tech whiz, a high-priced madam and two D.C. police officers who are decidedly on the fence about Lord's involvement in the case. It turns out that the case involves corruption deep within the government intelligence community, and the forces arrayed against Lord are deep-pocketed, legally untouchable and personally unsavory. Gilleo has the thriller mystery formula down pat, providing the right mix of investigation and action, and the right balance of distrustful authority figures and trusted colleagues. The climax, which includes several twists, is where the novel falls apart somewhat; readers will easily guess one undercover agent's identity. The prime mover behind the entire situation, however, is a real surprise, although the story doesn't seem particularly concerned with who's ultimately giving the orders. Finally, the key behind Conner's suspicious death is tied to a piece of information that Lord knew all along, but was hidden from readers, which may leave them feeling cheated rather than entertained.A thriller with plenty of action, gadgetry and intrigue, although the conclusion is a bit of a letdown.

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The cab pulled to the curb on one of the city’s myriad one-way streets and Dan spoke through the holes drilled in the security glass. “What’s the damage?”

“Nineteen even.”

Dan stepped from the back of the cab and slipped a twenty through the front passenger window. “Keep the change.”

“Thanks, big spender,” the burly driver replied, shoving the cash into the front pocket of his sweaty shirt.

Dan bent at the waist, his manila folder in hand, and peered into the open window. The glare from Dan’s light-blue eyes melted the driver’s bravado, bringing long-sought momentary silence to the interior of the car. The cabbie muttered something unintelligible and the car pulled away from the curb into evening rush-hour traffic.

Dan straightened his dark blue suit and his red tie before heading down H Street. The business side of the White House sat just beyond Lafayette Square to his left. As a white male in a suit, within spitting distance of the White House, Dan was perfectly camouflaged. Despite the changing face of American society and the dual terms of President Obama, those making the rules remained largely as it always had been – lily white. An hour watching C-Span was the only proof needed.

Dan walked deliberately to the corner of H and 16th streets and silently mingled with a half-dozen likeminded suits waiting for the light. The pedestrian signal changed from an illuminated red hand to the depiction of a person walking. The crowd moved. Dan took three steps toward the street and then froze at the edge of the curb. He scanned his environment for a mirror reaction from anyone in the vicinity. Sometimes the best way to see if you are being followed is to stop. It was a standard counter-surveillance move, likely perfected a hundred thousand years ago by an animal on the Serengeti trying to avoid becoming dinner.

The sidewalk around Dan emptied as the pedestrian signal on the far side of the street began to count down. Dan swiveled his head slowly, finishing with a glance over each shoulder. No one, he thought. At least no one on foot. Walking against traffic on a one-way street mitigated most of the possibilities of being trailed by car.

He waited until the countdown on the pedestrian signal reached five and then crossed the street illegally in the opposite direction, dissecting a group of lawyers and think-tankers on their way to a local watering hole to finish their briefs and pontifications for the evening.

On the far side of the street Dan turned right and headed back in the direction from which he came. Once again he checked for surveillance. Nothing.

Near the end of the block, with a taxi queue ten yards ahead, Dan checked his watch with a casual glance and turned left down an alley without looking back.

He passed several dumpsters and looked up at the darkening sky framed by the buildings on both sides of the alley. A light scent of urine wafted through the air. Under a fire escape near the corner of the building Dan turned again. He followed a staircase downward, his hand running along a worn metal handrail, his shoes trampling cracked concrete steps. Three stories above the urban crevasse, room rates started at eight hundred a night.

Dan forced himself to relax. Feeling out of place was the single greatest contributor for being spotted in an area where one had no earthly business. But with the appropriate behavior and movement, a man in a suit in an alley was no more out of place than a man in overalls in the lobby of an office building. Properly portrayed, every appearance could be overlooked.

Dan reached the bottom of the stairs and admired the collection of discarded cigarette butts thrown half-heartedly at an empty coffee can resting just outside the door. He took one more calming breath and pushed through an unlocked metal door that read “Exit Only” in neat white print.

Unlocked doors were goldmines. Half the buildings in the Nation’s Capital were circumventing million-dollar security systems with propped open doors. A brick here. A doorstop there. If you knew where to look, an employee with a smoking habit could be better than a week of surveillance. Not to mention cheaper and less risky than paying off a doorman.

Inside the building, Dan entered an elbow-room-only foyer facing another door. He watched the light under the closed door and waited for the telltale movement of people on the other side to subside. When the timing was right and the movement ceased, he pulled the knob.

An attractive blonde in an off-the-shoulder red dress took a breath of surprise. Dan muted his response and without pausing pointed towards the men’s room with his chin. “Wrong door.”

The lady in red smiled and Dan followed through on his impromptu ruse and entered the restroom.

“Shit,” Dan whispered, looking into the mirror over a granite sink with gold fixtures. He had rules. One adjustment in the plan was standard. Two put him on notice. Three unforeseen adjustments to a plan and he aborted – immediately and without exception. There was little he could do about the woman in the hall so he pushed it aside. That’s one, he thought. A little early for an adjustment.

The lower level back door at the Hay Adams Hotel was a direct line into the living room of the elite. Off the Record – the appropriately named bar in the basement of the Hay Adams Hotel – boasted a history as long as its client list. It was where the rich blew off steam. People with faces too famous to enjoy a quiet drink in Georgetown or along Connecticut Avenue. Faces from the morning paper and evening news. Off the Record embraced customers who didn’t mind overpaying for drinks or the forty bucks it cost to valet their cars. Money was rapidly becoming the last legal barrier for keeping out the riffraff.

The Hay Adams Hotel, and its subterranean watering hole, was public. Dan could have chosen to walk through the lobby. He could have nodded at the bellhop and doorman as he strolled in unquestioned and unmolested. He could have slowly crossed the ornate wood-paneled entrance and past the polite scrutiny of the front desk as he made his way to the stairs. But why announce your arrival when you didn’t have to? Especially so close to payday.

In the mirror in the bathroom, Dan checked his watch, his hair, his face, his glasses, his teeth, his fingers. He peeked inside his manila folder. He exited the room and walked through the lone swinging door into the bar. He located his target before his first foot hit the deep burgundy carpet. He completed his room assessment by the time his second foot landed. Nine men and four women, he calculated, parsing his headcount before anyone noticed he was in the room. Five men at the bar, two of them seated together, most likely coworkers. Two women alone at a table on the far side of the room in similar black dresses. Waiting for dates, he thought. A table of three huddled in the opposite corner, far enough away to be out of most contingency scenarios. Dan added two more to the headcount for the bartender and waitress, and one more for the lady in red who was now in the bathroom.

Dan stepped from the dark corner near the bathroom and approached a man in his early fifties sitting alone at a table, his hand caressing a glass of Maker’s Mark.

“Judge McMichael,” Dan said, sitting quickly without invitation.

The judge tried not to look surprised but the corner of his eyes betrayed him as they danced towards the entrance of the bar.

“The back door?” the judge asked.

“Bathroom window,” Dan replied straight-faced.

“Am I at the correct table?”

“Yes. Thank you for following instructions.”

Dan didn’t take his eyes off the judge. The judge looked older than his pictures in the press. More stately. Fifty and fit with large hands and sharp eyes. The lighting at the table was romantic – enough light to see the judge, but dark enough to erase cosmetic imperfections from across the table. Perfect call-girl ambiance.

The judge stared back across the table at a short grey mop of curls and wild blue eyes dancing behind thick black-framed glasses. The judge’s eyes dropped to Dan’s hands and the manila folder on the table. Dan noticed the judge’s attention and he covered one hand with the other, both on top of the folder.

“Why don’t we both agree to keep our hands on the table,” Dan suggested before getting to work. “See the two guys at the far end of the bar?”

The judge turned his head slightly.

“They are with me.”

The judge nodded.

“I will make this short and sweet. Your wife has divorce papers for you to sign. She also has an agreement regarding alimony and the custody of your stepson and stepdaughter. She says you have been refusing to sign these documents and have threatened her and her children.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes. Judge Terrance J. McMichael. Born in Naperville, Illinois. Educated at Princeton. Law School at Dartmouth. Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit… also known as the D.C. Circuit. Wife is named Cindy. Stepdaughter is Caroline. Stepson is Craig.”

“And you are?”

“Someone willing to ruin your life. Your wife hired me to make a request on her behalf. You are a highly intelligent man so I’m going to assume you heard my request the first time and that I don’t need to repeat myself.” Dan paused for effect. “You are going to sign the papers.”

“Do you have any idea what I can do to you?”

Dan slid the manila folder into the middle of the table and opened it. The first photograph showed the judge’s wife with raccoon eyes, her nose broken, swollen to twice its normal size. Her torn and blood-drenched clothes were on full display next to her. The photo was taken in a bathroom, the reflection of the cameraman, the judge’s stepson, clear in the mirror.

“She fell,” the judge said.

“Well, as convenient as that explanation may be, I think sympathy will wane when the public sees the next pictures.”

The judge waited for Dan to turn the next photo in the stack. Sweat beaded on his forehead.

“Those are bruises on a ten-year-old girl. Your stepdaughter.” Dan flipped to another photo. “If you notice, there is a telling shoe print on her back, which I imagine is a little bigger than your wife’s size.”

“What do you want?”

“I told you want I want.”

“Whatever she is paying, I’ll pay more.”

“It’s not about the money . . . well, not entirely. Besides, whatever she pays me is your money anyway.”

“You motherfucker,” the judge quietly hissed. The veins in his neck bulged.

“Certainly all those years of schooling must have linguistically prepared you better than that.”

The judge took a sip of his drink, his hands shaking slightly. Dan stole a glance of the room as the judge’s eyes dipped beneath the edge of the upturned glass.

The judge returned his glass to the table but didn’t release his grip. “You are aware that blackmail is illegal.”

“I’m asking for your cooperation. I’m not asking for money. Though, now that you have offered money, it wouldn’t be blackmail if I accepted.”

“You won’t get away with this. You don’t become a D.C. Circuit judge without friends. You don’t serve on a court that has bred more Supreme Court Justices than any other without knowing people.”

“Don’t let pride get the better of you. You’re not the first person I’ve made a deal with. You won’t be the last. Not in this city.”

Dan let the statement sink in before he continued.

“You have one week to sign the papers and file them with the court. If I don’t hear from your wife by then, I will release the story to the press and to certain people at the Justice Department who may not share your enthusiasm for unmitigated power. Certain people who believe the oath they took means something. I should also mention if something should happen to your wife between now and the filing of the papers, the photos and taped testimony from your wife and children will go public. If your wife mysteriously changes her mind in the next say, month or so, the photos and her testimony still go public.”

“How do I know you won’t go public after I sign the papers?”

“You don’t.” Dan paused. “Are you familiar with the Lady Justice Statue, the one with a woman holding a set of scales?”

“I am a judge.”

“I appreciate that sentiment, but given your non-judicial behavior on other fronts, I didn’t want to take anything for granted.”

“Your point?” Judge McMichael grunted.

“The Lady Justice Statue depicts your current situation. On the one hand you have the possibility of me going public if I don’t hear from your wife by next week. The weight of this possibility is driving down one side of the scale in Lady Justice’s hand. On the other side of the scale is the possibility I will go public with your information regardless of what you do. I would consider this side of the scale far lighter than the other.”

The judge glanced quickly at the front door of the bar. “I can’t do it in a week. I need more time for my attorney to review the documents before they are filed.”

“Judge McMichael, a man of your talents can have this done before you get up from your seat.”

The judge finished his drink and he set the glass on the table with a thud. “Anything else?”

“One thing.” Dan pulled out the last photo in the folder. “I recognize the woman in this photo, so I’m sure you do as well, particularly given the lack of clothing both of you are displaying. Except for the socks. Your partner’s knee-high, red fishnets are very naughty. So before you do anything rash, remember it’s more than just you and your ego at stake.”

The judge brooded, his anger visible in his eyes, the corner of his lips quivering.

Dan continued. “I’m offering you the path of least resistance. I suggest you take it.” Dan took another look around the room and waved at the two men at the bar who waved back in a look of inebriated recognition before turning towards one another and resuming their conversation. The rest of the bar was still in their respective places. All systems checked. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Dan readied to stand and added another condition. “And if something happens to me in the near future, before or after the documents get filed with the court, the photos and taped testimony go to the press. I have a secure website with some unique programming. If I don’t login in pre-determined increments, well, you get the picture. And so will everyone else.”

“Are we done?”

“Follow the rules and you will never see me again.” Dan stood. He gestured towards the folder on the table. “You can keep those copies for your records.”


When Dan left the table the judge frantically removed his cell phone from his pocket and made a call to the off-duty police officer posted in the lobby upstairs. Then he waved over the waitress and ordered another drink. A double.

The judge was still in his seat when the plainclothes policeman briskly crossed the floor of the bar minutes later.

“Did you find him?” the judge asked.


“How long did it take you to get to the back alley?”

“Thirty seconds. Ten to get outside. Another twenty to run halfway around the block. Plus the few seconds it took to take the call.”


“How would you like to proceed? I didn’t call it in, per your instructions.”

“Let it go for now,” the judge said. “Check those two guys at the bar and see if they know the man who was just here. I doubt they do. I’ll let you know if I need anything else.”

“Yes, sir.”

The officer spoke briefly with the two men at the bar and then shook his head in the direction of the judge. The judge raised a hand and dipped his head. The officer nodded and left. The judge removed the digital voice recorder from the inside pocket of his jacket. He pressed play, listened for a moment, and then hit delete.

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Meet the Author

Mark Gilleo has a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in business from George Mason University. He enjoys traveling, hiking and biking. He speaks Japanese. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he currently resides in the DC area.

His books have received numerous awards and literary recognition, including: Winner of a National Indie Excellence Awards. Winner of the 2014 Beach Book Festival. Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards. Runner-Up for Fiction in the San Francisco Book Festival and the New York Book Festival. Finalist and semi-finalist in the William Faulkner-Wisdom creative writing competition.

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Favors and Lies 4.5 out of 5 based on 4 ratings. 17 reviews.
Linda__ More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic book. It grabbed me from the very first chapter and did not let go. I found myself staying up late into the night to finish it. Favors and Lies is a tight and well crafted thriller that begins with a private detective looking into his nephew's mysterious death. The private detective is no ordinary detective and possesses an uncommon skill set that assists him in his quest. This quest gives us a glimpse into the clandestine world of the CIA as differing interests are at odds with each other. I have never read any of Mark Gilleo's books prior to this one, but have now added him to my must read authors' list. Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i started reading i wasnt sure i would be interested in this type of story but in a few chapters i was hooked. I enjoyed the twists and turns of thestory and didnt want to put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Refreshing. Never saw it coming. Great characters.
JimJF 8 months ago
This is the second reading I purchased and Gilleo is way out there in the genre.
Tracy_St_Davids 10 months ago
This book had me by the throat - I really liked it. I was gasping out loud on the subway (can't imagine what my fellow riders were thinking). Compelling characters, strong imagery, crazy good plot. What a ride!
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous 11 months ago
Too many charracters, subplots, themes, etc. Finishing this book reminds me of how I feel after watching a 4-hour movie that would have been a MUCH better 2-3 hour movie or how I feel after eating a meal that has too many incompatible elements. by aj west
m9r3v13w5 More than 1 year ago
Action packed political thriller. Really enjoyed all the twists and turns.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jend11 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Great action and characters! I'd never read this author before and have now purchased his other two books, because I enjoyed this one so much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started the book and could not put it down. Very good crime story and fast paced.
walc More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will find this a satisfactory quick light read. the lawyer/detective/DC combo here follows the required formula but our hero lacks personal chrisama and humor nor does the supporting cast add any garnish to the same old same old. Have difficulty seeing this as a tv series and forget a pbs one. They cant all be spenser at foggy bottom. page counter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book!
NikiMattes More than 1 year ago
Dan  Lord receives a weird, panic phone call from his sister in law saying his nephew stopped breathing,When he arrives there no one seems home. Dan has and let himself in, to find his sister in law dead. His nephew no where to be seen. Dan calls the police. Dan thinks there is more to it, when not one but to in the same family die same night, he investigate with help from his new hired assistance in his own unique way. This is a great book, loved every second f it, the characters are great, fast paced, the book grabs your attention and keeps it. I recommend it and can't wait for next book!
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite Mark Gilleo's latest mystery novel Favors and Lies is an attention-grabbing and fast-paced mystery that just might tease the sleuth-mind of any reader. Private Detective Dan Lord has had a series of losses in his life, the latest being two relatives which were both ruled suicides, but Dan has an inside track on family members and he is determined to prove they were intentionally placed in harm's way. Sue is Dan's new intern and she has her own set of peculiar talents. Together, they run hot and cold on the trail of personal mystery and government intrigue. Dan Lord has an unseemly collection of informants and accomplices as he hits the trail to places and people who commit misdeeds in high places. Favors and Lies is one of those books that starts out logically and then author Gilleo takes off at a tangent which leads to unpredictable situations with unforgettable characters. There is a diplomat, a barber, a computer hacker and a woman of questionable character, all of whom provide valuable leads as well as an education of their own. Because of his intriguing plots, quirky characters and a mind that just keeps racing, Gilleo is becoming one of the favorite new American mystery writers. Most people won't have the slightest bit of trouble deciding to put aside chores while they try to outwit the author and save the good guys in the process.