Finishing School

Finishing School

5.0 5
by Michele Martinez

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Michele Martinez, author of the critically acclaimed Most Wanted, which USA Today called "a breakout," brings back savvy, sexy federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas in a new case that pits her against a very clever, very scary killer

In a glittering penthouse high above Park Avenue, two beautiful teenagers, students at an exclusive

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Michele Martinez, author of the critically acclaimed Most Wanted, which USA Today called "a breakout," brings back savvy, sexy federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas in a new case that pits her against a very clever, very scary killer

In a glittering penthouse high above Park Avenue, two beautiful teenagers, students at an exclusive Manhattan girls' school, lie dead under suspicious circumstances. Feeling pressure from the top to solve the high-profile case fast, Melanie breaks all the rules and goes undercover. Teamed with Dan O'Reilly, a hard-to-resist FBI agent with a talent for making her pulse race, Melanie embarks on a wild chase from the rarefied world of New York's elite private schools to the darkest recesses of the city's nightlife. And, ultimately, into a fight for her life against a devious killer who has no intention of getting caught.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A federal prosecutor and single mother, Melanie Vargas, the protagonist from Martinez's first book, Most Wanted, is back with some of the same characters, plus a handful of new ones who will not be easy to forget. Vargas is investigating the heroin overdose of two elite prep school girls and begins to suspect one overdose may be murder. As the plot unravels, Vargas takes the listener on a wild ride of hunches, risks and action. Broadway and television actress Anne Twomey does a superb job of performing all parts. She has a quiet, calm, determined voice, slightly reminiscent of Jane Fonda; crystal clear diction; and an knack for delivering convincing dialogue and believable accents. Her talents become particularly evident with Carmen Reyes, the mixed-up, and kidnapped, classmate of the girls, and with the sleazy and deadly nightclub tycoon, Jay Esposito, whose preferred lethal weapon is his set of golf clubs. The fear Twomey generates is palpable, as is the longing and desire felt by Vargas as she is partnered with her former crush, FBI Agent Dan O'Reilly. Simultaneous release with the Walker & Co. hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 12). (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this legal thriller, federal prosecutor and single mother Melanie Vargas goes undercover in her hometown of Manhattan to investigate the drug supplier of two recently deceased wealthy teenagers. A third girl turns up missing, and Melanie is determined to solve these seemingly unrelated mysteries. Through her investigations, she sheds light on the more hidden aspects of an elite Manhattan prep school and the darker side of Manhattan night life. Politics are involved as well, adding another dimension to this well-written and edgy suspense story. FBI agent and Melanie's romantic interest Dan O'Reilly is on hand to help. Isabel Keating's reading of this finely written mystery enhances the presentation of the various characters as well as keeping the listener in suspense through the fast-paced action. Recommended.-Denise A. Garofalo, Astor Home for Children, Rhinebeck, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A feisty Manhattan attorney struggles against drug thugs and a dangerous attraction to a hunky FBI agent. In the middle of the night, federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas is called to a grim murder scene. Wealthy teen Whitney Seward's been found dead of an overdose in her Park Avenue bedroom along with her best friend Brianna Meyers. Melanie suspects that Carmen Reyes, a third girl recently seen with them, may hold the key to the mystery. But she doesn't know that studious Carmen, whose father Luis, the building's superintendent, pressed her into Whitney's fast crowd, is being held captive by an unidentified kidnapper. Headmistress Patricia Andover, at the exclusive school the three girls attended, offers full cooperation, but starchy lawyer Ted Siebert balks at every turn. Meanwhile, Patricia is secretly having an affair with Whitney's stepfather James and is extorting money from the school to boot. Whitney's alcoholic mother Caroline is often drunk and may have been home at the time of her daughter's death. Brianna's boyfriend Trevor eagerly goes undercover, to the discomfort of Melanie, who thinks he's a loose cannon. If these and other crosscurrents make the case complex for Melanie, her personal life raises the bar. She's recently separated from her philandering husband Steve and raising a baby daughter alone. The FBI assigns Dan O'Reilly, the agent Melanie nearly fell into bed with during a previous assignment (Most Wanted, 2005), whose clueless sidekick Bridget also seems to have the hots for him. When forensic evidence points to foul play, the investigating team, helped by Melanie's sis Linda, a trendy entertainment reporter, gets access to Screen, the club where Whitney's dealerhung out. The trail takes Melanie and company to Puerto Rico, leaving Trevor behind in mortal danger. This chick-lit thriller lacks finesse but never stops throwing colorful subplots at you and never lets up the pace.
Chicago Sun-Times
“Will likely bring this rising literary star’s work to a wider audience.”
USA Today
“Smart and gritty.”
“Absorbing...will keep you reading furiously.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Finishing School

By Michele Martinez

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Michele Martinez
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061121258

Chapter One

Even the most dedicated prosecutor hates the sound of a pager shrieking at two o'clock in the morning. Melanie Vargas barely slept these days anyway. In the middle of a divorce, with a baby daughter who was spending the winter sick with one thing or another, Melanie hardly needed that terrible screeching coming from her dresser top. But duty called. She scrambled out of bed and immediately slammed her hip into the sharp corner of the bedside table.


Just as the pager stopped wailing, her one-year-old, Maya, who'd fallen asleep in bed beside her after fussing half the night with a double ear infection, woke up and started to howl.

"Okay, okay, shush," Melanie whispered, digging under the pillows surrounding Maya. Her fingers touched soft plastic, and she popped the pacifier into her daughter's mouth, then raced across the room to grab the pager before it went off again. Squinting at the readout, she saw her boss's home phone number glowing bright red in the darkness. Damn! This was only getting worse. Her boss gave her agita under the best of circumstances.

"Well, it's about time!" Bernadette said, picking up on the first ring. Bernadette DeFelice, chief of the Major Crimes Unit of the New York City U.S. Attorney's Office, did not like to be kept waiting.

"Hey, Bern, it's Melanie -- "

"I know that, for God's sake, I just paged you. Listen, I've got two dead rich girls in James Seward's apartment on Park Avenue. You know who he is? That Wall Street guy running for Senate?"

"Of course. Did he kill them?"

"No, nothing like that. It's his daughter and a friend of hers. They OD'd. Looks like heroin. Right before Christmas, too. Hah, teenagers. And people wonder why I never had kids."

It was Monday night -- strike that, Tuesday morning -- and Christmas was a week away.

"Wow, the poor parents." Melanie looked over at Maya snuggled under the covers and thanked God her own little one was safe and sound.

"Okay," Bernadette said, "the plan is, find the drug supplier right away and make an example of him." She chuckled cynically. "Some Dominican kid selling dime bags in the Heights isn't gonna know what hit him. I need you to get over to Seward's ASAP."

"Bernadette, it's two o'clock in the morning, and my daughter's sick."

"Is that my problem? This is a real job, girlfriend, not the fricking DMV. You're meeting up with Vito Albano from the Elite Narcotics Task Force. And you'd better damn well impress him. I've been trying to get business from him for a long time, but the Special Narcotics Prosecutor had a lock on him. This is our big chance. That squad does amazing cases."

"Bern -- "

"Do you realize how lucky you are to get this call? This case is gonna generate huge press. Both girls are from prominent families, and they went to -- What's that fancy girls' school? Miss Holbrooke's?"

Melanie tried to muster some enthusiasm, not easy to do at this hour. "It sounds really great, but -- "

"Albano asked for you by name, Melanie. All right, technically, he asked for Susan Charlton, but when I told him she was on vacation, he was happy to take you. Apparently he's heard about your penchant for getting . . . shall we say 'overly involved' in your investigations. Which reminds me, no cops-and-robbers stuff this time. That's an order."

"Bern, I really can't -- "

"Do you understand what this means? Do I have to spell it out for you? You're developing a solid reputation with the movers and shakers, so don't blow it. I told Vito you'd be there in fifteen minutes. Don't make me look bad." Bernadette rattled off the tony address and hung up.

Melanie had reached Steve Hanson -- her ex-husband, or soon-to-be ex anyway -- not at his apartment but on his cell phone at 2:00 A.M., with music and laughter in the background. Up to his old tricks, the desgraciado. She tried not to think about it and just be glad that he agreed to come over and stay with Maya.

By the time she'd brushed her teeth and pulled on black pants and a turtleneck, Steve was at the door of the apartment. She turned on the light in the foyer and peered through the peephole. Seeing him gave her a jolt. Mmm, too bad he still looked so good. Tall, lean, blond in a rugged sort of way, always dressed like a million bucks. Watch out for this man, she reminded herself, unlocking the dead bolt. Plenty of other women like what you like.

Steve seemed to sweep into the foyer on a wave of fresh, cold air. Snowflakes still clung to his eyelashes and on the lapels of his charcoal gray cashmere overcoat.

"Hey, Merry Christmas, baby," he said, grabbing her shoulders and kissing her full on the mouth. She couldn't help it, she started to kiss back. The guy knew what he was doing, and she was kiss-deprived. But then she tasted alcohol and, beneath that, whomever he'd kissed last. He smelled of perfume, definitely. She pulled away.

Steve looked her in the eyes. "I'm glad you called, Melanie. I've been missing you. Families should be together at the holidays."

She turned her back, opening the door to the coat closet so he wouldn't see the emotion in her face. Steve knew how to push her buttons, knew about her own childhood Christmases, without her father. She saw through the manipulation. If they reconciled, like he claimed he wanted, nothing would be different. Just smell the man and you could tell that.

"Hand me your coat," she said, holding out her hand, her voice neutral.

"Wow, look at that tree! How'd you do that?" Steve stood at the threshold to the living room gazing at the seven-foot-tall Douglas fir, which was decked with popcorn and cranberry garlands she'd strung herself late at night when she couldn't sleep.


Excerpted from The Finishing School by Michele Martinez Copyright © 2005 by Michele Martinez. 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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Finishing School 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
First book I've read by Martinez. A good story somewhat ruined by this incessant 'romantic banter' at totally unrealistic times between the two main characters. Some inconsistencies found in the details of the writing as well. Disappointed !
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again I finish completely satisfied. Martinez has created truly likeable characters, gripping suspense and a romance that begs to be described!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just discovered her first book in paperback in January and couldn't wait for The Finishing School. Couldn't put it down! Not as light and fluffy as Cornwell and Grafton - even tho I love their books - more intelligent and fast paced.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Both beautiful and tough, federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas grew up in Manhattan. This is her town. The neighborhood in which she spent her youth was rough, yet nothing prepared her for what she would find when she goes undercover to track a cunning murderer. It all begins when her pager goes off at 2:00 a.m. She picks up to hear orders from her boss, Bernadette DeFelice, chief of the Major Crimes Unit of the New York City U.S. Attorney's Office. This is a woman who gives Melanie 'agita under the best of circumstances.' Agita is mild for what is soon to come. Two very wealthy girls have been found dead in the Park Avenue apartment of James Seward, a Wall Street dynamo who is running for the Senate. One of the dead is Seward's stepdaughter, the other a classmate from an exclusive school. It's the week before Christmas, and it looks like the girls have OD'd on heroin. Melanie's orders are to find the drug supplier immediately and not to mess with Seward who has many friends in high places. Add to the mix Carmen Reyes, the building superintendent's daughter who is missing. Seward is all too eager to name her as the supplier. Melanie isn't buying all of this but she's going to have to risk her life in order to prove it. Of course, there's romance in the handsome hunk form of FBI agent Dan O'Reilly. Martinez peoples her story with chilling characters, especially Jay Esposito, a night club mogul who 'gave off criminal charisma like musk.' Broadway and television actress Anne Twomey delivers a stellar voice performance, perfectly capturing the danger Melanie faces and the desire she feels for Dan. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was so exciting and exhilirating, I hated it to end. Melanie Vargas is a great heroine. I can't wait for the next installment