Last Words

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Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes a novel of sexy romantic suspense for fans of Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter, and Karen Robards.

THIS KILLER TAKES THEIR BREATH AWAY.

A nine-year veteran of the FBI, special agent Mia Shields thinks she’s seen it all. But nothing prepares her for the terror that descends upon the idyllic bayside community of St. Dennis, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where a depraved killer has left a ...

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Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes a novel of sexy romantic suspense for fans of Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter, and Karen Robards.

THIS KILLER TAKES THEIR BREATH AWAY.

A nine-year veteran of the FBI, special agent Mia Shields thinks she’s seen it all. But nothing prepares her for the terror that descends upon the idyllic bayside community of St. Dennis, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where a depraved killer has left a grisly surprise for Chief of Police Gabriel Beck: the body of an unidentified woman, naked and completely encased in plastic wrap, stretched across the back-seat of Beck’s car. Hidden in the wrapping is a tape recording of the victim’s last, gasping words, terrifying evidence of the horror endured at the hands of a madman. Soon the body count begins to rise as more victims are found, all gruesomely cocooned, their final pleas also captured on tape.
Determined to catch the sadistic killer, Beck and Mia team up and set a trap–with Mia as bait. But their prey is closer than they ever could have imagined. Now Beck must race against time to save Mia from becoming the next victim of a serial killer as elusive as he is evil.

Buy a copy of Mariah Stewart's Last Breath and get a $5.00 Rebate!

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

A serial killer with a penchant for swaddling his victims in plastic wrap is at work in peaceful St. Dennis. Police Chief Gabriel Beck agrees to call in the FBI for help, but attractive special agent Mia Shields isn't quite what he expected. Then the killings increase, and the two realize they must now use Mia as bait. The romance between Beck and Mia develops nicely, right along with the investigation, and while it doesn't get in the way of the mystery, it is important to the story. Second in Stewart's trilogy about the Shields family, this graphic woman-in-jeopardy tale is typical of her suspense novels and sure to keep her fans entertained. The final chapter in the series, Last Breath, will be out in August 2007. Stewart (Last Look) lives in the Philadelphia area.


—Kristin Ramsdell
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345492234
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 351,187
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mariah Stewart
Mariah Stewart is the bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas. She is a RITA finalist for romantic suspense and is the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO (Reviewers International Organization) Award honoring excellence in women’s fiction, and a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she is a three-time recipient of the Golden Leaf Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey Romance Writers, of whose Hall of Fame she is an honoree. Stewart is a member of the Valley Forge Romance Writers, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two rambunctious golden retrievers amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania.
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Read an Excerpt

1

Two years later

The sun was just rising, hot and round, tentacles of color wrapping around the early morning sky like fingers around an orange. From his kitchen window, Gabriel Beck watched the pinks turn coral then red.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

“Oh, yeah,” he grumbled under his breath. “This sailor’s taking warning . . .”

The coffeepot beeped to announce its brew was ready, and he poured into the waiting St. Dennis Chamber of Commerce DISCOVER SAINT DENNIS! mug. He unlocked the back door then stepped onto the small deck and inhaled deeply. Early June in a bay town had scents all its own, and he loved every one of them. Wild roses mixed with salt air, peonies, and whatever the tide deposited on the narrow stretch of coarse sand that passed as beach overnight. It was heady, and along with the coffee he sipped, was all he really needed to start his day off right.

His cell phone rang and he patted his pocket for it, then remembered he’d left it on the kitchen counter. He went back inside, the screen door slamming behind him.

“Beck.”

“Chief, I hate to do this to you so early in the morning, but we have a two-vehicle tangle out on Route 33,” Police Sergeant Lisa Singer reported.

“Injuries?”

“One of the drivers is complaining of back pain. We’re waiting for the ambulance. Traffic’s really light right now, but if we can’t get these cars out of here within the hour, we’re going to have a mess. I’ve got Duncan directing traffic around the accident but it’s going to get hairy here before too much longer.”

“Christ, the Harbor Festival.” So much for starting the day off right. “I’ll call Hal and see if he can come in a little early today.”

Beck tossed back the rest of the coffee and set the mug in the sink. “You called Krauser’s for a tow truck?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t get an answer. I called the service and asked them to page Frank, but I haven’t heard back yet.”

“I’ll have Hal stop by on his way in, see if he can shake someone loose. Chances are Frank left his pager on the front seat of his car and he and the boys are outside shooting the shit and no one’s opened the office yet.”

“That’s pretty much what I was thinking.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Beck turned off the coffeepot and the kitchen light, then headed out to his Jeep, his phone in his hand. Once behind the wheel, he punched in the speed-dial for Hal Garrity as he backed out of his driveway. Hal, one-time chief of police in St. Dennis, Maryland, was now happily retired but always agreeable to working part-time hours in the summer when the tourists invaded the small town on the Chesapeake Bay. At sixty-five, he was still in fine shape, still took pride in being a good cop, and had no problem taking direction from his successor. After all, he’d been instrumental in hiring Beck.

Hal answered on the first ring. He was already on his way in to the station, but was just as happy to head out to the accident scene, and wouldn’t mind a stop at Krauser’s Auto Body to check up on that tow truck. Beck smiled when the call ended. As much as Hal loved retirement, he sure did love playing cop now and then.

The narrow streets of St. Dennis were waist-high in an eerie mist that had yet to be burned off by the still rising sun. Wisps of white, caught in the headlights, were tossed about by Beck’s old Jeep, the ragged pieces floating across Charles Street, the main road that ran through the village, from the highway straight on out to the bridge over the inlet that led to Cannonball Island. Here in the center of town all was unbroken silence. No other cars were on the street, no shops opened, no pedestrians passed by. All was still. Peaceful.

This was the St. Dennis Beck loved, the one he remembered when he thought about moving back two years ago. But, with all the renovations, and every available building being bought up and fixed up and turned into one fancy shop or another, the St. Dennis he’d known would someday be little more than a fond memory. Now, though, in the early morning hours, before the tourists came out and the shop lights went on, the village was his home again. Peaceful, the way it was supposed to be.

Except for that damned traffic accident out on the highway, and knowing that by nine this morning the first of the tourists would arrive. They would be eager to spend their money in the picturesque boutiques and crowd his peaceful streets as they did every day starting in the middle of April and going strong right on through till Christmas. Today would be especially lively.

Beck checked the time. It was not quite six. The third annual Harbor Festival officially began at two that afternoon, but soon the first cars would begin to pull into the free parking lots across from the municipal building, and the early arrivals would descend on one of the three eateries in town that opened for breakfast.

He made a left onto Kelly’s Point Road and eased slowly down the narrow stretch to the municipal building. He parked in front of the sign that read reserved: g. beck and got out of his car. The tightly compacted crushed clam and oyster shells that covered the parking lot and served as fill crackled under his feet as he walked toward the building.

Beck entered his department through double glass doors off the lobby and was greeted by the dispatcher.

“Morning, Chief.”

“Morning, Garland. You’re in early. Who was on night dispatch?”

“Bill Mason. He had an asthma attack around five and called me to come in.”

“Mason called you at five and asked you to come in?” Beck frowned.

“I didn’t mind. I was already awake. He filled in for me when my car died in Baltimore a few weeks back.”

“Glad you guys get along.”

“Two peas in a pod,” Garland replied before turning all business. “You heard about the accident out on thirty-three?”

“Lisa called a while ago. She’s out there with Duncan. Hal should be out there by now, too.” Beck looked through a short stack of phone messages that had come in overnight. “Give Lisa a call and tell her to come on in. And tell Duncan to make sure he’s back in town before nine. I want him on foot patrol. By then, Hal ought to have the accident scene cleaned up, and we can put him on parking.”

“Will do.” Garland Hess, a thirty-five-year-old transplant from Boston three years earlier, went to work.

A long hall separated the quarters assigned to the police department exactly in two. Beck’s office was at the end of the hall, and ran the width of their end of the building. On the opposite side of the lobby were the town’s administrative offices, and a combination of meeting rooms and conference rooms, with storage on the second floor. The basement was a damp black hole that invited mold to grow on anything placed down there, and the attic was hot in summer and cold in winter. Some old police files and council meeting records going back decades were packed away in fading boxes tucked under the eaves, though no one ever ventured up there. Beck suspected that if examined, many of the boxes would be found to have been gnawed on by mice or covered with bat droppings.

Every once in a while Beck thought about climbing the open stairwell to the third floor to see just what-all had accumulated up there over the years, but he hadn’t made it yet, and wasn’t likely to any time soon. The “archives,” as Hal liked to refer to the stored files, would have to wait until the tourist season had come and gone. This weekend’s Harbor Festival, slated to run from Friday through Sunday night, was just one of many weekends planned by the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce to bring in crowds and revenue. The merchants, understandably, all thought it was swell. The old-timers, like Hal and some others, thought it was all a pain in the butt.

“These narrow little streets weren’t designed for so much traffic,” Hal complained to Beck when he made it back to the station after having directed traffic out on the highway for two hours.

“That’s why the powers that be had those parking lots put in behind the shops on Charles Street,” Beck said, and took the opportunity to remind him, “Rumor has it that you were one of the powers who thought it was a good idea.”

“That was six years ago. Harbor Day was barely a gleam in the mayor’s eye back then.” Hal shook his head. “Who’da figured this sleepy little town was about to wake up?”

“It has done that,” Beck muttered, and leaned across his desk to pick up the ringing phone. At the same time, he motioned to Hal to take a seat in one of the empty chairs.

Beck’s call was short and he hung up just as Lisa poked her head in the door.

“First of the onslaught is just starting,” she told the chief. “What do you want to do about traffic control?”

“Put Duncan out on the highway till eleven”—Beck pulled his chair up to his desk and sat—“then call Phil in and ask him to take over out there until two. Things should have eased up a lot by then.”

“What about here in town?”

“I expect the only real problem will be where Kelly’s Point runs into Charles Street, there at the crosswalk,” Beck said.

“I’ll take that until noon,” Hal told him.

“Then I’ll take over from you from twelve to four,” Lisa offered.

“Aren’t you supposed to be off today?” Beck frowned and searched his in-bin for the schedule.

“Monday and Tuesday.” Lisa leaned against the door jamb.

“I’d have thought you’d be down at the boatyard to give your husband a hand.” Hal smiled. “Bound to be some foot traffic, all those people down on the docks. Someone’s going to want to look at a boat. Singer’s Boatyard is the only show in town.”

Lisa smiled back. “The boatyard’s Todd’s baby. He does his job, I do mine. His sister took the kids to the beach for the weekend, so we’re both doing our own thing today. But yeah, we’re hoping that a few folks in the crowd will be looking to pick up a boat this weekend. He’s put a few on sale, so we’ll see.”

“Well, if you want to take the lot down nearest the dock, that’s okay by me. We can put Sue on bike patrol,” Beck said, “just to have a presence on the street. Discourage pickpockets, find lost kids, lost parents. Give directions, that sort of thing.”

“Sue just came in at eight,” Lisa told him. “I’ll let her know she’s on bike today.”

“I’ll do a little foot patrol from time to time during the day,” Beck said. “Tomorrow, Lisa, you can take bike. I expect people will be leaving at different times throughout the day, so I don’t think we’re going to have the mess we’ll have today.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    new author for me

    as I have stated this is part of a 3 book series that is very well written and the charcaters have a life of their own and become very complicated when read back to back starting with the book last word, last look then last breath.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    Good read

    New athor for me. Liked it want to read more by her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    not that romantic

    I was easily drawn into the story as the Author intended and I can agree that it kept my attention through out the book, but it is a romantic suspense and i was a little dissapointed to see very little romance between Beck and Mia and even that wasn't until the end. Nice story, just not one of my favortites

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    On Maryland¿s Eastern Shore, St. Dennis chief of police Gabriel Beck goes to his car only to find someone has left him with a horrific present. A naked Jane Doe mummified in plastic wrap lies in his backseat inside the wrapping is a tape recording of the victim's last words.------------ When more corpses are found cocooned in the same way in the area, the FBI sends agent Mia Shields, who is loaded down with guilt having failed to recognize a close to home killer, to help investigate. Gabriel reluctantly agrees with Mia¿s plan for her to be the bait to catch a serial killer.--------------- The second Shields FBI tale (see LAST LOOK) is an exhilarating police procedural that grips the audience with the first murder and never slows down until the final confrontation. Gabriel and Mia are a strong combination as both believes the serial killer is a local their investigation enables the audience to see closely into the lives of a small Maryland eastern Shore community, but cannot find a viable motive, which leads to Mia becoming bait. Although the motive seems weak, fans of Mariah Stewart¿s delightful romantic suspense thrillers will look forward to the LAST WORD in her Shields trilogy, LAST BREATH.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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