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Heart of a Killer
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Heart of a Killer

4.1 29
by David Rosenfelt

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Heart of a Killer
David Rosenfelt


Jamie Wagner is a young lawyer who is happy to be flying under the radar at a large firm. It's not that he isn't smart. He is. It's just that hard work, not to mention the whole legal thing, isn't exactly his passion. But then he's put on a case that turns his whole world upside


Heart of a Killer
David Rosenfelt


Jamie Wagner is a young lawyer who is happy to be flying under the radar at a large firm. It's not that he isn't smart. He is. It's just that hard work, not to mention the whole legal thing, isn't exactly his passion. But then he's put on a case that turns his whole world upside down.

Sheryl Harrison is serving a thirty-year murder sentence for killing her husband, who she claims was abusive. The case is settled-there shouldn't be anything for Jamie to do-except now Sheryl's fourteen-year-old daughter, Karen, is sick. She has a congenital heart defect and will die without a transplant. Sheryl is a matching donor-and is willing to die to save her daughter. But suicide, no matter the motive, is illegal. Now Jamie is in way over his head.

With Sheryl on suicide watch, Jamie's only shot at saving Karen is to reopen the murder case, prove Sheryl's innocence, and get her freed so that she can pursue her own plan. And time is running out...

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An absolutely irresistible hook… No one who picks up this greased-lightning account will rest till it's finished.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on ON BORROWED TIME

“Outstanding...Anyone who enjoyed Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island will love this thriller.” —Library Journal (starred review) on ON BORROWED TIME

“Excellent. All will marvel at the way Rosenfelt builds suspense.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on ON BORROWED TIME

“Dynamite…Sly humor, breathless pacing, and terrific plot twists keep the pages spinning toward the showdown.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on DOWN TO THE WIRE

“Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter novels are known for their breezy storytelling and humor...This one eschews humor to focus on the actions of ordinary people faced with extraordinary trials. It also employs a whiplash plot turn…an engaging suspense tale.” —Booklist on DOWN TO THE WIRE

“A terrific plot and a gripping narrative.” —The Toronto Sun on DOWN TO THE WIRE

“I am raving about this book…a page-turning thriller.” —Deadly Pleasure on DOWN TO THE WIRE

“Stellar… Rosenfelt keeps the plot hopping and popping as he reveals a complex frame-up of major proportions with profound political ramifications both terrifying and enlightening.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on DON'T TELL A SOUL

“This fast-paced and brightly written tale spins along...Don't Tell a Soul is a humdinger.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch on DON'T TELL A SOUL

“High-voltage entertainment from an author who plots and writes with verve and wit…Rosenfelt ratchets up tension with the precision of a skilled auto mechanic wielding a torque wrench.” —Booklist (starred) on DON'T TELL A SOUL

“Rosenfelt has earned his crime-novelist pedigree.” —Entertainment Weekly on DON'T TELL A SOUL

“He delivers a fast, inventive stand-alone thriller you'll never put down.” —Kirkus Reviews on DON'T TELL A SOUL

Publishers Weekly
Edgar-finalist Rosenfelt’s fine stand-alone begins as a legal thriller that twists into a murder mystery before becoming a full-blown suspense chiller. The life of Karen Harrison, a 14-year-old girl with a congenital heart defect, can only be saved by a heart transplant from a matching donor. Karen’s mom, Sheryl, who shares Karen’s rare blood type, wishes to donate her heart. Two complications stand in Sheryl’s way. First, she must die to enable the transplant. Second, in order to commit suicide, she must get out of prison, where she’s serving 15 years to life for her abusive husband’s murder six years earlier. That’s where Sheryl’s underachieving lawyer, Jamie Wagner, comes in. Jamie hopes to file a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey on her behalf, but his plans change when he learns Sheryl may not be guilty. Rosenfelt (On Borrowed Time) employs his usual wry wit to drive the well-paced plot. Author tour. Agent: Robin Rue at Writers House. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A lawyer who's never tried a criminal case suddenly finds himself with the world's unlikeliest pro bono client: a woman convicted of murder who demands the right to end her life so that she can donate her heart to her dying daughter. New Jersey doesn't have the death penalty, so there's no way Sheryl Harrison can be legally executed for the murder of her husband Charlie, even though she confessed at the scene six years ago. Once her request finds its way to about-to-be-fired associate Jamie Wagner, however, he's so smitten with the woman who calls him "Harvard" that he instantly starts doing his best to make her wish come true. Jamie does get Sheryl taken off suicide watch, but the New Jersey State Prison for Women insists on keeping her alive despite her fervent wishes. There's only one dim hope: that Jamie can get her original conviction overturned so that the woman he loves can go home and kill herself. After all, Newark police detective John Novack has never been entirely convinced of her guilt even though he's the one she confessed to. As these unlikely allies go forth on their quixotic mission, Rosenfelt presents tantalizing glimpses of the criminal mastermind they're up against: domestic terrorist Nolan Murray, a computer hacker who's prepared to cause high-casualty havoc throughout the nation's tech-dependent transportation and energy sectors if his extortion demands aren't met. What this monster has to do with Sheryl's plight, and whether Jamie will be able to fulfill her wishes and bid her farewell, are questions Rosenfelt answers with all his accustomed dexterity (On Borrowed Time, 2011, etc.). Warmhearted, satisfyingly inventive and almost too clever for its own good. Why isn't Rosenfelt a household name like Michael Connelly and Jeffery Deaver?

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt



“Jamie, Mr. Hemmings wants to see you.” Alicia Waldman, my assistant, delivered the news. She said it with a stunned reverence, in the way she might say, “God is on line two.” Actually, calling Alicia my assistant might imply too high a status level for me; she assisted four other lawyers in the firm as well, all of whom she liked more than me.

I had absolutely no guess why Richard Hemmings would want to see me. I was a twenty-nine-year old, sixth-year associate in the corporate litigation section of Carlson, Miller, and Timmerman, while he was a senior partner in the bankruptcy section. In non-law-firm parlance, when it came to dumping work on people, he was a “dumper” and I was a “dumpee,” but we worked in very different dumping grounds.

We also worked on different floors in our Newark, New Jersey, office building. I was a second-floor guy with a view of the second floor of the building right next door. He was a tenth-story guy, which was as high as it went, with a view on one side of glorious downtown Newark, and a clear sight line to the airport on the other side.

I went right up, and his assistant ushered me directly into his office. He was looking out the window and turned when he heard me. “Jamie,” he said, although he had never met me. He must have just known that he had sent for a Jamie, and figured I must be him. He might even have known that my last name was Wagner. Those are the kind of smarts that partners have.

“Mr. Hemmings,” I responded, keeping the conversation humming. The culture in the firm was that everyone was on a first-name basis, but when it came to full partners, nobody on my level really trusted that. Better to address them formally, and let them correct you if they wanted.

He didn’t, but fortunately came right to the point. “I assume you know that Stan Lysinger is out attending to a personal issue.”

I knew that quite well, everybody did, if advanced lung cancer could be casually dismissed as a personal issue. “Yes.”

“Everybody is pitching in until he gets back,” he said, although we both knew that Stan was not coming back. “I’m taking on his pro-bono responsibilities.”

I immediately knew why I was there. Most big firms feel a corporate responsibility, or at least want to look as if they feel a corporate responsibility, to do pro-bono work within the community. They generally like to assign lower- and mid-level people to these jobs, and Stan is, or was, the resident assigner-in-chief.

Most associates dread such assignments, because it takes them out of the mainstream of the firm, and can thus impact their ability to shine and make partner. I had no such concerns, since it had been clear for a while that I was never going to reach those heights. So I viewed a pro-bono assignment with a wait-and-see attitude; it would depend on the specifics of the assignment.

“It’s with Legal Aid,” he said, as my feelings went from mixed to outright negative. “You’re to see an inmate in New Jersey State Prison named Sheryl Harrison.”

“They’re not going to brief me first?” I asked.

He looked at the file, as if reading it for the first time. “No. They want you to hear it from the client. Seems unusual.”

“Does it say what she’s in there for?”

He looked again. “Murder. She murdered her husband six years ago; slit his throat. Pleaded guilty. Got fifteen to life.”

“Sounds like a nice lady,” I said, but it didn’t get a smile from Hemmings.

“You’ll provide me with written reports on your progress,” he said. “Until Stan gets back.”

“Yes, I certainly will.”

I lived then, and now, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which made me semi-unique among my colleagues at the firm. My apartment was on the third floor of a brownstone on Seventy-sixth Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam. It was a walk-up, common among those kinds of buildings in the area, and I tried to think positive by viewing the stairs as a way to stay in shape.

I suspected that my Manhattan residence was not viewed as a positive by my superiors, who no doubt felt that the forty-five-minute commute each way was time better spent in the office, doing work billable to clients.

It wasn’t that I was anti–New Jersey; I was pro–New York. If I wanted a pizza at 11:00 P.M., I didn’t want to have to preheat an oven. I wanted to go downstairs and get one.

Also, my favorite bars to hang out in were in New York, though I never really gave the Jersey bars a chance. I felt at home in Manhattan, on its streets, in its restaurants, with its women. And if a woman came in one night from Queens, that was fine as well.

The truth is that I would willingly date a woman from any of the five boroughs, with the obvious exception of Staten Island. Even that would be fine, if not for the fact that at some point I’d have to take her home, or meet her parents, or something like that. I’ve heard that people never come back from there.

I was and am a Manhattan snob, and that’s where I’d soon be looking for a job. I was reaching that point at my tenure in the firm where one was either made a partner or encouraged to leave. I was certainly going to receive such encouragement, and I wasn’t going to move to any job I couldn’t commute to by subway or feet.

I got home from work at about 7:45, which was fairly typical. The phone was ringing as I was walking in the door. It was my friend Ken Bollinger, asking if I wanted to meet him for the first of what would become quite a few drinks.

Ken was and is an investment banker, on track to make ridiculous amounts of money, none of which he was willing to spend. He actually ordered beer based on price.

“Not tonight,” I said. “I’ve got to be at New Jersey State Prison for Women first thing in the morning.” It was a line I had never gotten to say before in my life, and I took my time with it.

“Excuse me?”

I explained the situation, after which he said, “There’s nothing better than conjugal visit sex.”

I knew he was talking about a Seinfeld episode in which George dated a female prisoner. He reveled in the idea of conjugal visit sex. Ken and I could talk for days, only using Seinfeld references.

“And no pop-ins,” I said, since George had also considered it a huge plus that his inmate girlfriend couldn’t just show up at his apartment unannounced.

“Can I go with you?” he asked. “Convicts never insist on going to expensive restaurants.”

“No chance,” I said. “But I’ll see if she has a friend. Maybe a nice, frugal arsonist.”



Copyright © 2012 by Tara Productions, Inc.

Meet the Author

David Rosenfelt is the Edgar and Shamus Award­-nominated author of nine Andy Carpenter novels, most recently Leader of the Pack, and three previous stand-alone thrillers, On Borrowed Time, Don't Tell a Soul, and Down to the Wire. He and his wife live in Maine with the twenty-seven golden retrievers they've rescued and rehabilitated over the years.

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Heart of a Killer 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a sucker for everything Rosenfelt; and you should be too if you like snappy dialogue and holding on to the edge of your seat. I wasn't sure how I'd fare without Andy Carpenter, but I was more than rewarded! How often do I get lucky enough to read a thriller that really makes me think? And one that does not have a predictable ending? If you are deciding whether or not to read this book, take my advice and do! It's worth every penny and then some.
joiseygoil More than 1 year ago
Get ready to just read....I couldn't put it down at all and spent the day cuddled on my sofa reading and then, when it was over, wished it wasn't. Rarely do you get this kind of book. Certainly grabs your attention.
e-reader7 More than 1 year ago
David Rosenfelt is a great writer. From the first page I am always hooked, can't put the book down. His wit and impossible legal cases are a perfect combination. Can't wait for him to write another!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an avid mystery reader and this book has an amazing twist. It is more than just detective work-it is about characters that grab your heart.
Madderly-Review More than 1 year ago
Heart of a Killer is one of those books that makes a good night's sleep impossible. It is exciting and terrifying, but more than that, it is thought provoking. Just how much would you give up for your child? Sheryl, In prison for a murder we are not sure she committed, is willing to give up her heart...literally. A prison system that doesn't mind keeping her locked up, will not let her die. She hires Jamie Wagner, an "underachieving" lawyer, to fight for her right to die and give her heart to her dying daughter. The introduction of domestic terrorists, a police detective who has doubts about Sheryl's guilt, the FBI, and the most amoral character since Hannibal Lecter, makes this a book to remember way after the last page.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
David Rosenfelt master penner of the legal thriller has come up with another gem in Heart of a Killer. This one grabs you from the start as Sheryl Harrison confesses to murder that she probably didn't commit and is sentenced to life. Six years later a junior lawyer (Jamie Wagner) working on civil actions is asked by his bosses to take a pro bono assignment in the criminal arena. Jamie is asked to represent Sheryl. It seems that her daughter is dying from a defective heart and needs a transplant as soon as possible. Sheryl tells Jamie that she wants him to "assist" her in some way to take her life so she can donate her heart to her daughter. Jamie knows this is a losing proposition because no prison system would ever kill a prisoner at their request. He is intrigued by Sheryl though and agrees to do what he can to help her. He meets with Sheryl's arresting detective (Novack). Novack was always bothered by his arrest of Sheryl because all the evidence at the scene of the crime indicated that someone other than Sheryl had done the original crime. He investigated no further because at the time he had been overloaded with casework and with Sheryls confession, her case was an easy conviction. Jamie convinces Novack to begin the investigation that he should have done six years prior. Meanwhile there are some evil computer bad guys who are performing acts of terrorism such as hacking into airplanes and crashing them. They seem to have an agenda bordering on something really big. They also seem to have their eyes on Novack and Sheryl and are worried that Novack's investigation may lead back to them. There are several tense moments throughout and Rosenfelt does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing all the way to the last page. As Jamie is relatively young, maybe he will be another character to build a series upon just like Andy Carpenter. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rosenfelt's books always entertain. I never fail to laugh out loud at some point but the suspense keeps me on the edge of my seat page after page.
nancyg1NG More than 1 year ago
While I found the main character, Jamie Wagner, a bit annoying, the story it self was good.  His underachieving skills/attitude just seemed a bit much for a lawyer that manages to solve the mystery.  But, overall, I felt the book was a good one.  I do believe, however, that B&N should  list how many pages are in a book along with the brief description of the book.
WIT-writer-in-training More than 1 year ago
I finished this book too quickly; it was so well written, that the pages kept turning on their own. Good character development, well constructed story line, and thought provoking enough without being confusing. Need to go back and read the books I missed.
PAMRMW More than 1 year ago
I really didn't think I would like it since it was not an Andy Carpenter Series book, BUT it was astounding! There are so many conflicts and twists and turns that it kept me reading and not wanting to put it down. The humor was great, characters were just as interesting, and the plot was right along with today's news and current events. Highly recommend reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed to development of the main characters and the plot. Dealing with many other different characters was a challenge at times but well worth the effort, with help from the storyline, when it all came together at the end. Also, some big surprises at how the story ended. Loved it and not expecting it. Give me more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Per his usual style Rosenfeldt combines action, humor, & a dash of romance to create good fiction. Although Andy Carpenter was absent from this plot, it still the feel of Carpenter mystery.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
Setting aside his popular and irreverent New Jersey attorney, Andy Carpenter, as a protagonist, David Rosenfelt has created a standalone based on another attorney, Jamie Wagner, a Harvard graduate who is a six-year associate at a leading Newark law firm. Basically unambitious, and no less a quipster than Andy, although his area of concentration is in contract law Jamie is handed a pro bono case he is ill-equipped to handle: a woman who wants to donate her heart to save her 14-year-old daughter’s life, currently serving a 15-years-to-life sentence for the confessed murder of her husband. Other aspects of the plot involve terrorist attacks based on computer technology masterminded by the same persons who were involved in the husband’s death. The story then moves around these two themes. The author writes with a light touch, using asides and humor to make various points. [I must note, and was surprised at the fact, that a finished first-rate novel from a leading publisher contained the word “benefited” spelled with two “t”s, among other instances of what I felt to be poor proof-reading.] Nevertheless, the book is enjoyable, with an unexpected twist or two to keep the reader forging ahead, and it is recommended.
Cheryl1CF More than 1 year ago
i thoroughly enjoyed David Rosenfelt's latest novel and found the story line to be unique, interesting and in many ways, thought provoking. It definitely raises questions about moral and ethical concerns and then you factor in an interesting plot line and the end result is a novel that I read in a day and half. I loved it and I love him. He just never disappoints.
FluffyOH More than 1 year ago
Once you start reading, you won't want to leave this enthralling mystery. The only things missing is one of the Golden Retreivers dogs which wag their tail through many of the author's bookd. There are issues society hasn't addressed for those incarcerated and that is part of the mystery. Good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely not one of his better ones i wont give up on him though.
kanga46 More than 1 year ago
Very good plot. Not as witty as some of other novels but stays interesting all the way through.
Kat110 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! David Rosenfelt has become one of my favorite authors, starting from his very first book. You will enjoy this book immensely, as well as all of his other books!
AndyAC More than 1 year ago
While I've read and enjoyed all of David Rosenfelt's books, I think this may be his best. Thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for his next one.
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RomeoRomeo More than 1 year ago
This effort was pathetic and made me think someone else wrote the Andy Carpenter series.
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